Post 85 – HS Football – Preview: Allentown

September 2, 2018   

2017 In Review:  The Redbirds were 6-4, losing to Brick in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs.  They scored 289 points for a 28.9 average, while allowing 228 for a 22.8 average.  Wins included Nottingham, Steinert, and Northern Burlington, while their other losses were to Shawnee, St. Joe’s (Hammonton), and Trenton.

Graduation Losses:  WR/DB X’Zavier Harris – Lackawanna JC (Pa.), LB Max Boyle – Catholic U

Offense:  Allentown runs a multi-set offense and returns four starters.  Returning at quarterback is sophomore Dan Merkel (5-11, 185) and senior Rashaan Emory (5-10, 185) is back at running back.  Also getting carries will be senior Jha’Quel Brown (5-11, 205), a defensive starter last year who will also play some receiver.  Senior Nick Campbell (5-9, 205) returns at fullback.

The wide receivers have two who played in junior Chris McCrea (6-2, 190) and Brown.  Also playing will be sophomore Ramsey Ben Flah (6-1, 185) and senior Peter Pinto (6-2, 180).  The tight end is senior Joe Dippolito (6-0, 195), with junior Darren Villani (6-1, 205) playing in two-tight end situations.

The lone returnee on the line is senior Mike Pugliese (6-1, 250) at right tackle. Right guard is played by sophomore Steven Lally (6-1, 245) and junior Liam Trionfo (6-3, 275) is the center.  Left guard is between seniors Kyle Anderson (6-0, 245) and Drew Huth (6-4, 205), while the left tackle will be sophomore Aidan Benjamin (6-1, 270).

Defense:  The Redbirds run multiple four-man fronts and return eight starters.  Anderson and Huth return at the ends and senior Angel Santiago (6-1, 260) returns at one tackle.  His partner will be junior Dan Schweitzer (6-0, 245).

Brown and Campbell are returning at inside linebacker, while Dippolito is back on the outside.  The rover position of outside linebacker/strong safety is contested among Ben Flah, Pinto, and senior Charlie Bassi (5-11, 185) – who is a returning starter, while Ben Flah started four games at safety.

Senior Joe Baldino (5-10, 175) returns at cornerback and senior Cameron Moore (6-1, 180) will play the opposite side after starting two games and playing the nickel.  The free safety will be Merkel and Ben Flah may play here if he isn’t the rover.

Special Teams:  McCrea returns at both kicker and punter, while Moore and Ben Flah are the return men.


Friday, 9/7, Notre Dame at home, 7 PM
Friday, 9/14, at Hightstown, 7 PM
Friday, 9/21, Steinert at home, 7 PM
Friday, 9/28, Lenape at home, 7 PM
Saturday, 10/6, at Trenton, 2 PM
Friday, 10/12, Burlington Township at home, 6 PM
Friday, 10/19, West Windsor-Plainsboro co-op at West Windsor-Plainsboro South, 7 PM
Saturday, 10/27, at Nottingham, 12 PM

Recruits:  Brown and Huth are D2/D3 recruits.

The juniors have McCrea with potential as a kicker and the sophomores have Merkel, who may be 1-AA or higher and is also a highly sought after baseball prospect.

Concerns:  They need to come out fast and bounce back from a tough end of the year.

Coach’s Comments:  “We’re excited; the kids have been working hard.  We have both our quarterback and running back returning.  We also have a majority of our defense back and we’re ready to get started.” – Head Coach Jay Graber


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