Youth Rush: 2022 Freehold Boro High School Football Preview
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Freehold Boro football team over the last six years, but the Colonials have enjoyed plenty of success during that stretch and their unique ability to produce and deploy dual-threat quarterbacks has been at the center of that success. It started with an unprecedented two-year stretch from Ashante Worthy in 2016 and 2017 and last season, Kamore Gill added his name to the list of dynamic dual-threat signal-callers.
Gill graduated off a senior season in which he both passed for more than 1,000 yards and ran for 1,000 yards, totaling 23 touchdowns (16 rushing, five passing and two receiving). He was even the third-leading receiver on the team, which makes his all-around season even more unique.
Replacing that kind of player seems nearly impossible but Freehold Boro under coach Dave Ellis has done a shockingly-good job producing another star time and time again. This year’s subject is junior Spencer Rushton, who is not likely to be the explosive runner that Gill, Worthy or Sha’Kim Shuler were, but his legs will be part of the offense.
“Spencer played two games at quarterback when Gill was hurt and got a really good feel for what it’s going to be like,” Ellis said. “Now, he is the full-time guy and he has really grown up a lot.”
The biggest challenge for Rushton is the lack of experience around the field, with Freehold Boro returning just six total players with any starting experience on either side of the ball and less than that if you are looking for players who started for the majority of the 2021 season. Cameron Crooms will be an important safety net for the offense as a more traditional running back, but the rest of the group remains rather green.
“I think we have some talent, I think we have some guys on the line and the skill spots who can step up,” Ellis said. “We really only have two or three starters back. We have four on both sides who started some games, but only two or three were regular starters. Other guys have experience, but there is a lot of teaching and a lot of molding going on right now.”
Freehold Boro at a Glance
Projected Starters (RS=Returning Starter)
Returning Starters: 5
QB: Spencer Rushton, Jr. RS
RB: Cameron Crooms, Sr. RS
RB: Matt Giuffrida, Jr. RS; Aiden Shea-Katz, Jr.
WR: Jordan Hamlin-Woolfork, Jr. RS
WR: Asir Smith, Sr.; Gavyn Golub, Jr.
WR: Aidan Hamlin-Woolford, So.; Mike Bickerton, Jr.
LT: John Russo, Jr. RS
LG: Carter Stokes, Jr. RS
C: Jordan Spitzer, Jr.
RG: Jimai Goodman, Jr.
RT: Malachi Cancel, Sr.; Mike Ambrosio, Jr.
Defense: 3-3 Stack
Returning Starters: 6
DE: Malachi Cancel, Sr.
DT: Carter Stokes, Jr. RS
DT: John Russo, Jr. RS
DE: Mike Ambrosio, Jr.
OLB: Alex D’Antonio, Sr. RS
ILB: Matt Giuffrida, Jr. RS
OLB: Jimai Goodman, Jr.; Marcus Murphy, Jr.
CB: Jordan Hamlin-Woolford, Sr. RS
CB: Asir Smith, Sr.
SS: Mike Bickerton, Jr.
FS: Cameron Crooms, Sr. RS
K: Gavyn Golub, Jr.
P: Cameron Crooms, Sr.
Head Coach: Dave Ellis, 12th season
Career Record: 51-59
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Mike D’Antonio (WR/LB), Zac Cooper (DL/OL), Jeremy Mercer (TE/LB), Nick Tyson (QB/DB), Matt Whalen (RB/DB), John Kinzel (OL/DL), Joe Laferlita (Freshman), Matt Meleo (Freshman), Scott Royer (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Spencer Rushton, Jr., QB
One of the perks of having a dual-threat player like Gill was there were plays and packages that called for Gill to go out into a pass pattern and those plays – as well as a midseason injury to Gill – gave Rushton a chance to get some live reps at quarterback. With a taste of the position, Rushton has completely taken on the challenge of being the starter this season and, in his coach’s estimation, is ready for the full-time job in 2022.
“In the offseason, (Rushton) did a nice job in the weight room, doing stuff in the summer, learning our schemes,” Ellis said. “He’s got the best quarterback coach around in coach (Nick) Tyson. He is as good as it gets and Spencer has been absorbing his coaching. He is working on the little things and I’m really excited about what he can do. We just have to get everybody else going.”
Player Under the Radar: Alex D’Antonio, Sr., OLB
Good Freehold Boro teams have always been about the athletes on the outside and in the backfield, but the Colonials have featured some tough, capable defenders as well. D’Antonio fits that description as an outside linebacker who chased down five sacks as a junior in 2021. Along with fellow returnee and senior Matt Giuffrida, Freehold Boro will have some experience and proven ability at the linebacker level of the defense.
Top Position Group: Skill Positions
Despite graduating some major numbers from the ranks of the quarterback, running back, receiver and tight end positions, Freehold Boro’s strength in 2022 is still likely to be its playmakers on offense. With Rushton showing a capacity to get the ball to his weapons, players like Jordan Hamilin-Woolford, Asir Smith, Aidan Aidan-Hamlin-Woolford and Gavyn Golub could be different-makers catching the ball in the passing game. Jordan Hamlin-Woolford, in particular, appears poised to be a primary target as a receiver, not to mention a valuable defender as a cornerback.
“Jordan really came on last year and was one of our starting cornerbacks and he has come out and shown he is ready to take the next step,” Ellis said. “He’ll be an important part of the passing game as well as a returning player on the defense.”
Cameron Crooms and Giuffrida will spearhead the running game, with Crooms playing a more conventional role at running back after Freehold Boro went on a run of run-heavy quarterbacks over the last half-decade or so. After Gill led the team in rushing a year ago, expect Crooms to take that title this season.
X-Factor: The Schedule
With an inexperienced roster, Freehold Boro will be facing a daunting schedule. It starts on the road with Shore Conference powerhouse Red Bank Catholic, with stops along the way against Colts Neck, Marlboro, Manalapan and Rumson-Fair Haven. Every team on the Colonials’ schedule is classified as a Group IV or V program except for RBC and Rumson – two of the best teams in the conference on a year-to-year basis.
“I’m raising my hand to play a tougher schedule, I added three strong opponents (Red Bank Catholic, Manalapan and Freehold Township) and I was hoping to get a break from the Shore Conference. Then they stuck us with Rumson. It is what it is. We’re going to have to grow up fast. It’s going to be a grind.”
Rivalry Game: Friday, Oct. 7 at Freehold Twp.
Freehold Boro’s best chances at victory this season figure to come against the other schools within the Freehold Regional district – all of which (Colts Neck, Marlboro, Manalapan, Freehold Township and Howell) are on the schedule. While all are rivalry-type environments, none will be as intense as the all-Freehold showdown, which will pit crosstown rivals against one another. Freehold Boro has won the last three meetings, so extending the streak will be high on the to-do list of this young, inexperienced Colonials group.
Friday, Sept. 2 at Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10 vs. Colts Neck, Noon
Saturday, Sept. 17 at Marlboro, Noon
Friday, Sept. 23 at Jackson Memorial, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1 vs. Manalapan, 2 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7 at Freehold Twp., 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 15 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, Noon
Saturday, Oct. 22 vs. Howell, Noon