Few area players are more excited about the upcoming season than Pinelands Regional High School's Jash Sisombath.

The senior center missed his entire junior season after tearing an ACL in his knee during pregame tackling drills at the team's preseason finale last year.

"It was devastating," Sisombath said. "I was in tears when they told me I couldn't play my junior year.

"Sitting on the sidelines is the worst thing ever when you love football that much."

Sisombath plans to be on the field this time around.

Pinelands took its lumps in 2011 during an 0-10 season.

The Wildcats return nine starters on offense and 10 on defense but still have just five returning seniors.

"We were so young last year that we're still going to be young this year," Pinelands coach Sean DeRosa said.

"We're definitely going to be better than last year. There is nowhere to go but up, but we still have a long way to go. We have a ways to go, but we'll get there."

Seniors Paul Lombardi (6-foot, 225 pounds) and Ken Bozarth (6-5, 280 pounds) join Sisombath to give the team some size on the offensive line.

Their job will be to protect senior playmaker Gerard Grimes.

Grimes will see time at just about every skill position on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback.

Grimes is also one of top safeties in the area.

Justin Lagonegro leads a young corps of linebackers and will also see time at fullback.

Basketball players Zach Schnepp and Dominic Hernandez both came out for the team this year as seniors for the first time.

Schnepp (tight end) and Hernandez (wide receiver) will help the team right away.

Things get even tougher this year for Pinelands with nonleague games against Lacey Township and Long Branch, but Sisombath doesn't seem to mind.

He's just happy to be competing again.

"I take all my reps like they're my last," Sisombath said. "Going 0-10 was really tough, but we're not rebuilding. We just work and work and hopefully we'll have a better season than we did last season."

Contact John O'Kane:

609-272-7210