While students have been preparing to head back to school, players on the North and South high school football teams have already been training all summer for their new seasons, which begin on Friday, and Saturday, September 12 and 13.##M:[more]##

It will be a year of building for the Knights, under new coach Chris Casamento.

The Knights are coming off a 3-7 record last year under former coach Art Stubbs, who coached the team through six seasons. Last year the Knights did see some key victories, namely the upset victory over High School South, with a score of 21-9, to give the Pirates one of only two losses last year.

Casamento was hired in the beginning of the summer, and his breadth of experience should help give the Knights a boost this year. He worked at Ridge High School for five years as the team’s defensive coordinator. He then became the head coach at New Brunswick High School for two years, head coach at Bound Brook from 2002 to 2003, and then special teams coordinator at Hillsborough in 2004. Most recently, he has been the offensive coordinator at Manville. In New Brunswick he coached Dwayne Jarret, who in 2007 was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the second round of the NFL draft.

Key players on the field this year are captains Rob White, Tim Owoh, and John Clausen, all seniors. White has been chosen for the quarterback spot. Owoh is set at running back and linebacker, and John Clausen is listed at center.

One of the team’s strengths will be in its offensive line, consisting of Connor Healey, Jake Everett, and Sean Cooney-Olson, along with Clausen. Lenny Bellezza, a running back and linebacker, Sean Reed, a running back and defensive back, and Marcus Allen, a senior running back and defensive back, will also be key for the Knights this season, Casamento says. Ryan Phelan will be a wide receiver and will do some quarterbacking, and Drew Kenavan will also serve as a receiver and defensive back, Casamento says.

“I think we got a good field goal kicker in Joe Behnke,” he says. “He’ll be able to score some points for us.”

Rounding out the team will be two new additions from other schools — Tarelle Thomas, a running back and defensive back, and Walter Dunston, a sophomore.

Casamento says he does not have much experience in dealing with this conference, but the team seems to be improving every day. “If we can continue to do that, even regardless of the outcome of the games, that will be a positive,” he says. “We’re just focused on getting better. We don’t have a goal of winning four games, five games, or six games.”

He added: “We’re trying to build some tradition, build the program up Everything is new, from the offense to the defense. It’s a very slow process. It’s not that things aren’t going well, but the plays are new, the defense is new, and that makes a difference.”

The team’s first game is Friday, September 12 at Hightstown.