Egg Harbor Township's Ken Doughty runs past Bridgeton's Tamar Jackson on a touchdown run during the Eagles' win over the Bulldogs at Egg Harbor Township High School Friday, Sept 16, 2011.

Ken Doughty prepared this summer for his second season as the starting quarterback for the Egg Harbor Township High School football team.

Last year at this time — without having ever made a varsity start — he was nervous.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more experience,” he said. “This year I’m feeling a lot more confident and secure.”

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Doughty could be talking about the entire EHT team. The Eagles return eight starters on defense and eight on offense from last season’s 4-6 team.

“We’re optimistic about the season,” EHT coach Tony DeRosa said. “Our players have a lot of experience under their belt and in this league (Cape-Atlantic League American Conference) experience really does matter.”

DeRosa said the more mature Eagles have done a better job of preparing for this season than they did last year.

“I think we’re more unified than we were last year,” Doughty said.

EHT is strong in the offensive backfield with Doughty (526 passing yards, four touchdowns) and running backs Curtis Fitzpatrick (355 rushing yards) and Matt Clayton (514 rushing yards). Xavier Evans is also expected to contribute at running back.

“Clayton is a bull,” DeRosa said. “He’s always falling forward. He’s going to get you positive yardage.”

EHT also has four starters back on the offensive line. Junior Eric Morrison (6-foot-2, 268 pounds) and senior Joe Valenti (6-2, 268) will start at the tackles.

“We want to be able to run the ball better this year,” DeRosa said. “We want to run it better between the tackles. We didn’t do a very good job of that last year.”

Kicker Tim Mason is also a four-year-starter.

Linebackers Clayton (60 tackles) and Evans lead the defense. Defensive tackle Eric Wiafe, a 6-5, 258-pound senior, can occupy blockers upfront and has verbally committed to Rutgers. Senior Ben Balesteri is a three-year starter at cornerback and a physical player.

“Our thing on defense is that we want to get people to the football,” DeRosa said. “We want to be faster on defense this year.”

The Eagles weren’t pleased how last season ended. They lost their last three games. Those defeats are motivation for this season.

“These guys want to prove to themselves and the people in the community that we’re a team to reckon with,” DeRosa said. “We have to continue to work hard and continue to prove ourselves week in and week out.”

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