In the eyes of veteran St. Peter’s Prep head football coach Rich Hansen, the Marauders’ 8-4 season and trip to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 state title game was not a successful one.
“Our goal is to win it and we didn’t win it,” said Hansen, who as the granddaddy of all Hudson County football coaches begins his 29th season as the head coach of the Marauders. “You try to identify why you fell short and we had a lot going into falling short.”
So as the Marauders prepare for their season opener on Friday, Sept. 1 at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium against Union City, they have one thing in mind – getting back to the state title game and this time winning it.
“We feel like we’ve identified it properly and now we have to go play,” Hansen said.
The Marauders kick off the new season ranked among the nation’s best teams in several different polls. One prominent poll has the Marauders placed at No. 7 and another has them at No. 11. It’s a high pedestal indeed.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Hansen said. “You have to play the schedule and that’s what we’re trying to concern ourselves with.”
The Marauders will miss their top offensive player, namely quarterback Johnathan Lewis, now vying for playing time right away as a freshman at Rutgers. Lewis was the Hudson Reporter Offensive Player of the Year for the last two years and was the Most Valuable Player last fall.
“John was a very productive player for us,” Hansen said. “He gave us a multi-dimensional weapon. We put a lot on his shoulders. But we’re replacing him with a kid who has a chance to be a record-setting player.”
The new Prep signal caller is junior Massai Maynor (6-1, 190), who has all the tools to be the next great one at Grand and Warren, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Brandon Wimbush before Lewis. Wimbush will be the starting quarterback at Notre Dame this season.
Maynor can do it all – run, throw, lead an offense.
“He has an awesome football IQ,” Hansen said of Maynor. “He cares about his craft. He just doesn’t have the luxury of being the back-up now. We have to see how he adapts to the different role.”
Chances are that Maynor will do just fine.
In the backfield, the Marauders have a host of talented, yet unproven runners.
“We have a stable of guys who we feel are very capable,” Hansen said.
Leading the way is senior Zamir Mickens (6-0, 195), who will be given the chance to be the next great Prep running back. Mickens saw limited action in each of the last two seasons. Now, it’s his chance to shine. Mickens has already given a verbal commitment to join Lewis at Rutgers next year.
Senior Dom Meleo (5-9, 190), senior Seth McLaughlin (5-9, 180), junior Anthony Summey (6-0, 190) and junior Khyree Robinson (5-8, 175) will all get their fair chance to carry the ball for the Marauders this fall.
Summey is a transfer from Middletown South, but can play right away. He might be the one to watch among that group.
At wide receiver, the Marauders are deep and talented, led by senior Shayne Simon (6-2, 215), who is headed to join Wimbush at Notre Dame next fall.
Junior Chris Jones (6-2, 215), junior Ayir Asante (6-0, 170), junior Adonis McGee (5-9, 170) and senior Mark Walker (6-2, 185), a transfer from St. Anthony, are all in the mix to catch Maynor’s passes this season.
Hansen likes what he’s seen of Walker.
“He’s been outstanding,” Hansen said of Walker.
Sophomore Byron Shipman (6-2, 170) is another player with a ton of talent and promise at receiver.
“He can develop into a big-time player,” Hansen said of Shipman.
The tight ends are junior Matt Adams (6-2, 245) and sophomore Ben Silver (6-1, 220).
Hansen is very high on his offensive line.
“It’s one of our strengths,” Hansen said.
Leading the way there is senior guard William Woltmann (6-0, 255), who has started for the last three seasons. Senior Max Telemaque (6-0, 270) is another returning starter, as is senior tackle Grady Smith (6-4, 270), who has committed to Holy Cross.
The others along the line include senior center Sean Verdi (6-1, 245), the coach’s nephew, along with senior tackle Andrew Chiurazzi (6-2, 275), junior Elijah White (6-1, 310) and junior Stanley Dennis II (5-10, 275).
Defensively, the Marauders appear stacked.
They welcome back senior Justin Ademilola (6-3, 260), who devastated opposition last season at defensive end, enough to have Notre Dame come calling on him as well.
The other defensive end is junior R.J. Oben (6-3, 240), the son of former New York Giants offensive lineman Roman Oben.
“He has a chance to be very good,” Hansen said. “He’s been tremendous.”
The defensive tackles are senior Jason Ademilola (6-3, 290), who is the twin brother of Justin and also headed to Notre Dame like his brother and Simon. Junior Chris Stultz (6-3, 220) is another force to be reckoned with along the defensive line.
The linebacker contingent looks solid and “fairly deep,” according to Hansen.
Demani Falconer (6-0, 235) is a junior who shows a wild streak to him. Senior Mike Mangual is a solid player, especially when reading the run. Chase Jones (6-0-210) is someone to keep an eye out for.
Simon, on the outside, heads a group of speedy linebackers, along with junior Tracey Bowers (6-1, 230) or sophomore Cody Simon (6-1, 220), who just might grow and fill out like his older brother.
At cornerback, senior Cameron Blair (6-2, 180) heads the returnees. Blair has committed already to Fordham.
He is joined by McGee, fellow senior Max McIntosh (5-10, 180) and senior C.J. Mainor (6-0, 170).
Mickens heads the defensive safety unit, along with Walker, senior Markus Bagley (6-1, 180) and junior J.J. Scocco (5-10, 190).
Senior Chris Shaw is the placekicker and junior Patrick Haughney is the punter.
After the Marauders face the Soaring Eagles, they take on St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia, another nationally ranked team coached by former Memorial great Gabe Infante, at Widener University.
Hansen likes his team.
“I like their attitude and their work ethic,” Hansen said. “We obviously have some talent. The kids all believe in what we’re doing. They’ve put in the time. We have 75 kids at practice every day and that says a lot. I feel good about them.”