Coach Jonathan Caputo of the Buena Regional High school football team hopes to see Luke Santiago and Byron Spellman on the field as much as possible this season.
Santiago and Spellman are the leaders of a Chiefs team that should contend for the West Jersey Football League United Division title and a berth in the South Jersey Group I playoffs.
Santiago is a three-year starter and excelled at quarterback and defensive back last season. He intercepted seven passes and made 49 tackles.
“The hardest part about defense and the most important thing is lining up right,” Caputo said. “If you line up right, you have a chance. Santiago has seen pretty much all the formations out there. He can line us up right.”
At quarterback, Santiago threw six touchdown passes and ran for three scores.
“He knows what we’re doing,” Caputo said. “He can call the plays at the line (of scrimmage). We’ve worked on expanding our passing game.”
Spellman is a senior running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He rushed for 553 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
“We’ll move him all over the field,” Caputo said. “He’s got the best hands on the team. He can run the ball between the tackles, and then we can line him up wide and get him the ball in space.”
Buena finished last season with about 25 players. The Chiefs had about 40 players on the roster this preseason with 10 seniors, four juniors and the rest being freshmen and sophomores.
Junior defensive end Antonio Thompson sparks Buena’s defense. Thompson has the speed and strength to be a consistent presence in opposing team’s backfields.
Buena has experience on the offensive line with Anthony Grieco, Sam Drogo and Garrett Ancheta.
The Chiefs also expect to get contributions from sophomore running back Shayron Smithbey, who would have played as a freshman but missed nearly all of the season with a fractured tibia.
The Chiefs finished 9-1, won the division title and reached the South Jersey Group I semifinals last season. Can this team achieve similar success? Caputo says it depends on how the Chiefs handle adversity.
“I want to see how we handle football games and stuff happening,” Caputo said. “I think that’s going to be the key. I think we have the talent to play with the teams on our schedule.”