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West Jersey football preview: Pope John vs. High Point


Pope John isn’t a run-first team or a pass-first team. Coach Brian Carlson believes his team’s ability to keep its opponents guessing will pay dividends at 1 p.m. Saturday, when Pope John, No. 11 in The Star-Ledger Top 20, looks to improve to 2-0 when it takes on High Point in Sparta.

“We like to spread people out,” Carlson said. “We like to throw the ball around on offense a lot but, at the end of the day, we will take what people give us. If we can run against them then we will, if we want to pass we’ll pass. We’re not a run-first team but I’d say were 50/50. If we see something that we feel like is a mismatch, we’ll take advantage of it.”

Pope John’s personnel certainly has the ability to create mismatches. Noah Brown doubles as the team’s running back and wide receiver and rushed for 208 yards last week in the team’s 43-28 victory over Randolph. Brown, committed to Ohio State, is Pope John’s primary threat on the ground.

“He’s a unique player,” said Carlson. “The combination of his size and his speed is rare. At 6-2, 215, he can really run. His general athleticism, along with his toughness, his character, you don’t get a lot of those kids in your coaching career, that’s for sure.”

Should Pope John choose to go to the air, Pope John has a future Division 1 quarterback in Sonny Abramson. Only a sophomore, Abramson has offers from South Florida and Rutgers. With a year under his belt, Carlson will give him a little more wiggle room within the offense.

“It’s only his 11th game, but obviously not with all the practices and the scrimmages. Montclair, Wayne Hills, he’s gained a lot of experience. He’s really evolved both physically and mentally. He’s 6-2, 215, a big, strong kid. He has a great arm. This year we’re kind of letting him go a little more than last year. We definitely kept him a little closer to the nest as a freshman."

Abramson has the option to pass to Brown or tight end Ryan Izzo. At 6-6, Izzo has more than 20 Division 1 offers.“

We have to clean up some things on defense,” Carlson said. “On offense, even though we did score over 40 points, we felt we missed some opportunities (in a 43-28 victory over Randolph).

"Our mentality is that every time we have the ball we should walk away with points. High Point has a very tough defense. We have to make sure we don’t get in a rut like we did in the first quarter against Randolph and go three-and-out three times in row. Those are the things we are looking to work on. Hopefully, if we are able to execute, we can be 2-0 this time next week.”

The pick: Pope John, 48-21