Newburgh Free Academy won its third Section 9, Class AA football title a year ago under the physical and mental guidance of the Ryan Skivington, at quarterback.
Skivington graduated along with four of five of his starting offensive linemen, but Bill Bianco, Newburgh’s coach, still expects the team to be in contention for another section title with the athletic Terry Anderson taking over at quarterback.
“It’s a process, said Bianco, “and we’re doing the best job we can at getting guys ready.”
Matt Nemechek is the only returning lineman, at right guard, and he’ll join a line with Justin Muriel, Aaron Soto and Caleb Williams. Riley Higgins will play center.
The line will protect the mobile Anderson as he looks for Vern Smith, Uhcharion Hanson, Jalen Ricks, receivers, and Wayne Murray, at tight end, in the throwing lanes. And Jadon Munroe will take the ball out of the backfield as the running back.
The defense returns more this season from a year ago, when the young squad rotated many linemen to stop the rush and pressure opposing quarterbacks.
“There are probably four or five guys that started different games throughout the year,” said Bianco. “As a group, we have guys with experience at every level.”
Murray and Josh Williams will be the defensive ends, and Muriel and Sam Nichols will be the defensive tackles. Three linebackers, Dom Valeri, Giani Hill, Donovan Kenan, will help the secondary with Hanson and Israel Williams are the corners, and Smith and Tyler Santiago, the team captains, at safety. Senior Pete Matthews returns to kick for the Goldbacks.
“Just get better week by week,” said Santiago, of what he expects from his teammates this season. “And in order to get better, we are going to have to win games.”
To defend their third straight sectional title, the Goldbacks are firmly set on seeking a fourth while playing in the toughest division in Section 9 with Monroe-Woodbury, Middletown, Kingston and Pine Bush.
“We’re trying, we’re hoping. Our division as a whole is wide open,” said Bianco.
“I think we have enough talent, offensively and defensively to be pretty good if everything comes together right.”
By Bond Brungard