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Sep 13, 2022

Middletown South Football Players Making a Run at History

By Tim Morris

It was a restoration season for Middletown High School South football in 2021. The Eagles returned to their winning ways, taking the Shore Conference Colonial Division, going 9-2 and playing for the North Jersey Sectional II Group IV title. Along the way, Head Coach Steve Antonucci picked up his 200th career win.

“It was a great season, but we didn’t win that last game,” the Eagles’ coach said, noting that his team fell to Irvington in the Group final. “The players remember walking off the field after that loss. They are motivated to get back to the final this year.”

There will be even more motivation for Middletown South, which has been one of the state’s football powerhouses with 10 NJSIAA state sectional titles. This fall, football teams will get to play for an outright Group state championship for the first time. For an established program like South, that means a lot.

“There’s a lot of new motivation,” said Antonucci, adding that Middletown South has moved to the South Jersey section for the first time. “It’s the opportunity to win a Group championship which has never been down before. It’s a tough challenge.”

Middletown South heads into this historic 2022 season with a good chance to make a run at history.

“We’re in good shape,” Antonucci remarked. “We don’t have a lot of depth, but all our starters are solid players.”

Antonucci’s only concern is developing depth behind his talented starters. South has made a living over the years pounding the football on defenses behind outstanding offensive lines and talented running backs. Although that won’t change, the offense will be more open having an added weapon, the deep throw, thanks to the arm of junior quarterback Jake Czwakiel.

“He’s an aggressive passer who brings the vertical game,” Antonucci said. “If we can be more balanced, it can keep teams from putting nine in the box.”

To keep defenses from ganging up on the run, a team needs what Czwakiel brings to table.

“We have a guy who can throw the ball deep,” said Antonucci.

Owen Richter (Jr.) and Logan Colleran (Sr.) are the receivers who are capable of stretching defenses and giving opponents another weapon to be concerned about. The Eagles’ running game is in good hands with junior Donovan Summey, a power runner. He will step up and be the feature back this fall. The Eagles’ have depth at running back with Colin Gallagher (Jr.) and Beau Servidio (So.) providing solid backup.

South’s line is in good shape with the returning starters Tyler Addonisio (tackle), Tom Whyte (guard) and center Luigi Massagli. Aidan Parry (Sr.) and Mike Toth (So.) round out the offensive line. Tight ends Jason Wagner (Sr.) and Will Christopher (Sr.) will have the dual roles of being both blockers and targets for Czwakiel.

The back eight will be the strength of Middletown South’s defense. The linebacking core has three returning starters in Wagner, Gallagher and Kyle Smith – all experienced seniors who are proven playmakers. Sophomore Luke Wafle is expected to complete the unit. In the backfield, Colleran, Richter and Czwakiel are the returning mainstays. The versatile Czwakiel led the Shore with six pass interceptions in ’21. South lines up in a 3-4 defense. In the middle of the defensive line, nose tackle Parry is the lone returner. It takes two offensive linemen to account for him, making it easier for the outside ends to make plays. All-purpose Czwakiel is also the Eagles’ punter/place kicker.

The Eagles are in the Shore Conference’s American Division where lack of competition won’t be a worry. The division also features Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven and Manalapan, all programs with state champion pedigree like South. One thing the difficult schedule will do, Antonucci remarked, is have the Eagles battle-tested come postseason.