Rockets enter season with familiar expectations

first_img BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer There will be some new faces on both sides of the ball for this year’s Raritan High School football team, but the expectations remain the same. PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff Raritan’s offense will once again be led by Brian Kalarjian (above) at quarterback, while Chris Van Fechtman (below) should be the workhorse out of the backfield. As long as Bob Generelli is the head coach of the Rockets, they will be focusing on playing championship-level football. Last season, Raritan took a lot of people by surprise. After graduating All- Shore-caliber players such as Andrew Mandeville, Rick Jaeger and Matt Fitzpatrick, the Rockets did not take the step back that some people expected, going 8-4, and playing their best football of the season down the stretch, when they made a run at the Central Jersey Group II title before falling to Weequahic, 6-0, in the championship game. Their late-season success merely cemented the notion that Raritan is one of the top programs in the Shore Conference, and has earned the high level of expectations that surround celebrated programs such as Middletown South, Jackson Memorial, Manasquan, and the like. That being said, the 2007 Rockets have their work cut out for them. Graduation has once again stripped Generelli’s squad of some key players, with players like Carmen Dente, Chris Mooney and Brian England moving on, as well as several players on both the offensive and defensive lines. However, the cupboard is far from bare, as Raritan returns enough veteran players to maintain the level of competitiveness that the team will need as it looks to groom its newcomers over the early part of the schedule. Leading the way is senior quarterback/ running back Brian Kalarjian, who started all 12 games as QB last year and will be the primary offensive weapon for Raritan this fall. Generelli plans to have the ball in Kalarjian’s hands as much as possible, as the Rockets will operate out of the shotgun quite a bit this year. Junior Mark Stancati may also see some time at QB this year, while junior Chris Van Fechtman and sophomore Jesse Raymond are likely to get most of the carries out of the backfield. Raritan also has some talent at the receiver position, with Robert Palmer, a legitimate deep threat, along with a pair of newcomers in sophomore Bennett Jackson and John Krajunus, while senior Ryan Campbell returns at tight end. The offensive line returns two starters in senior right tackle Tim Noland and senior left guard Nick McMahon, while newcomers Brian Flynn, a junior left tackle, and senior center Nick Hungerford have looked good in the preseason. The other players likely to make up the line include junior Aaron Cruez and sophomore Dan Gibson. The Rocket defense will be led by its linebackers, as senior John Boyle and junior Jerome Dean head an athletic group that also includes juniors Devin Fitzpatrick and Chris Raitano, and sophomores Carlo Caponetta and Marc Cogliano. The defensive line returns senior Wilfredo Montes and will need steady improvement from newcomers such as junior Ed Perez, senior John Mooney, junior Cliff Gabriel and Flynn, while the defensive secondary is entirely new, with junior Cody Mooney, who did see time last year at cornerback, junior Paul Amakihe, senior John Gazerwitz, senior Nate Rucinski, Van Fechtman and Raymond all in the mix. With so many newcomers playing such important roles for the Rockets this year, Raritan fans may be in for another season of development. And facing what appears to be a particularly difficult National Division schedule this fall, headed by teams like Manasquan, Point Borough and Barnegat, Raritan will need to get better each and every week if they have any hopes of making a run at another sectional title. This Friday, Raritan opens up against a St. John Vianney team that is facing a number of questions itself. There’s a lot of talk about SJV’s freshman quarterback Charles Davis, a prolific playmaker during his Pop Warner days in Neptune who should provide the Rocket defense with a good early test. Game time is 7 p.m. in Hazlet. Raritan ready for another run at National Division title last_img

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