LONG BRANCH – In any sport, one of the most difficult feats for a team to achieve is to repeat as champions.


The Green Wave already checked off that box last season when they defeated Brick, 21-14, to capture their second straight Central Jersey Group IV sectional championship before beating Shawnee, 20-17, in the first-ever NJSIAA South, Group IV Bowl  game.


Now, entering the 2019 season, Long Branch is faced with quite a few challenges if they are to win their third state sectional title in a row after sustaining heavy graduation losses, including first-team All-Shore representatives at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive/defensive line, linebacker and defensive back.


Also, with the Shore Conference’s new annual realignment policy, the Green Wave were moved into the American Division, which is without a doubt the toughest division in the Shore Conference this year. The American Division features six of the Shore Conference’s most successful programs over the last nine years.


Along with Long Branch, Manalapan, Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven and Toms River South make up the division. Each of these programs has won at least one or multiple state championships since 2010. 


However, there are quite a few positives for the Green Wave as they begin their title defense and that starts with first-team All-State running back Jermaine Corbett who is entering his senior year. Corbett, an elusive runner with tremendous vision can also bowl you over with his deceiving power. He led the state in rushing with 2,021 yards, including two 300-plus rushing-yard games, and 25 touchdowns. With soft hands, Corbett is also a major threat out of the backfield after catching 19 passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns.


Junior Bobby Lawrence, a starting linebacker, gets the nod at fullback when the Green Wave are in a two-back offensive set and senior linebacker Jah’Kwan Gordon, who averaged 12.3 yards per carry in only eight carries with a touchdown last year should get some additional rushing attempts as the perfect change of pace option. Junior Karon Laws will be in the backfield mix, too.  


That’s the good news. The bad news for Long Branch is they need to replace All-Shore quarterback Marc Dennis which will be no easy task. However, early returns from preseason camp and scrimmages seem to suggest they’ve found his replacement.


Seniors Nick Tracy and California transfer Kyle Davidson have been waging a tight quarterback battle and both have had strong preseason camps, with a slight edge going to the 6-foot, 190-pound Davidson, who was a starter last year at Berean Christian in Walnut Creek, CA, where he led his team to the conference final.


Davidson, whose older brother Kevin is the starting quarterback at Princeton University, is a strong-armed pocket-passer with unlimited range and accuracy. He can let it rip while also being accurate at short and intermediate range.


Junior wide receiver Jayon Farrar had a breakout sophomore campaign when he had 16 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns playing in the shadow of All-Shore receiver Matt Clarke. He’s the number one guy this season and is primed to put up some big numbers.


Seniors J.J. Sherin (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) and Earnest Reevey (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) are athletic and fast and have been waiting in the wings to showcase their talents. They’re penciled in as the second and third option at wide receiver. Sophomore transfer Basean Fraser (6-foot, 175 pounds) and Jayden Farmer (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) are both in the wide receiver mix as well.


Senior Lucas Telles (6-foot, 180 pounds) returns at tight end and sophomore Jayson Pressley (6-foot, 170 pounds) will get reps there, too.


Second-team All-Shore selection Tracy Taylor (6-foot, 225 pounds) moves to center this season as the only returning starter and will anchor the offensive line which is undergoing some reconstruction but has looked solid in the preseason.


Seniors Matt Guidetti (6-foot-1, 260 pounds) and Vincent Mandica (6-foot, 220 pounds) take over at the tackle spots, while senior Miguel Figueroa (6-foot, 280 pounds) and junior Andrew Conklin are the guards. Senior Sean Starks (6-foot, 200 pounds) will also be in the line rotation.


On defense, senior defensive end Jayson Glasper (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) returns after leading the Green Wave in sacks last season with eight – seventh in the Shore Conference – along with 60 tackles. While only playing in eight games last season and surrounded with All-Shore talent, Glasper, also a track standout in the hurdles, was somewhat overlooked. However, you can count on him being noticed this season as he continues to evolve into one of top defensive lineman in the Shore.


Taylor will be at one defensive tackle spot with Guidetti and Figueroa rotating at the other. Telles and Starks could work themselves into the rotation as well.


“We’re going to be a fast physical team,” said Taylor. “We have the same expectations as last year – stop other teams from scoring.”


Gordon returns to lead a young, but very capable group of linebackers. Gordon is coming off a stellar junior campaign in which he recorded 44 tackles and two sacks and returned an interception and fumble recovery for scores.  


Juniors Conklin, Lawrence and Dave Rodriguez make up the linebacker rotation.


Corbett will see double-duty again this season and will be back at strong safety where he had one interception and 22 tackles there a year ago. Sophomore Chris Rodriguez earned the starting free safety spot with a strong camp and is a nice addition to the secondary.


Farmer is another sophomore who impressed in preseason camp and won the starting cornerback job opposite Sherin. Reevey and Fraser are also in the secondary rotation.


“We want to be a better team than last year,” said Taylor. “Two’s good but three would be great. No Long Branch team has ever done that before.”

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