The “Twamley Cubed” era has come to an end, as the Robbinsville High football team graduated all three of its talented Twamley triplets last year. The returning Ravens do not look at it as goodbye, but as hello to a new crop of players looking to make their mark.
“It’s next man up,” said John P. Shea, a team captain. “We have a lot of young talent, they just have to work themselves into the rotation. Every team loses players every year, you just gotta find a way to fill the holes, find a way to win games, regardless. We have a lot of potential this year and I think we can win even more games than last year.”
The Ravens were 3-7 in 2016 as injuries throughout the season kept setting things back. Aside from the triplets, three other seniors graduated with experience but coach Andrew Patterson is undeterred.
“We only lost six seniors last year,” Patterson said. “Yes, they were good, but you talk to other programs; if the most they lose is six seniors than they’re in good shape. It’s not a rebuilding year. We have all the tools to have a better season than last year. We have to make sure we have enough people on the field. We had enough juniors and sophomores last year that played enough quality reps.”
A key to the success will be the four senior captains, who also include Jared Lipschutz, Chris Heller and Branford Kanagawa. Apparently, their value goes beyond the field and trickles into body guard duty.
“I count on them, like you wouldn’t believe,” Patterson said. “If I was in a dark alley at night and I was getting mugged, I would call them before I’d call the police because they’d probably get there quicker. If I get woke up by a gun man, I’ll call John P. Shea. He’ll smile the guy to death.”
Heller is right tackle on an offensive line that features, from left to right, junior tackle Paul Milo, junior guard Hunter Smilow, sophomore center Matt Heverin and junior guard Brian Cocciolillo. Senior Dylan Scholl is at tight end while receivers include Shea, senior Matt Lake and sophomore Matt Giordano.
Junior Jeremy Smith has taken most of the first-string snaps at quarterback and has battled Kanagawa for the starting job. Kanagawa could play fullback if not at quarterback. A two-headed running attack will rely on Lipschutz and junior Jalen Lester.
“I think our coaches do a great job with our offensive scheme, they’ll never put you in a bad position,” Lipschutz said. “Our quarterbacks are skilled enough, they know enough about the game where we have nothing to worry about. Everybody has to be on the same page when we’re running our offense. Everyone has to know their reads and know everything that’s going on. If everybody is on the same page I don’t see why we can’t do something special.”
Kanagawa is hoping the Ravens offense can wear opposing defenses down.
“Our offense really tries to pick out the defense’s weakness and take advantage,” he said. “Although we’re small, we can go sideline to sideline and many big teams can’t go sideline to sideline. So sooner or later the big guys will get tired and we won’t get tired.”
Last season, Robbinsville’s offense was pretty much 50-50 pass-run, and Patterson wants to keep it the same. He noted that each quarterback knows the offense when it comes to the passing game and feels if the line stays healthy the Ravens can rush for between 150 to 175 yards or more.
“Last year we averaged 285 a game total offense, we should be above that,” the coach said. “We keep things quick. We keep our passing game quick, we keep our running game with lots of different working parts in the backfield to keep defenses off kilter with some misdirection. I don’t think we’re one dimensional by any extent.”
Defensively, Scholl and Lake are the ends, while Heller and sophomore Connor Fitzsimmons are tackles. Lipschutz, Smilow, Cocciolillo and Dan Surtz will be at linebacker, while Lester, Shea and Giordano are in the secondary.
Scholl will be the punter and short field goal kicker while Lake will handle kickoffs and long field goals.
“We’re small and fast on defense,” Patterson said. “We don’t have any 390 pounders up front on the line but we try to make up for it by just getting everybody to the ball. We’re quick reacting with some stunts and with the speed we have. We should maybe not overpower people up front; where we’re pushing Willingboro’s line into the backfield, but hopefully our speed helps us out there.”
Lipschutz again gives credit to the coaches for putting the players where they belong.
“They do a great job of taking our strengths and making them our strengths,” he said. “We don’t have the biggest kids, but for the big kids we have, we have them doing particular things that other kids can’t. The smaller guys; we all have to rally to the ball, practice getting everyone to the ball. It’s just working to our strength.”
The biggest concern will be avoiding injuries. If Robbinsville can do that, good things are possible.
“Last year we had injury after injury keeping some key players out,” Heller said. “We didn’t have our full team assembled until week eight, and that was a team we thought could get to the playoffs. As long as all our guys are healthy and we’re in the best shape we could possibly be, that will take us far.”
Patterson feels it could take the Ravens as far as the playoffs, where they have not been since 2005.
“Our goal is gonna sound so cliché, but every coach is gonna tell you the same thing; we gotta take every game one at a time and try to win it,” he said. “I’m not worried about 6-0 or 4-0, I’m worried about going 1-0 against Delran on September 8th. Our schedule’s got some big dogs on it and we have to overcome some size issues, but if we’re not in the playoff conversation after week six I’ll be really surprised.”
Heller feels the same way, and agrees that a big key is focusing on the game at hand while also getting the new varsity players to fit in.
“We’re going to be really competitive,” he said. “As captains, we’ve got to focus on making sure that guys who weren’t really varsity players but who are now stepping into big roles, are ready to take that on. We want to be as competitive as we can be and get ready for Delran. Once we get things going I think we’ll be a great team.”