SUMMIT, NJ — Last year was a learning curve like no other for the Hilltoppers. A young cast void of any prolific experience coming in managed to show what they were made of on five occasions, from the beginning of October to Mischief Night.
“Last year we got hit by COVID, and I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories,” head coach Kevin Kostibos said. “In some instances, we played whoever, and a lot of our kids were getting experience.”
That “experience” translates into Summit having nine returning starters on offense and seven on defense.
“Now we hope the experience they gained last year will pay off this year,” Kostibos said.
Back leading the Wing-T is senior quarterback Charlie Schaffer.
“Our offense is built around the characteristics he displays,” Kostibos said. “He’s a great leader. His style is almost like sneaky quick. You don’t realize it.
“He just makes things happen. That’s the kind of player you want running your offense.”
Seniors Schaffer will be throwing the ball to include Conor St. Amant, Ellis Sorenson and Gavin Odell, also returning starters.
“We expect St. Amant to have a huge year,” Kostibos said. “He’s also a very good lacrosse player. He’s excellent at running routes.
“Sorenson is the fastest kid on our team. He can run a 4.55 40. He gives us that element of speed,” Kostibos continued. “Odell is a great possession receiver.”
Odell’s uncles, Tom and Tim Odell, starred at Summit from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. Tom Odell played for Penn State and Tim Odell for Rutgers.
At tight end, senior returning starter Bryce Lubin is, according to Kostibos, “huge for us. He’s one of the strongest kids we’ve ever had. He’s a true H-back.”
At running back, Kostibos said, senior Colin Beatty and junior Jake Lowry give Summit two other potentially dangerous options.
Kostibos also likes what he sees from his defensive line so far.
“They’re really standing out,” Kostibos said. “Lubin, Christ, (Jay) Paasonen, Marcus Cineas, they’re all good at what they do.
“They are fundamentally sound and do a real good job of controlling the gaps,” he continued. “It’s been said that the best way to defend the pass is to have a great pass rush.”
Summit kicks off its season Sept. 4 at home vs. Elizabeth, a team it has not faced since the late 1980s.
“It was a pretty easy decision for both of us, as we were both looking for games,” Kostibos said. “I think it’s a great way to kick off everyone coming back. It’s great for the sport.”
In 1988, one of the years they faced each other, both won state championships by beating Morris County schools on the road in their sectional finals. Elizabeth won North 2, Group 4, for the first time since 1981 by winning at top-seeded Morris Knolls 13-12. Summit captured North 2, Group 2, for the first time by winning at top-seeded Dover 12-6 in overtime.
In 1989, another year they clashed, Elizabeth and Summit were the Watchung Conference champions. Elizabeth won the American Division and Summit the National Division.
Summit, looking to have a nine-game regular season rather than an eight-game slate, which they had in 2018 and 2019 once regional games were added after state championship contests, also picked up St. Frances Academy of Baltimore, Md. The Hilltoppers will host the out-of-state foe on Oct. 23.
“We were also looking for a game for that date and no one was able to accommodate us,” Kostibos said. “We put it out there that we were still looking, and St. Frances said yes and that they were willing to come to us.”
Summit’s 2021 captains, named when summer started, are seniors Taylor Christ, Jonathan Lehrich and Colin Beatty.
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS 2021
Sept. 4 vs. Elizabeth, 1 p.m.
Sept. 10 at Rahway, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. South Plainfield, 1 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Carteret, 2 p.m.
Oct. 8 vs. Governor Livingston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Warren Hills, 1 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. St. Frances, Md., 1 p.m
Oct. 29 at Somerville, 7 p.m.
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos, ninth season
SUMMIT’S MULTIPLE SPREAD WING-T OFFENSE:
LT Michael Sajer, senior (6-0, 190)
LG Jake Rainero, junior (5-11, 215)
C Jonathan Lehrich, senior (5-11, 190)
RG Dymir Williams, senior (5-11, 190)
RT Andrew Sarabian, senior (6-1, 220)
T Jack Apruzzese, junior (6-0, 225)
L Fisher Cantone, junior (5-8, 175)
TE Bryce Lubin, senior (6-2, 220)
QB Charlie Schaffer, senior (5-11, 185)
QB-WR Charlie Jones, senior (5-8, 165)
RB Matthew Loeloff, senior (5-11, 180)
RB Colin Beatty, senior (6-0, 180)
RB Jake Lowry, junior (5-10, 170)
WR Conor St. Amant, senior (6-2, 185)
WR Gavin Odell, senior (6-1, 180)
WR Ellis Sorenson, senior (5-8, 155)
WR Jake Penner, junior (5-9, 165)
WR Lucas Stocks, junior (5-11, 190)
PK Will Johnson, junior (5-11, 160)
Returning starters (9): Sajer, Rainero, Lehrich, Sarabian, Lubin, Schaffer, St. Amant, Odell and Sorenson.
SUMMIT’S 4-4 DEFENSE:
E Bryce Lubin, senior (6-2, 220)
T Jay Paasonen, senior (6-3, 215)
T Marcus Cineas, junior (6-3, 275)
T Andrew Sarabian, senior (6-1, 220)
E Taylor Christ, senior (5-11, 215)
E Andrew Richardson, junior (5-11, 210)
ILB Colin Beatty, senior (6-0, 180)
ILB Joe Fagan, junior (5-11, 180)
LB George Morgan, junior (5-11, 185)
OLB Mike Sereno, senior (5-11, 175)
OLB James Wattick, junior (6-1, 185)
OLB Lucas Stocks, junior (5-11, 190)
FS Matthew Loeloff, senior (5-11, 180)
CB Charlie Jones, senior (5-8, 165)
CB Jack Sullivan, senior (6-2, 175)
CB Dominic Ramirez, senior (5-10, 165)
P Will Johnson, junior (5-11, 160)
Returning starters (7): Lubin, Paasonen, Christ, Beatty, Fagan, Sereno and Loeloff.
2020 SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (2-3)
Oct. 3 (H): Rahway 40, Summit 14
Oct. 10 (A): Summit 32, Plainfield 0
Oct. 17 (H): Summit 35, South Plainfield 0
Oct. 24 (H): Somerville 55, Summit 42
Oct. 30 (A): Edison 20, Summit 17
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos, eighth season
Section: North Group 3
Conference: Big Central
Points for: 140
Points against: 115