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Edison's Donavan Benoit voted GMC Football Player of the Week
9/13/2017 11:07 PM

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Shortly after a senior-laden Edison football team’s season came to an end last year, Donavan Benoit transferred into the high school.

The bruising running back and gifted linebacker’s arrival could not have come at a better time.

With 24 players having graduated and just three starters returning, Edison has received a much-needed boost on both sides of the ball from Benoit, who played at Fork Union Military Academy last season.

The senior, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 225 pounds, rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, registered 10 tackles including one for a loss, kicked four extra points and had a pass breakup in Edison’s 28-16 comeback victory over Monroe on Friday night.

Benoit was voted MyCentralJersey.com’s Readers’ Choice Greater Middlesex Conference Football Player of the Week, receiving 3,675 votes or 32.7 percent of the total 11,226 votes cast on a ballot featuring 18 nominees.

He will lead Edison, ranked No. 8 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, into a key Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division showdown with defending North 2 Group IV champion and third-ranked Sayreville on Friday night.

The Eagles have played Sayreville tough each of the past two years, dropping an 18-13 decision last season and posting a 20-19 victory to secure a playoff berth two years ago.

“If we have a first half like we did last week (against Monroe), the game will be over at halftime,” said Edison head coach Matt Fulham, whose team overcame an inauspicious start against the Falcons to erase a 10-0 deficit by scoring the first 28 points after intermission.

The Eagles committed four turnovers, yielded a 70-yard touchdown pass, had a 31-yard scoring run of their own nullified via penalty and snapped the ball over their punter’s head deep in their own territory while digging themselves a 10-point hole.

Fulham said Edison’s linemen took over in the second half on both sides of the ball to control the line of scrimmage and the game.

Benoit, whose time on the field was limited due to some cramping issues, benefited from the play in the trenches and made the most of his carries.

“In the first half we played terribly,” Fulham said. “Nothing went right. We didn’t have the ball a lot because of the turnovers and miscues on special teams. In the second half we focused on back to basics running the ball.”

The Eagles ran iso, counter and power. They complemented the ground game with some short passes from rookie quarterback Dean Escobar, who effectively managed the offense in his debut and who had Benoit in the backfield to alleviate some pressure.

“Donavan’s overall performance was solid,” Fulham said. “He didn’t do it all by himself. I think our offensive line is coming along very well. In addition to the five kids starting, we’ve got two or three other kids constantly pushing for playing time. It’s one area where we have some depth and they’ve been physical (as two-way players) on both sides of the ball.”

Fulham credited his defensive unit, including Benoit, who is a Mike linebacker, with positioning Edison for a comeback win.

“The defensive staff did a great job getting kids in the right places to make some plays,” said Fulham, noting first-year defensive coordinator Jim Cooper, a former Edison player who succeeded longtime assistant Frank Juliano, devised an excellent game plan.

“Really, the defense kept us in the game and then in the second half our offense started to click a little bit and we just ran with the confidence.”

A physical specimen, Benoit made a strong first impression on Fulham when the two first met last winter.

Fulham watched some HUDL game film on Benoit and knew a player was in his midst. Benoit displayed his athleticism during the spring track and field season, becoming only the fourth shot putter in school history to win the event at the Greater Middlesex Conference Championships.

“He’s a strong kid,” Fulham said. “It wasn’t hard to find film on him. I watched his tape a little bit and it was impressive. For a big guy, he’s surprisingly quick. You think of him as a big bruiser who runs hard inside the tackles, but he can surprise people with his quickness to the outside, as well.”

Fulham said teammates respect Benoit, who was named a captain and who leads by example in the weight room and on the field. Fulham said Benoit is also a solid student. Benoit’s leadership has been paramount for a team that graduated 24 players.

“That’s one of the reasons why we named him a team captain,” said Fulham, noting one of Edison’s other captains, senior receiver Ahmed Aly, remains sidelined with a dislocated elbow. “We are just hoping Donavan can continue to lead by example.

“Considering our team has a lot of inexperience,” Fulham said, “we look to him to be one of our leaders.”

Benoit could not have come to Edison at a better time.

Greg Tufaro, @GregTufaro Published 11:43 p.m. ET Sept. 12, 2017 | Updated 12:04 a.m. ET Sept. 13, 2017


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