(The high school football season doesn't start until Sept. 10. But periodically throughout the summer I'll provide a quick preview of some teams.)

The Absegami High school football team is optimistic and unified.

Optimistic because of the talent the team returns.

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Unified because of how they supported coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. this spring.

"We're excited," Scuderi said. "What that means I don't know."

The Braves, who finished 6-4 last season, are a contender for the South Jersey Group IV championship.

"We have a number of kids back," Scuderi said, "and we have a number of young kids who are really going to help us. We have the potential to be pretty good. But the league is going to be tough."

Scuderi almost wasn't around to coach this team.

He received a layoff notice as the Greater Egg Harbor Regional Board of Education struggled with budget issues this spring.

But Scuderi's job was saved at the board's June meeting. Several players spoke at the April board meeting in support of Scuderi.

"I think that's a major reason we're as focused as we are," Scuderi said. "The (players) came together. As a coach, it's humbling. They went to the board of education on their own. I was extremely honored that they would do that."

Absegami features a pair of Division I college prospects in running back Ben Martin and 289-pound left offensive tackle Steve Schwartz,

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Martin has scholarship offers from Rutgers University and Marshall University. An offer from Iowa is probably on the way. Martin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds this month.

"In my opinion, I think Ben is one of the top 10 or 15 kids in the state," Scuderi said. "He's lightening fast. I think he's going to be head and shoulders better than he was last year."

Absegami will find out quickly how good it is.

The Braves open Friday, Sept. 10 at Egg Harbor Township, last season's South Jersey Group IV finalist.

Absegami hosts Holy Spirit on Friday, Sept. 17. Spirit is projected to be one of the state's top teams.

"From player one to 80, every kid is working as hard as they can," Scuderi said. "It's a good feeling to be around our program right now."


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