Camp Confidential: Delbarton
MSG Varsity will visit the top teams in the Garden State during preseason camps and provide all the latest news leading up to opening kick-off. In today’s edition of Camp Confidential, we take a look at Delbarton.
LAST SEASON: 11-1; lost in Non-Public semifinals to St. Joe’s (Mont.)
HEAD COACH: Brian Bowers (10th season)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: TE/LB Rob Thoma, RB Jamie White, QB Michael Bicknese, TE/LB Will Reynolds, TE/FS Matt Oplinger
It’s been a decade now since Brian Bowers took over as head coach of Delbarton football and the Green Wave has had a ton of success on the gridiron during that time. Last season Bowers’ squad was a perfect 11-0 before falling to St. Joe’s (Mont.) in the semifinals of Non-Public Group 3. “It didn’t go our way,” Bowers said, “and I think that taste is still in our mouths. We have our sights set but we’re still trying to build a foundation one game at a time.”
That mentality has led Bowers and Delbarton in the right direction, enjoying winning season after winning season, but the ultimate goal still remains unattained, a state title. “I think they know what it takes, we have a lot of guys back who have played as underclassmen, some of whom it’s their third year starting on varsity and I think we are, I think we’re ready to take that next step.”
FRESH FACE UNDER CENTER:
Delbarton’s last state championship came in 1998 and this could be as talented as a team that they have had since, but as is always the case, so much depends on the signal caller. After backing up the talented John Shaffer for two seasons, Michael Bicknese finally gets a chance under center in his senior season and is chomping at the bit to show what he’s got.
“He’s definitely got talent and he’s been having a really good camp and two years of second team reps under him so I think he has the ability to not only run the offense but make some special plays,” said Bowers. “We have lost some guys, some key guys like Cole Riccardi who graduated, but I think we have some really talented guys behind him who have seen some experience and will make Mike’s life much easier. He’s waited patiently and earned this opportunity, I’m excited for him.”
Bicknese won’t have Riccardi’s 10 touchdowns but a bevy of talented pass catchers at the tight end position and a constant in the backfield has Bowers excited about the prospects on offense for his multiple tight end scheme.
“We lost a lot with Riccardi but we have three kids we are very excited about at the tight end position who are very gifted players,” said Bowers. “We like to run multiple tight end sets and you may see us use all three of those guys at the same time this year. It should compliment our running game really really well.”
ONE MORE TIME:
A familiar face looking for more huge production in his final year of high school ball is 1,600-yard rusher Jamie White. Touted as one of the top backs in the state for good reason, White is a workhorse who provides constant big-play capability for quarterback Mike Bicknese. With a new QB under center and new weapons on the outside, Bicknese could be asked to shoulder even more of the load this season, a challenge he fully welcomes.
“He’s our horse, an abosolute stud, he’s a guy we have counted on and will continue to count on. Being able to hand the ball off to a guy like 20 is a great luxury for any team to have.”
TIGHT END’S GALORE:
Big Rob Thoma was the second tight end last season and now figures to move into the number one spot both as a pass catching tight end as well as a talented run blocker. At 6-foot-5, 220-pounds Thoma is gifted with tremendous hands and body control to go along with brute strength. In just the second day of full pads practice Thoma was delivering plenty of licks to oncoming defenders in seven on seven.
“I hate to use the word, but we really feel like we’re loaded at tight end and it’s certainly something we are going to try and take advantage of this season.”
Will Reynolds bolsters that group even further after making the move over from center where he thrived as a junior. Despite being undersized at 6-foot-1 195-pounds, Reynolds natural strength and quickness allowed him to anchor a line that gained over 2,000 yards on the ground last season. Reynolds is a tremendous athlete, an all-American lacrosse player and a vital two-way player for Brian Bowers’ defense at inside linebacker, a real “glue guy”.
SLEEPER TO WATCH
Perhaps Delbarton’s version of the honey badger, coach Bowers says to keep your eye on 6-foot-3 200 pound free safety Matt Oplinger. Another lacrosse stud who likes to mix it up on the gridiron, Oplinger is a ferocious competitor according to Bowers and someone who “just has a nose for the ball and seems to always make plays.” Oplinger is also part of the dynamic group of tight ends and thanks to his speed can be lined up out on the flank, presenting matchup nightmares for defensive backs.
“He’s going to be a superstar, I mean he’s really phenomenal. He’ll be in that wing position that we use in our multiple sets on offense, he’s like a Dallas Clark where he can be inside or go out on the flank, and we’re also expecting a big contribution out of him at free safety. He’s got a real nose for the football and a guy his size who runs like the wind is going to make some big plays. A really special player.”
Sept. 8 at Parmus Catholic
Sept. 15 at Mendham
Sept. 22 vs. Randolph
Sept. 29 at Chatham
Oct. 6 vs. Roxbury
Oct. 13 at Parsippany Hills
Oct. 20 vs. Morristown
Oct. 27 vs. West Morris
Nov. 3 vs. Pope John
Contact John Quirk at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia