By Sean Simmons
MIDDLETOWN – No team was more excited to get back on the field for practice than the Mater Dei Prep football team.
The Seraphs are coming off a successful 6-5 season and won their first postseason game since 1999 by defeating Morristown-Beard School, 12-7, in the first round of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public Group I playoffs. They ended up losing to St. Mary of Rutherford, 35-0, in the semifinals. St. Mary’s lost to St. Joseph (Hammonton), 33-13, in the championship game.
“I am very excited about the direction our program is going,” Mater Dei Prep head coach Steve Sciarappa said.
The Seraphs offense will be led by senior quarterback Christian Palmer, who is expected to be one of the leaders of the team this season. One of the biggest highlights for Palmer last season was rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, including the game-winning 16-yard touchdown in overtime as the Seraphs stunned Spotswood, 30-24.
“Christian has worked hard to improve his game and demonstrates leadership qualities that are a positive example for our younger players,” Sciarappa said. “He is a multiple threat at quarterback because of his ability to run the ball. His toughness and speed make for a formidable threat on the ground and, if you don’t account for him in the pass game, he can really make big plays against you.”
Another major weapon for the Seraphs will be senior wide receiver Tysaun White. Last season, White had 11 touchdowns between rushing, receiving, special teams and on defense in the secondary.
“Tysaun can run the ball up the middle, catch a short pass or beat you over the top,” Sciarappa said.
Other key returning players on offense for the Seraphs will be senior offensive lineman Liam Olausen, senior running backs Zach Bragg and Vincenzo Mezzacapa, senior wide receiver Jason Mandile, sophomore running back John Lubintus and sophomore wide receiver Eddie Lewis.
“Eddie is a big, very fast vertical threat who can also catch short passes and make big plays,” Sciarappa said.
Top defensive players for the Seraphs will be defensive backs Bragg, Lewis and White, defensive linemen Mandile, junior Nick Massaro and Olausen and Lubintus and Mezzacapa at linebacker.
The Seraphs will face a difficult schedule this season in Division B Central with the likes of Point Beach and Shore Regional, which played against each other for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship last season with the Garnet Gulls winning 12-7.
“Our goal is to compete for championships and we are preparing to play toe-to-toe with the best teams in our division and state bracket,” Sciarappa said.
The Seraphs season opener will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at home against archrival Keansburg.
“Keansburg is a tough opponent and we’re expecting to go out and compete against a good opponent,” said Palmer, who had 11 rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns last season. “Hopefully, we will open up the season with a win against a tough divisional team.”
Mater Dei Prep 2014 Football Schedule
Sept. 13, Home vs. Keansburg, 1 p.m.
Sept. 19, Away vs. Dunellen, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27, Home vs. Asbury Park, 1 p.m.
Oct. 4, Away vs. Keyport, 12 p.m.
Oct. 11, Away vs. South River, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18, Home vs. Shore Regional, 1 p.m.
Oct. 25, Away vs. Metuchen, 1 p.m.
Oct. 31, Away vs. Highland Park, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8, Home vs. Point Beach, 1 p.m.
Please click here for the Mater Dei Prep 2014 football team roster: Mater Dei Football Roster 2014.