The loss burns inside the stomachs of the Asbury Park High School Blue Bishops like hot coals.
The team traveled to traditional state football power Paulsboro to play in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I semifinals last season. The result was a 34-0 road loss in which the Blue Bishops trailed 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 through three quarters.
“The team has been working hard to get back to the mountaintop after a disappointing end to last season when it lost to Paulsboro,” said Tim Fosque, the Blue Bishops’ coach and a former Asbury Park player. “We’re trying to return to championship form this season with a good mix of returning starters and new faces.”
The Blue Bishops top returning players from a year ago are junior offensive-defensive lineman Dante Moore, senior running back-outside linebacker Najee Austin, junior wide receiver-defensive back Mikai Jones, junior wide receiver-defensive back Najier Massey, senior offensive lineman-linebacker Haleem Stevens, junior offensive-defensive lineman Anthony Swearine and junior offensive-defensive lineman Jarred Chathuant.
Swearine registered 20 tackles, one fumble recovery and one quarterback sack last season. Jones hauled in 16 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown, averaging 11.5 yards per reception. Chathuant finished last season with 14 tackles, three sacks and one fumble recovery.
Moore gives the Blue Bishops one of the state’s biggest players. He’s a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder. Austin is a 5-foot-9, 180-pounder. Jones stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 185 pounds. Massey is a 5-foot-8 180-pounder. Stevens is a 5-foot-11, 210-pounder. Swearine stands 5-foot-11 and tips the scales at 245 pounds. Chathuant is a 5-foot-10, 275-pounder.
The Blue Bishops’ top newcomers are freshman quarterback-linebacker Jai’Sun Brown, junior quarterback-defensive back Rajyr Stephens, freshman running back-defensive back Jashawn Carter, junior running back-outside linebacker Tyrese Coke and senior tight end-defensive lineman Matthew Tomaini.
Brown is a 6-foot-3, 175-pounder. Stephens is a 6-foot, 185-pounder. Carter is a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder. Coke is a 5-foot-8, 180-pounder. Tomaini is a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder.
“Our strengths are our speed and experienced offensive and defensive linemen,” Fosque said. “We suffered key losses to graduation and transfers. Our team will be successful if it can stay healthy.”
Head coach: Tim Fosque, fifth season
Career record at Asbury Park: 24-18
Last season’s record: 4-6 overall, including 3-3 in the Shore Conference National Division, three-way tie for third place with Keansburg and Keyport in the seven-team circuit
Assistant coaches: Rob Ward (defensive coordinator, offensive line, defensive line), Lamar Davenport (offensive coordinator, wide receivers, defensive backs), Nick Ciambrone (wide receivers, defensive backs), Matt Ardizzone (quarterbacks, inside linebackers), Gary Salerno (offensive line, defensive line) and Keith Killea (running backs, outside linebackers)
Athletic trainer: Nancy Saphow
Offensive formation: Multiple
Defensive formation: 4-4
Regular season schedule: Sept. 6, Shore Regional 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Pinelands Regional, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Point Pleasant Beach, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Keansburg, 6 p.m.; Oct. 12, at Keyport, noon; Oct. 18, Manchester, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Barnegat, 7 p.m.; Nov. 28, Neptune, 10:30 a.m.