With the success of the South Brunswick High School football team in recent years, the township's feeder program for the varsity squad has played a huge role in preparing the players for the Friday night lights.
If the current Pop Warner season is any indication, the future of SBHS football is in good hands. The Green Division Champion Jr. Pee Wee Vikings stand at 7-0 as they begin the Central New Jersey Pop Warner playoffs this weekend.
"We came into this season with some really talented players, some experienced kids and a lot of first year players," said Head Coach Donald Parlow. "We've been really impressed with the performance of some of the inexperienced players. The level of improvement we've seen from everyone has really exceeded any expectations the coaching staff has had."
The Jr. Pee Wees, comprised of kids 8-years-old to 11-years-old, have received big plays all year from a variety of contributors, including running backs Najir Underwood, Katibu Martin and Jason Briggs, as well as quarterback Grant Holmes. Parlow said the contributions of the linemen this year have been crucial, led by Fred Offenberger and Nick Campigotto.
Parlow credited the commitment of the kids and parents for their dedication to attending practice five nights a week.
"When we started the season we knew we had a small core of really talented players," Parlow said. "We had high expectations, but the level of commitment has been impressive. I've coached teams in the past where attendance at practice has been spotty because this is a huge commitment for a kid. But the level of involvement from the kids and parents has been tremendous. Half the kids have never missed a practice, which is unheard of."
Parlow also praised the work of SBPAL President and JPW offensive coordinator Jake Rodriguez, who is involved in coaching the South Brunswick football program at all levels. Athletes begin their journey playing South Brunswick football learning the system installed by former SBHS head coach Rick Mantz on the Pop Warner level, before progressing to the Crossroads Middle School team.
"I'm right in the middle of everything so I get to watch them as babies grow up, and I get to see them go through all three stages of the South Brunswick program," Rodriguez said in a previous interview. "That's really fulfilling for me to watch them succeed and do all of these great things."
Parlow noted that the Jr. Pee Wees run the same offense, do the same warmups, and go through the same practice agenda in the Pop Warner program as the teams at Crossroads Middle School and SBHS go through. He said the continunity with each level helps prepare the kids for what they will see as they grow up in South Brunswick.
"We don't have to start with the basics," he said. "It enables us to start at a higher level when we get started in August. We begin with more advanced stuff and that's helped us to have a successful season so far."
The Vikings will begin the Pop Warner playoffs against South River on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Denny Stadium in South River. The Vikings need to win at least two playoff games to be one of two teams from the region to advance to the Pop Warner Garden State Playoffs against teams from around New Jersey.
"One of the things we focused on all year is getting the kids to understand how they can exceed their limits physically and mentally," Parlow said. "This group has worked hard and exceeded our expectations as coaches. We never expected them to reach the levels they've reached this year."
The Jr. Pee Wee Vikings:
Jason Briggs, Grant Holmes, PJ Schneider, Matt Castimore, Kyle Gruver, Matt Marich, Chris Corsilli, Katibu Martin, Max Jasper, Matthew D'Angillilo, Michael Damato, Matthew Harrison, Najir Underwood, Seth Gleason, Mason Shipp, Chris Oakes, Nick Campigotto, Nick Jairdullo, Justin Cooper, Tanner Carneglia, Max Lacorte, Fred Offenberger, and Taji Ahi.
Don Parlow, Jake Rodriguez, Glenn Miller, John Elko, Sean D'Angillilo, Darren Oakes and Mike Muha.
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