MIDDLETOWN NORTH LIONS
HEAD COACH: STEVE BUSH (5TH SEASON)
2016 Record: 9-3, North 2 Group 4 state finalists
Offense: 27.75 points scored per game
Defense:18.16 points allowed per game.
By Jay Cook
MIDDLETOWN – The Middletown North Lions went wild in 2016.
Since head coach Steve Bush took over the Lions football program in 2013, the team has seen gradual success each and every year under his tutelage.
A dominant 9-3 record from last season marked not only the best team in Bush’s tenure, but also one of the best in Middletown North’s history.
That success pushed Middletown North to the North 2 Group 4 state championship game at Rutgers University, where they did falter and fall to Sayreville War Memorial High School in a windy, December afternoon game.
Although the Lions could not complete last year’s ultimate goal, both the coaching staff and returning starters are hungrier than ever to return to a title game.
“I think we want to kind of build off of that momentum where guys kind of know what’s expected of them now. They know what we’re capable of doing,” Bush said. “We weren’t happy with the way that finished, and we’d like to finish that off. We just have to go one game at a time, and just keep trying to get better.”
Middletown North will be without their best player from 2016, quarterback Donald Glenn, who graduated and is set to play Division I football with the Wagner Hawks.
But don’t fret, Lions fans. Bush will not look too far off to fill the void in the quarterback room. Actually, the Lions will go ahead and tap Donald’s younger brother Sean as the new leader of the offense.
Glenn has been working with Bush, a former National Football League assistant coach, throughout the summer to prepare him for a talented “B” North division and an even tougher Shore Conference slate of games.
“He’s helped me a ton, through seven-on-seven’s during the offseason,” Glenn said. “I’ve been working with him every day on coverages, routes, timing. He’s helped me a lot throughout the year.”
While Glenn is new to the starting gig, North will have to lean on the skillset of two-way player Austin DeWise. As a tight end, he’ll be a key part of Glenn’s development throughout the season. But DeWise is known around the Shore as a relentless pass rusher – he notched 12 sacks and 24 quarterback hurries a year ago – and he looks to use that skill set to pressure opposing quarterbacks into bad plays and rushed decisions.
And outside of his prowess on the gridiron, he looks to lead the Lions back to a title game this December.
“Last year, we were a good team and all family,” DeWise said. “We were very, very close, and we brought intensity every day. That’s what we’ll try to bring this year. If we keep close and everybody does their jobs, we’ll get it done. Just like we did last year.”
Sept. 8: NEPTUNE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15: at Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Howell, 1 p.m.
Oct. 6: NEW BRUNSWICK, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13: WALL, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21: at Manasquan, 1 p.m.
Oct. 27: LONG BRANCH, 7 p.m.
Nov. 3: OCEAN TOWNSHIP, 7 p.m.
Nov. 23: at Middletown South, 10:30 a.m.
GAME TO WATCH
SEPT. 15, AWAY AT RED BANK CATHOLIC, 7 P.M.
The Lions had the Caseys on the ropes in Week Two last year, but a fantastic drive by RBC led to a game winning field- goal and a 30-27 win. This was one of the best early season games of 2016 when it came to Shore Conference football. This time around, the Lions will be in much more of an underdog role. This game will be a great barometer to see where these teams will eventually wind up when it comes to November.
PLAYER TO WATCH
CONNOR WELSH, SENIOR RUNNING BACK
A broken arm in Week Two against RBC took away what could have been a 1,000 yard season, but Welsh worked hard and was able to return to the lineup in time for the Lions play- of f r un. Considering the r unning back only played in four full games and had 100 yards in three of those contests, it’s easy to forecast that if healthy, Welsh can be one of the Shore’s top r ushers.
This article was first published in the Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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