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2014 Pope John Lions Football Preview


Okay, let me just break this down for you. Everyone, I mean everyone, wants to fast forward to the postseason to see how this Pope John team will fare in the Non-Public, Group 3 playoff section (also known as the playoff section from hell!). So let’s talk about that for a minute. If and when (trust me, it will be when) PJ makes it into the state playoff tournament, they will likely face Delbarton, St. Joes and Red Bank Catholic in one form or another. The challenge for the Johnnies is about half of New Jersey’s top football recruits will be coming from those three schools. Battling through three rounds of bone crushing playoffs in this section to a state title will be a huge undertaking. So let’s now talk about why I like PJ’s chances.

These guys are loaded with talent and experience themselves. Junior quarterback Sonny Abramson is in his third year as a starter and has thrown for something like 10,000 yards and has scholarship offers from almost everyone. But there are other studs on the team too. Senior receiver Austin Bailey is definitely a top-five receiving prospect in the state, linemen Scott Black and Jake Borchers could play in college right now, and sophomore receiving sensation Michael Joseph sweats glue out of his hands. You could say something about every player on this team: like, defensive back Drew Daniels and linebacker Andrew Nieves. These kids would be superstars on any other team. The same can be said about runningback Nick Esposito. In fact, Esposito highlights another fact about the make up of this team: Nobody is talking about him despite the fact that last year he led PJ in scoring on a team in which they had two other D1 recruits in scoring positions. Needless to say, this team is stacked to the brim from a talent perspective.

The Coach
To me, Coach Brian Carlson is the most unique high school coach in New Jersey right now. He has no fear. Just look the way he schedules opponents. He could choose to face American Division-only opponents and probably have a pretty good chance of winning the division year in and year out. Instead, he books opponents like DePaul and Paramus Catholic. I know he has some out-of-state teams lined up for the upcoming seasons. If it were his way, he’d rather play and lose every game if he could play opponents from Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. That’s just the kind of coach he is. He constantly wants to test the limits of his team and his coaching ability.

The number 1462 is branded with hot coals in every returning player’s mind this year. No, it isn’t the year of an aged cabernet that Coach Carlson stores in his wine cellar. It’s the score (14-62) that PJ lost to St. Joes in the state finals at MetLife Stadium last year. 1462 is the number that woke these returning starters for early morning workouts in the offseason. 1462 is the reason every player came back with added muscle. 1462 is the reason why this PJ team will leave it all on the field in 2014.

Regular Season Schedule
09-05 @ DePaul
09-13 Paramus Cath.
09-20 High Point
09-27 Parsippany Hills
10-05 @ Sparta
10-10 @ Montville
10-18 Morris Hills
10-25 Chatham
10-31 @ Vernon

Non-Public, Group 3 Playoff Section
Bishop Ahr
Bishop Eustace
Camden Catholic
Monsignor Donovan
Pope John
Red Bank Catholic
St. John Vianney
St. Joseph (Mont.)

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.

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