After the Triton football team’s 0-2 start this season, when the Mustangs were outscored by a combined 52 points in losses to Sterling and Highland, head coach Domenic Tomeo and his players were eager to right the ship and show they were better than those early season games would suggest.
Part of the turnaround should include the team staying positive and working hard each week with the game plan, since many of its starters are three-or-four-year varsity players more than familiar with the system and coaching staff.
“A lot of these juniors and seniors started for us as freshmen and got regular playing time,” Tomeo said. “We’d been really young the last two years or so, so we saw the potential for us to succeed, and even last year, despite it being a short season, we had some good wins and were pretty close for a while even in those losses.”
Now having rattled off six straight victories en route to a 7-2 record entering the final week of the regular season — during which Triton will finish with a winning record for the first time in 10 years and earn a National Division title — it’s safe to say the Mustangs’ faith never wavered early on despite the slow start.
But looking back, another crucial component of the season’s success was a mid-season switch at quarterback. While the season opened with both senior Aaron Beebe and sophomore Michael Lewis splitting time at quarterback; Tomeo said the younger player took control of the offense during the team’s first victory of the season against Deptford, a 17-7 win.
“I wouldn’t say it was a turning point exactly, but Lewis really taking control of the quarterback position was really helpful,” Tomeo said. “And with him only being a sophomore, he’s got a great group of seniors showing him the way.”
Beebe is like a jack of all trades who has played all over the field during his four years at Triton. Having started out as a center in his freshman year, in recent years, he’s been focused mostly on tight end and playing along the defensive line.
Going into the season without a solid answer at quarterback following the graduation of last year’s starter, Beebe split time with his younger teammate while he continued to develop. But following the Deptford game, Beebe and the coaching staff felt it was time to give Lewis the full-time position and allow Beebe to focus purely on tight end and the defensive line.
“We didn’t really have a solid idea about who would be quarterback starting out, so I split time with him,” Beebe said of Lewis.. “But it was a fun experience to go through it to see more closely how the offense works as a quarterback.
“And now, having that experience, it’s made it easier to read plays on the defensive side of the ball.”
Beebe’s early-season work in closely learning how offenses work has certainly paid off, and his 12 sacks are good for the most in the West Jersey Football League and top five in the state. Beebe also acknowledged the work of his teammates along the line.
“We have great chemistry along that defensive line,” Beebe said. “Not to be biased, but I think our defensive line might be the best part of our team. We had really high hopes for this season coming in and it made us really mad that we started off 0-2… Something in the atmosphere kind of clicked before that Deptford game and helped us really focus on starting our season over to get us on the right track,” he added.
Looking back on what’s been a successful past month and a half of winning football for Triton, Beebe and the rest of his senior teammates haven’t been in playoff football since their freshman year, and the team is eager to do just that later this season.
“It’s probably going to be the best feeling of my high-school career,” Beebe said. “The last time I remember seeing playoffs was my freshman year [when the team finished 5-5].
“It just feels really good to be on a winning streak like this,” he added. “It hasn’t happened in a while.”