Asbury Park High School football coach Tim Fosque has a name for his offensive and defensive linemen.
The first-year mentor dubbed his players in the trenches the line dogs.
“They are the anchors of our team,” he said. “We send them out on the front lines as the anchors of our team. We want to get on people. We want to attack. They are our first line of attack. We want to impose our will on the other team.”
Fosque applied the term to his beloved linemen on the Blue Bishops’ first day of camp.
“Being a head coach and when I was an assistant coach, I have always coached our offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “I spend a lot of time with those guys.”
Fosque made it clear the team’s success hinges on its offensive and defensive lines.
“If we can control the line of scrimmage, we can control the game and take over the game,” he said. “When we are able to run the ball and score touchdowns on the ground, it is due to the efforts of our offensive line. If we get pushed off the ball, the other team is able to control the game and do what it wants to do.”
The team’s most formidable lineman is junior Calvin Simmons-Carter, who plays offensive guard and defensive tackle. He’s one of the Shore Conference’s biggest players at 5-foot-10 and 270 pounds.
“He came into the season as our top lineman,” Fosque said. “He has really stepped up to the challenge. He is reliable to run behind. His power, his ability to pull and trap block make us versatile. He is on the radar of colleges. He worked out well during the offseason at camps and some colleges are looking at him. He has been solid. He anchors our line at the point of attack to lead our inside running game.
“On defense, he has been an enforcer in the middle. He allows our linebackers to be free and make plays.”
Another key lineman is sophomore Jaylen Paige. The 6-foot-1, 270-pounder plays tackle on offense and defense.
“He has done a great job on the offensive line,” Fosque said. “We ask him to do a lot of different things. He has taken on a lot of responsibilities. He has risen to the challenge.”
Sophomore Kyrie Moore (6-0, 235) has also contributed on the offensive line.
“He has held his own against some veterans,” Fosque said. “He has gotten better and better as the year has gone on as he has gained experience.”
The Blue Bishops have received strong play from linebackers Charles Sanders (5-11, 200) and Keith White (5-11, 180). Sanders is a senior who also plays running back. White is a senior who also sees action at offensive guard.
“They are on the field for 90 percent of the snaps,” Fosque said. “Most of our players go two ways (on offense and defense). They work hard to prepare themselves by doing their offseason workouts. Nine of our players go both ways. Of those nine, seven also play on special teams.”
Asbury Park won two of its first three games. The Blue Bishops opened their regular season with a 13-6 loss to Point Pleasant Beach. However, they rebounded with wins over Metuchen (20-15) and Mater Dei Prep (42-19). The club went 2-8 last season.
“The team is resilient and relentless,” Fosque said. “We have a lot of resiliency and that is what I am the most proud of, being the head coach and being able to identify my team as resilient. Some of our players live in poverty in an urban area. They face challenges in their personal lives. Resiliency is a quality needed for them to overcome those obstacles on a daily basis.”
Fosque said he was happy with his team’s fight level in its overtime loss to the Garnet Gulls of Point Pleasant Beach.
“Our kids showed a lot of resilience,” he said. “They were scrappy. They stayed in the game and did not give up. It was a great showing for our first time out. It was a dog fight. It was our best showing we have had against a Point Pleasant Beach team in about four years.”
Fosque said Metuchen, the home team, was heavily favored to win the game.
“It was a test for both teams,” he said. “We were clearly the underdog, but we came from behind to win it.”
The game was tied at six at halftime.
“We turned the ball over three times in the first half,” Fosque said, “and still came into the locker room tied at six. We had to clean up some things and take care of the small details. We corrected some things in the locker room and came out ready to compete in the second half. We were mentally tough. We gritted out the win.”
The Blue Bishops battled Mater Dei Prep to a scoreless tie in the first quarter and erupted for 28 second-quarter points en route to a 28-13 halftime lead. Senior quarterback Davon Thompson keyed the outburst with touchdown passes of eight, 17 and 48 yards. Sanders bolted 26 yards for another score.
Senior teammate Jaedon Stephens caught four passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Thompson added a fourth-quarter touchdown. Senior Tyquere Davis rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries and caught one pass for 21 yards. Thompson connected on seven of 11 passes for 152 yards.
The Blue Bishops led 35-13 heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.
“All of our weapons really clicked together,” Fosque said. “All of the cylinders just kept clicking. Sanders (who ran for 121 yards on 15 carries) grinded it out on the ground. Our big time guys stepped up for us. Stephens stepped up. Thompson really let loose. Sanders was strong and agile. We put some things together. Our kids stepped up for the challenge.
“We came out for the game with a chip on our shoulders. I told our boys, ‘If you are disciplined and clean up the small things, you can come out on top with the weapons we have.’ Our confidence got better and we started to click.”
Prior to the season, the Blue Bishops took part in several community activities to build unity.
“The boys saw how they can accomplish their goals by sticking together,” Fosque said. “The team building exercises have made them more cohesive as a unit. People are recognizing the hard work our boys have put in. Our boys come out, compete and execute. We have a lot of players who have been in our program for four years. They have faced teams that had their number. They have come out with the hunger and desire to make the season a good season and have continued to work hard.
“If you work hard, the business on the field will take care of itself. When you have a winning attitude and a winning mindset, you will win in the classroom, on the field, in the work force and in personal relationships. Winning is an attitude. It is not by chance or by luck. You make a conscious decision about it.”
Through three games, Thompson completed 14 of 22 passes for 300 yards. He threw one interception and rushed for 81 yards on 20 carries. Sanders sped for 170 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Stephens caught eight passes for 195 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 24.4 yards per catch. Stephens scored two touchdowns against Metuchen. Sanders scored one TD against Metuchen. Senior teammate Trevor Saunders caught two passes for 51 yards and picked off one pass.
Fosque said he is not surprised at the team’s success.
“I knew the potential was there for us athletically,” he said. “I am not surprised at what athleticism brought to our team. I am surprised at how quickly the kids are buying into the program in terms of being close, being a family, caring for each other, playing for each other and being accountable. That was very evident in the Point Pleasant Beach game. Athletically, we had the potential. I knew if the guys worked hard at the other parts of the game it would work in their favor.”