The Hammonton High School football team hopes to turn last year’s weakness into this season’s strength.

Hammonton struggled defensively last season. Key players got injured. Their replacements were young and inexperienced. The Blue Devils, one of the state’s top programs with 30 playoff appearances, finished an uncharacteristic 5-5.

But this season those injured players are back and their replacements are a year older.

Wide receiver and defensive back Alex Padovani was one of those injured players last season. Padovani fractured his femur in the first game of last season. He returned at the end of the season and caught a touchdown pass as the Blue Devils upset rival St. Joseph 14-6 the night before Thanksgiving. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Padovani has verbally committed to Villanova University and is one of the Cape-Atlantic League’s top players when healthy.

Senior linebacker Dylan Rosu also missed time last season. Rosu and fellow linebacker Justin Fucetola are expected to spark the defense.

The Blue Devils will rely on veteran offensive and defensive lines. Bob Frederico, a 6-0, 260-pound senior, is a three-year starter.

Hammonton graduated several skill position players. Junior Jonathan Triboletti steps in at quarterback. In addition to Padovani, the Blue devils also feature a talented tight end in Dylan Mento.

The 6-0, 203-pound Rosu has not seen much time on offense the past three years but he will play that side of the ball this season. Rosu even played some quarterback in the preseason.

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.