By Chandler Avallone
There is an optimistic feeling swirling around the Mendham community with Coach Bill Carpluk returning to the sidelines to begin his second tenure as the head coach of the Minutemen. Carpluk takes over a team that is excited to have him back at the helm. With a record of 1-9 in 2011 followed by a 3-7 season in 2012, the Minutemen are eager to get back to their winning ways.
When asked about how he felt to return to coaching, Carpluk noted it “Feels great to be back on the field.” Still, he has a lot of work ahead to get the Minutemen in top form for the season. With a senior-dominated team in 2013 graduating most of its starters, the 2013 Minutemen are a young team with not much varsity experience. While Carpluk will give all he has to this team, the small senior class, including captains Jack Horan, Joe Beneducci, Ross Coapman, and Anthony Marconi, will show leadership and lend their experience to the underclassmen.
The Minutemen have been working extra hard all summer preparing for the tough season ahead. Even though Carpluk is new to these specific players, all the assistant coaches have returned from last season giving the team a smooth transition from one coach to another. The players have nothing but rave reviews about Carpluk, noting his intensity and passion for the game as motivation to produce for the new coach.
With the staff changes in check, let’s take a look at what this team has to offer.
The 2013 team looks to bring a formidable scoring attack under the new coach. Carpluk is bringing back the Wing-T offense as a base set for this offense. This two tight-end set was used quite frequently in the Minutemen’s last preseason game against Colonia, with the offense also utilizing Pro sets with one or two wide receivers out wide.
Senior co-captain and quarterback Jack Horan leads the Minutemen offense for a second year. With one year under his belt, Horan is looking to build on last season and has the tools to prove it. At 6’2”, Horan is built like a true pocket passer and has a rifle of an arm, displaying it with a couple of high velocity throws in the preseason game versus Colonia. He showed his mobility by being able to get out of the pocket a few times to complete his passes, something that will help give him more time to pick out an open receiver. Horan seems poised for a big season this year and could potentially be one of the top quarterbacks in northern New Jersey.
The backbone of this offense is the running game, which features two outstanding running backs in senior co-captain Joe Beneducci and junior Chris Jones. Both of these backs get carries in the two running back Wing-T set, with Jones getting the majority of the touches as the tail back in the Pro set. Beneducci and Jones both have a certain set of skills, which makes them a two-headed monster out of the backfield. Beneducci is a downfield, between the tackles type of runner who has the ability to kick it into another gear if he finds daylight. Jones is more of a shifty, speed back, although he has no problem running over defenders if they get in his way. He is a menace to deal with in the open field and can cut on a dime. If he is able to find space on the outside, the Minutemen will be able to find a lot of success in their running game. Junior fullback Tim Byrne will do his part in blocking for the running backs, as well as providing a powerful punch with the inside runs that he will get as part of the Wing-T offense. The Minutemen backfield will have to take some pressure of Horan’s shoulders in order for this offense to put points on the scoreboard.
Quarterback Jack Horan has a number of receivers that have worked their way into the starting rotation. Seniors Ross Coapman and Ian Graham and juniors Spenser Clouse and David Berkinsky will all be in the wide receiver rotation. Coapman, a co-captain, is the returning starter from last year. Graham has been looking consistent in preseason, catching one ball from Horan against Colonia. Clouse is the fastest one of the group; in fact, he might be the fastest kid on the team running a 4.6 40-yard dash. He demonstrated that blistering speed this past Thursday against Colonia, burning a corner back and a safety on a post pattern. Berkinsky is more of a slot receiver in the group of wide outs, showing Wes Welker like quickness when he breaks out of his routes. Also a returner on special teams, Berkinsky will have a big role on this 2013 Minutemen team. Horan will also look to tight ends Michael Frigo and junior Nick Ferreira as additional options.
After graduating four of the five starting linemen, the line brings all new faces eager to help the cause up front. Senior co-captain Anthony Marconi will have to do his part in leading this new group of linemen. The senior guard is the only returning starter on the offensive line and will be sure to have his way with most of the opposition in the trenches. Players like junior center James Govan and junior guard Richard Masiello will step up and be strong as well. The young group has the technique and the footwork down, and will gain varsity game experience as the season progresses
X Factor: Joe Beneducci, RB, Sr.
As mentioned before, Beneducci is part of the two-headed backfield for the Minutemen. Beneducci can fulfill the duties required of a running back and then some. The senior has had a strong preseason which will carry into the regular season.
This offense can cause some damage to opposing defenses. This unit is going to prove its toughness if it wants to be taken seriously and it all starts with the offensive line. Where the offensive line goes, the team goes. The skill position players are as good as they have been in years, but blocking will be the key. The 2013 Minutemen offense has the ability to be a very lethal attack.
Defense will be key for the 2013 Minutemen. After graduating most of the starters on defense, this young squad will scrap and claw to keep opposing points low.
The defensive line is very similar to the offensive line. Junior defensive tackles Richard Masiello and Alec Skaltsis will get penetrate the opposing offensive line up the middle. The defensive line is the foundation for a defense and this group is up to the challenge.
The Minutemen linebacking corps are the key stone of the offense. This well-built group was able to stop the Colonia runners before they were able to get out into open space. Co-captains Marconi and Beneducci provide some experience on a relatively young group and will surely be the steadfast leaders of the Minutemen defense. Junior linebackers Tim Byrne, James McHugh, and Nick Ferreira will also help out the strong group in shutting down the opposition.
The defensive backs have the speed to run with any receivers or running backs in the passing game as well as the power to take down a runner if needed. Coapman, Jones, and Graham represent the starting secondary, with Coapman and Jones being returning starters. The only problem that is holding this secondary back might just be the defensive scheme. The Minutemen defense runs a one safety formation most of the time, something that could cause some problems in the passing game. Physically, the Mendham secondary has all the tools to be a very solid unit.
X Factor: Alec Skaltsis, DT, Jr.
Mendham needs penetration from its defensive line and will rely on junior defensive tackle Alec Skaltsis. Skaltsis is strong enough to shed blockers and stop the run before it even gets back to the line of scrimmage. With help from Masiello, the other defensive tackle, Skaltsis is poised to have a huge year.
Sep. 13 Mt. Olive Home
Sep. 21 Delbarton Away
Sep. 28 Par Hills Away
Oct. 5 Randolph Home
Oct. 11 WMC Home
Oct. 19 Roxbury Home
Oct. 26 Chatham Away
Nov. 2 Morristown Home
Nov. 8 Montville Away
At the end of the day, the Minutemen may be a young team, but they have the talent to overcome their inexperience. The offense has the weapons to put points up and the defense has the leadership and potential to shut teams down. With the toughest games coming at the beginning of the season, Mendham will be tested right out of the gate. But with the games becoming easier later in the season as the team gains experience, the last couple of games can give the Mendham faithful something to cheer about when the season comes to a close.