SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Football has always been handled with a certain fragility at Jonathan Dayton High School, where the numbers sometimes don’t add up.
You play offense at Dayton and you also play defense, with very few players in reserve.
“It’s all about building relationships,” second-year head coach Mike Abbate said.
Dayton was able to see the field only three times last season, winning its first game at Dunellen. The Bulldogs are scheduled to go back to Middlesex County to face the Destroyers on Sept. 24.
“We understand what’s important now,” Abbate said. “We started to build back up over the summer, and we’re a lot further along this year than we were last year.”
Dayton led New Providence going into the fourth quarter last year before losing to the Pioneers by a touchdown. That was Oct. 23. That turned out to be Dayton’s final game.
“We had New Providence beat, we were starting to get better and then we got hit with COVID,” Abbate said. “We feel we’re doing the right things now. The kids are really working hard.”
Running Dayton’s triple-option offense is senior quarterback Logan Solomine, who is also a baseball pitcher for Abbate in the spring.
“He’s a tough-minded kid who got a lot of practices in our system last year and got a lot of work this summer,” Abbate said. “With Group 1 football, it’s tough to duplicate the speed of the game in practice. Even though he didn’t start last year, although we only played three games, he still has some experience coming into the season.”
Abbate said that Solomine “can also bring it” when throwing the football.
Returning at running back are seniors Justin Carrier and Joe Lucarello.
“Justin made a couple of big plays for us last year and has good speed outside,” Abbate said. “Lucarello, who had a bunch of carries, gets the difficult yards for us.”
Returning starters on defense include seniors Abiel Camacho and Mike Apicella at tackle, junior Jonah Malino at end, and Carrier and Lucarello at linebacker.
Junior end Joe Parente, at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, provides size on the line.
“Parente is big up front, and all of our linebackers saw time last year,” Abbate said. “Our cornerbacks are really good athletes.”
Dayton’s game-scrimmage is at home on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m. vs. Newark Collegiate.
“Our system fits our players,” Abbate said. “We simplified things a bit so our kids know what to do and can play fast.
“In any season, you need kids to step up. We have a really good group of sophomores here,” he added.
Dayton is scheduled to open at home on Sept. 10 vs. Highland Park. All home-game starts have been moved to 6 p.m. this season.
“Here, we’re just trying to survive,” Abbate said. “I think our schedule allows us to be competitive. We’re just trying to build and have a team. You need numbers to get through the season.”
DAYTON BULLDOGS 2021
Sept. 10 vs. Highland Park, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17 at South Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Dunellen, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 vs. Manville, 6 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. New Providence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 vs. Belvidere, 6 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Roselle Park, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 29 at Brearley, 6 p.m.
Head coach: Mike Abbate, second season
DAYTON’S TRIPLE OPTION OFFENSE:
LG Wesley Griffiths, junior (6-0, 210)
LT Jacob Griffiths, junior (6-0, 180)
LT David Hurtares, junior (6-1, 235)
C Jonah Malino, junior (6-1, 235)
G Abiel Camacho, senior (6-2, 220)
T Mike Apicella, senior (5-11, 185)
QB Logan Solomine, senior (5-10, 170)
RB Justin Carrier, senior (5-10, 180)
RB Joe Lucarello, senior (5-9, 185)
RB Alex Altemus, sophomore (5-10, 190)
RB Brandyn Bernknopf, sophomore (5-8, 165)
RB Sean Okeyuna, senior (5-11, 170)
WR Antonio Powanda, senior (6-1, 165)
WR Joe Parente, junior (6-4, 240)
WR Thomas Madden, junior (6-2, 165)
PKs: Bernknopf and Carrier.
Snappers: Malino, Holder and Solomine.
Returning starters (6): W. Griffiths, J. Griffiths, Camacho, Apicella, Carrier and Lucarello.
DAYTON’S 4-4 DEFENSE:
E Joe Parente, junior (6-4, 240)
T Abiel Camacho, senior (6-2, 220)
T Mike Apicella, senior (5-11, 185)
E Jonah Malino, junior (6-1, 235)
OLB Justin Carrier, senior (5-10, 180)
OLB Jacob Griffiths, junior (6-0, 180)
MLB Alex Altemus, sophomore (5-10, 190)
MLB Joe Lucarello, senior (5-9, 185)
S Antonio Powanda, senior (6-1, 165)
S Sean Okeyuna, senior (5-11, 170)
CB Logan Solomine, senior (5-10, 170)
CB Brandyn Bernknopf, sophomore (5-8, 165)
CB Bryant Egonuh, senior (6-3, 180)
CB Quadrelle Walker, junior (6-2, 175)
Returning starters (5): Camacho, Apicella, Malino, Carrier and Lucarello.
2020 DAYTON BULLDOGS (1-2)
Oct. 2 (A): Dayton 35, Dunellen 14
Oct. 9 (A): Brearley 44, Dayton 7
Oct. 23 (H): New Providence 34, Dayton 28
Head coach: Mike Abbate, first season
Section: North Group 1
Conference: Big Central
Points for: 70
Points against: 92