Hillside football preview: Comets feel they have necessary senior leadership

HILLSIDE – The Comets, in a second consecutive 1-9 finish last year, gave up nearly 300 points.

“Defense and tackling were our main focus in the pre-season,” second-year head coach Kendall Ashford said. “It was a mixture of technique and confidence.”

With 15 seniors listed among the starters – 10 on offense and another five on defense – it is the confidence of eight returning starters on offense and six on defense that will need to be prevalent if Hillside is to turn it around.

“We have so many seniors this time and the kids are definitely more confident,” Ashford said.

Hillside opens at home against Rahway on Friday, Sept. 13 at 3 p.m. – the game was pushed back a day. The Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division teams have faced each other the past two years at Rahway’s Veterans Field, with Rahway winning 53-12 in 2011 and 32-6 in 2012.

While Ashford expects a much better defensive performance on Opening Day against a highly-rated Rahway squad, he will also look to senior quarterback Joey Straile – a three-year starter – to lead the offense into the end zone.

“Joey has made a lot of strides,” Ashford said. “He’s improved his accuracy during camps and 7-on-7s. He also had a quarterback coach help him with his mechanics.

“The biggest things he needed to work on were his confidence in the pocket and his accuracy.”

Senior Kenneth Bass moved from guard to fullback once Hillside went from a spread to a veer, Pro-Set I offense.

“There wasn’t much need for a fullback in the spread last year,” Ashford said. “Kenneth played fullback as a sophomore and has had success there again in our scrimmages.”

Ashford also said that he expects Roselle transfer Lawrence Price (6-2, 250) to be a force on the offensive line at right tackle.

Bass returns as the middle linebacker in Hillside’s 4-3 defense.

“He’s a masher, a solid tackler for us,” Ashford said. “He also reads offense offenses a lot better.”

Another key returning starter on defense according to Ashford is senior cornerback Raymond Lewis.

“Raymond transferred from Virginia last year and played safety for us,” Ashford said. “He’s made the adjustments and has been a big surprise for us at cornerback.”

Hillside has lost to Rahway the last four seasons. The last time the Comets defeated the Indians was in September of 2008 at Hillside, which was an 18-12 Comets victory.

Rahway was also supposed to be very good that year and was. That was the only regular season loss the Indians suffered during a 10-2 season that saw them reach the North 2, Group 3 final.

That was also Hillside’s last winning season, with the Comets finishing 8-3, reaching the North 2, Group 2 semifinals and falling one touchdown short of playing for a state championship.

 

HILLSIDE’S VEER, PRO-SET I OFFENSE:

LT Jordan Jackson, senior, (6-4, 260)

LG Prosper Mekova, senior, (6-1, 230)

C Rayngi Elie, senior, (5-10, 235)

RG Jonathan Acquaye, junior, (5-11, 245)

RT Lawrence Price, junior, (6-2, 250)

TE Brian Wilson, senior, (6-3, 205)

FB Kenneth Bass, senior, (5-11, 230)

TB Josh Wilkins, senior, (5-9, 140)

QB Joey Straile, senior, (5-11, 140)

WR Lewis Iheanacho, senior, (5-11, 130)

WR Ralph Roberts, senior, (6-0, 150)

PK Jeff Cosmeus, senior, (5-10, 130)

Returning starters (8): Elie, Acquaye, Wilson,

Bass, Wilkins, Straile, Iheanacho, Roberts.

 

HILLSIDE’S 4-3 DEFENSE:

E Michael Bolin, senior, (6-0, 170)

T Lawrence Price, junior, (6-2, 250)

T Jonathan Acquaye, junior, (5-11, 245)

E Prosper Mekova, senior, (6-1, 230)

LB Danny Nunez, sophomore, (6-0, 150)

MLB Kenneth Bass, senior, (5-11, 230)

LB Ishmael Jones, senior, (5-11, 150)

CB Raymond Lewis, senior, (5-10, 135)

CB Jalen Barron, senior, (5-7, 130)

S Joey Straile, senior, (5-11, 140)

S Jahaad Johnson, senior, (5-5, 130)

P Jeff Cosmeus, senior, (5-10, 130)

Returning starters (6): Bolin, Bass,

Nunez, Jones, Lewis, Barron.

 

HILLSIDE COMETS

Head coach: Kendall Ashford, since 2012.

A 1994 Weequahic graduate.

Second season: 1-9 (.100)

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain

Section: Central Jersey, Group 2

Hillside’s last sectional title: 1985

2012: (1-9 and 0-5 in Mountain Division-sixth)

Wood Field Stadium: Grass.

Ashford was an assistant coach at Hillside

for four seasons before taking over last year

as the head coach.

 

HILLSIDE COMETS 2013

Sept. 13 Rahway, 3 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Scotch Plains, 1 p.m.

Sept. 28 Johnson, 1 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Warren Hills, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Voorhees, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 at Roselle, 1 p.m.

Nov. 2 at Pingry, 2 p.m.

Nov. 9 Summit, 1 p.m.

Head coach: Kendall Ashford,

second season

 

2012 HILLSIDE COMETS (1-9)

(A) Rahway 39, Hillside 6

(H) Scotch Plains 41, Hillside 20

(A) Johnson 26, Hillside 0

(H) Warren Hills 21, Hillside 18

(A) Gov. Livingston 28, Hillside 7

(H) Voorhees 31, Hillside 14

(H) Roselle 20, Hillside 12

(A) Pingry 14, Hillside 7

(A) Summit 50, Hillside 0

(A) Hillside 25, Wood-Ridge 9

Head coach: Kendall Ashford,

first season.

Section: Central Jersey, Group 2

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain 0-5

Record: 1-9

Home: 0-4

Away: 1-5

Points for: 109

Points against: 279

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-0

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