With Versatile Barone Starring on Both Sides of the Ball, Hun Football Thrashes Blair 48-7, Improving to 5-0
DANTE’S INFERNO: Hun School football player Dante Barone heads upfield in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star and Rutgers commit Barone had two touchdown catches to help Hun defeat Blair 48-7. The Raiders, now 5-0, host the Hill School (Pa.) on October 15. (Photo by Jamie McKee/The Hun School)
By Justin Feil
Dante Barone played tight end for his former team two years ago but Hun football head coach Todd Smith saw more potential in him.
“He’s a real Swiss Army knife for us,” said Smith. “He’s probably the most versatile kid on the team.”
Barone indeed has developed into a two-way player that has helped the Raiders start 5-0 for the second straight season. The senior had a pair of touchdown catches and was part of a dominant defensive line in a 48-7 romp at Blair on Saturday as he continues to impress on both sides of the ball in his second year at Hun.
“It was definitely different compared to my old school because I was more of a traditional tight end at my old school,” said Barone, a Manalapan resident. “And playing at Hun, it’s kind of similar to the way Kyle Shanahan uses Kyle Juszczyk on the 49ers which I really like. I’m in the slot, I’m at fullback, I’m at wing, and also at tight end sometimes. I think it’s really cool to be able to be versatile. I like to run and I like to catch the ball and I like blocking. I do all those things. It’s really cool.”
Barone was just one weapon for the Raiders, who saw quarterback Marco Lainez III account for six of Hun’s seven touchdowns. Lainez ran in two of them and passed for four touchdowns with Logan Galletta catching a 35-yard strike and Liam Thorpe on the receiving end of the final passing touchdown. Kamar Archie ran in the Raiders’ other touchdown.
“We came out and took care of business,” said Smith. “We did a good job of spreading the ball around to a bunch of different guys. The kids really executed the game plan on both sides of the ball, and we came out on top.”
Hun will try to remain unbeaten when it hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 15 for Homecoming Weekend. Blair was the first Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) team that the Raiders have faced this season as its schedule has featured some New England prep schools to this point.
“With the MAPL teams, it doesn’t matter who’s on the team or who we’re playing, it’s always going to be some sort of rivalry just because there’s always been one,” said Barone.
“It was definitely more of a personal game, especially Blair because they’re one of the better teams. They have a couple guys who will be playing college football. It was nice to win that game.”
The winning never gets old for Barone, who was a part of last year’s unbeaten season at Hun. With a lot of new additions and several other returning players in different spots, he is one of the few back in the same role as the Raiders continue to steamroll teams with a steady formula.
“Right now our D-line is killing it this year,” said Barone. “We have a bunch of guys that will come in. We have a good rotation and we have really good linebackers and safeties but it’s not really getting back to them so quick anymore like it was last year. Our D line is killing it. And offensively we can do it on the ground, we can do it in the air. A lot of games we’ve been on the ground with Kamar and JT [Goodman] and Dom [DeLuzio], our running backs, all scoring. But this game, I think Marco had six total touchdowns, and five in the air. So we can do it both ways.”
With his versatility, Barone helps in all facets. Defensively, he has become a reliable piece of the defensive line. And on offense the 6’3, 250-pounder has showed off his skills in a number of ways. He has already eclipsed last year’s touchdown total with six scores through five games.
“He possesses this elite size, but he’s a gigantic athlete,” said Smith. “He goes out and makes plays on both sides of the ball. He probably has the best hands on the team. He’s become a much bigger threat to run the ball this year. We give him two or three carries a game and I think he’s averaging 15.8 yards a carry right now. He’s a beast.”
Barone has gotten comfortable with what he can bring to the Raiders in his second year. He worked in the offseason in improving his burst off the ball defensively, and he put more focus into his blocking on offense to complement his years of experience of pass catching and running routes.
“He’s probably Marco’s favorite target,” said Smith. “He’s 6’3 and makes plays. If he catches the ball in the flat he can run it in for a touchdown. He had two touchdowns against Salisbury and two touchdowns against Blair today. He’s become a real threat every time he touches the ball. But he’s a ridiculous blocker. He does a great job of pass protection, and a great job in the run game for us leading the way for some other guys. Probably one of our favorite formations is when we put him and (Owen) Wafle next to each other at fullback. We have about 500 pounds of fullback in there, which is awesome.”
Barone is willing to help Hun in any way possible, whether it’s with his legs, hands, or just blocking. The Raiders keep every option open for him with him lining up in different spots or motioning into new formations. On Saturday, he picked up a pair of scores through the air from Lainez. The two have developed a good connection in their second year working together.
“With Marco, I really don’t expect the ball anywhere else besides my hands,” said Barone of the Iowa-bound quarterback. “He’s really good. He’s become one of my best friends. Building that chemistry, we’re two of the only two returning starters at our same spot. Some people are playing other positions. Having that same connection from last year definitely helps. Being with him the longest on the team out of all the receivers helps chemistry-wise.”
With the offense clicking, Hun is getting ahead and that has helped the defense be more effective. Early leads have forced teams to adjust their game plans and put them on their heels against Hun.
“People get away from the run,” said Smith. “It’s really difficult to run the ball against us. If you’re going to have a steady diet of passing the ball we’re probably going to get there a good amount of the time, or at least put pressure on the quarterback. That’s tough. Pressure equals big plays in the back end. Dillon Bucchere had a great interception today. I think we got after the quarterback and sacked him three or four times, but the pressure was always there. The defense is playing lights out. They’re doing a great job. They’re taking pride in it and everyone is doing their job and they’re all responsible for what they need to do on the field which is great. They’re playing together.”
Relishing the chance to get in the trenches, Barone has been enjoying playing defense for the Raiders. Having only played offense for Manalapan, he’s making the most of his chances on the other side of the ball while sustaining his passion for offense.
“I love playing defense,” said Barone. “I think it’s also a great way to show my aggressiveness if I’m not showing it too much on offense. I really like offense more. I think I’m more of an offensive player and the fact that I’ll get to keep playing that H-back position is really special to me.”
Barone is slated to play H-back when he joins the Rutgers University program next year. He has taken big steps to prepare for the next level since joining the Raiders and looks forward to the next challenge ahead.
“I’m really excited about getting to the next level because I think I’ll be able to flourish in that competitive environment, and just the fact that right now I’m preparing myself every day in practice by going against the guys on our team,” said Barone.
“Like going against Owen Wafle – I have to block him sometimes on defense, and Zach Aamland, these are some of the best guys in the state. Being at The Hun School and being in that environment, and preparing myself to play bigger competition, I think that’s what’s really going to help me progress when I get to Rutgers.”
Barone still has the second half of the season left with Hun, but he’d like to bring to head coach Greg Schiano’s Rutgers team the same success that he has experienced with the Raiders. His versatility and playmaking were important for Rutgers to keep in-state.
“That definitely is a big thing,” said Barone. “Schiano is a really good guy. I have a lot of trust in him. I think he’s going to help everyone on the team succeed. That New Jersey connection, we have to start building that back up. Obviously Rutgers hasn’t been where it wants to be the past couple seasons and I think recruiting guys with the same mindset and same drive to be great and for the state of New Jersey is a big thing.”