Excitement surrounds the Pinelands Regional program this season.
Permanent lights have been installed at the Pinelands field in Little Egg Harbor Township. All of the Wildcats home games, except one, will be on Friday night. Pinelands also has new uniforms.
But best of all the Wildcats return a talented core of players from last season's 4-6 team. Pinelands won three of its last four games.
"We have a large core of players back," coach Sean DeRosa said. "Usually we have a small core and a lot of stragglers."
Pinelands hasn't had a winning season since 2004 when it finished 6-5 in the Shore Conference.
"We feel we have a lot to prove this year," DeRosa said. "Our goal is to get better every game."
The Wildcats feature plenty of playmakers, many of them juniors.
Senior Tim Lamezec is one of the best lineman in Ocean County.
Junior Mike Keller was supposed to start at quarterback last season. But he broke his collarbone and missed most of the season. Jeremy Hartman filled in and played well. The two will share the position this year.
Junior Bobby Schwarzenberger runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He will play linebacker and share the fullback spot with Mike Michaelson.
"He's got muscles everywhere," DeRosa said. "You can put him anywhere. We're expecting big things."
The Wildcats hope this season changes the culture of Pinelands football. Every few years Pinelands field a team that competes for a playoff spot. The Wildcats would like to be more consistent.
"It's always been peaks and valleys," DeRosa said. "You have a good group that comes through once in a while."
Friday night games draw bigger crowds than Saturday afternoon contests.
Nothing will keep those fans coming out more than a winning season.
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 2
LAST APPEARANCE: 2004
PLAYOFF RECORD: 1-2
LEAGUE/GROUP: Shore Conference National Division/South Jersey Group III
COACH: Sean DeRosa (14-37, five seasons)
2008 RECORD: 4-6
2009 PREDICTION: Spoiler.
The Wildcats won three of their last four games last season and look to carry that momentum into this season.
THE GROUND GAME:
Junior Bobby Schwarzenberger runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and will share the fullback spot with Mike Michaelson.
Tim Lamezec, Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 250; Jeremy Hartman, Sr., QB/DB, 6-2, 200;
Matt McLain, RB, 5-9, 155;
Jake Hartman, CB/WR, 6-1, 175; Chris Georgieff, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 205;
Bobby Nylund, OL/DL, 6-0, 230; Chuck McKelvey, OL/DL, 5-9, 210; James Harwood, WR, 5-10, 170; Bobby Schwarzenberger, Jr., FB/LB, 6-2, 235;
Mike Michaelson, Jr., FB/DB, 5-10, 175;
Kevin Luby, WR, 5-8, 150;
Jason Hedgepeth, Sr., LB, 5-10, 175;
Chris Yak, TE, 6-0, 180.
Mike Keller, Jr., QB/DB, 5-10, 170; Paul Gentile, OL/DL, 5-11, 235; Matt Furry, DE, 5-10, 175;
Jay Way, LB/RB;
Tyler Munson, DL, 6-1, 180.
Sept. 11: Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Barnegat, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2: Manasquan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9: at St. John Vianney, 7 p.m
Oct. 16: Raritan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23: at Point Pleasant Borough, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31: Holmdel, 1 p.m.
Nov. 6: at Central Regional, 7 p.m.
Nov. 20: at Allentown, 7 p.m.