The Southern Regional High School football team features talented receivers - most notably high-profile college recruit Mike Gesicki.
But a successful season for the Rams will still come down to how well they run the football. Rob Yaiser and Grant Bissey should be Southern's top ball carriers.
"We have to be able to run the ball," Southern coach Chuck Donohue said. "If we can't run the ball we're going to struggle. Our defense is going to be on the field more. Our opponents are going to have more snaps."
Southern finished 9-3 and reached the South Jersey Group V final, losing to Williamstown 43-20. The Rams will mix in veterans from that team with newcomers. Southern is young on the offensive and defensive lines. Bailey Bellissimo is one of the few returning linemen.
Much of the preseason talk about Southern has centered on Gesicki, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior who caught 50 passes for 970 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Ohio State, Rutgers and Wisconsin are among several colleges to offer him a scholarship.
The Rams, however, can't force the ball to Gesicki.
"You can't have the ball on every play," Gesicki said. "That's just sports. But when you do get it, you have to make the most if it. That's why I love wide receiver. You only get so many chances and you have to make the most of it."
But Gesicki is not Southern's only talented receiver. Ryan Jensen is one of the fastest players in Donohue's 15 years at Southern. Vinnie Colecchia and Zac Halliday are also talented pass catchers.
Logan Sheehan takes over at quarterback. Sheehan started at defensive back and intercepted eight passes last season.
The strength of Southern's defense is at linebacker and in the secondary. Gesicki will play outside linebacker.
"Our defensive line has to get reps and experience," Donohue said.
The Rams have gone 17-5 the past two seasons, and because of that past success they believe in the program and in their ability to win games.
"We're excited," Gesicki said. "We've been working since the winter. Preseason is over with. We're excited to put the hype away, go out and play football and show everybody what Southern football is all about."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Coach: Chuck Donohue (37 seasons, 226-151-4)
League/Group: Shore Conference A South/South Jersey Group V
Last season's record: 9-3
Playoff appearances: 9
Playoff record: 5-9
2013 Prediction: Spoiler – Southern's offense should be one of the Shore Conference's best with wide receiver Mike Gesicki.
Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Jackson Memorial – These teams used to meet the night before Thanksgiving. A win could boost Southern's playoff hopes. The Rams beat Jackson 20-7 last year.
Key players: Grant Bissey, Sr., RB/LB, 6-0, 205; Zac Halliday, Jr., WR/DB, 5-11, 165;Logan Sheehan, Sr., QB/DB, 6-0, 180; Rob Yaiser, Sr., RB/DB/K, 5-10, 175; Mike Gesicki, Sr., WR/LB/TE, 6-6, 230; Bailey Bellissimo, Sr., OL/LB, 5-10, 220; Ryan Jensen, Sr., WR/LB, 6-1, 190; Justin Ruppert, Sr., TE/DL, 6-2, 205; Ryan Winkler, Jr., RB/LB, 5-9, 185; Vinnie Colecchia, Sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 160; Mason Fazekas, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 185; Pat Ferraro, Jr., OL/DL, 6-0, 220; C.J. Lovas, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 220; Nick Miele, Jr., OL/DL, 6-0, 240; Tim Davis, Jr., OL/LB, 5-10, 185; Pat Walker, So., RB/LB, 5-10, 175; Mike Buterta, Jr., WR/CB, 5-10, 175; Shawn McManus, Jr., WR/DB, 6-0, 170; Dominic Vanderbrook. Jr., WR/DB, 6-1, 175; Clay Robinson, Jr., OL/DL, 6-2, 225; Ben Castellazzo, Jr., OL/LB, 5-10, 175; Doug Vandevelde, So., OL/DL, 6-0, 240