By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK — A season removed from being one play away from a shot at a sectional championship, Red Bank Catholic is gearing for another run.
After starting 10-0 in 2011, the Caseys fell in the semi-final of the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III sectional tournament to Delbarton, 30-23, in double overtime. Although that game is certainly behind RBC, the plan in 2012 is to go a step further.
“Every year we start out with that goal in mind, but we’ll see how it shapes out,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Jim Portela said. “We have a young team, but that’s absolutely our goal. That’s been our goal since I came here in 2002, to get to that last game.”
The Caseys are coming off a season in which they made a case for the best offensive team in the Shore Conference. They scored more than 20 points in all but one game, due in large part to a vicious running attack, which was spear-headed by then-senior John DiStefano.
With DiStefano, now at Milford Academy, graduated, Red Bank Catholic will look to several players to lead the way offensively in 2012.
Mike Corcione, who played safety for the Caseys last year, will become the starting quarterback. Wide receiver James Taylor, who played a strong defensive back in 2011, will be a force on both sides of the ball this season for RBC.
But to Portela, there isn’t just one player who can change this team.
“I think we have a chance to have an explosive offense and we have a chance to be very good,” he said. “It’s going to come down to our offensive line, like it does every year. We were spoiled last year, all five of those kids were two-year players on the varsity level.”
The Caseys will be returning defensive lineman Josh Klecko, who recently committed to Rutgers University. He will be used on both sides of the ball and will be an essential part of RBC’s potential success this season.
“We’re lucky, we have Klecko and [Richie] Curran who played a lot on the offensive line last year, so we’ll anchor ourselves around them and go from there,” Portela said
Perhaps the biggest news for the Caseys is their move from the B-North to A-Central in the Shore Conference re-alignment. With the C-Central being eliminated, Red Bank Catholic will now compete in the same division with Rumson-Fair Haven and Manasquan, two teams who made deep runs into the postseason a year ago.
“I think it’s going to be tough and I think our schedule this year is very difficult,” Portela said. “We have Red Bank Regional, who is a very good team, and Freehold Boro, who is a very much improved team, so that’s a challenge outside the division.”
The Caseys won the B-North last year with a 6-0 divisional record, edging out Neptune’s 5-1 record and Colts Neck’s 4-2 record within divisional play.
For now, though, Red Bank Catholic’s biggest goal is to get better each day.
“I think it’s important to take it one practice at a time right now,” Portela said. “That’s the mentality that we have. We’re a young team, and we have some capable players, but we have some new faces in there, particularly offensively. So it’s important that we focus on the task at hand and not start worrying about games down the road, or even our opening game at this point. Right now, in the summertime, it’s about us getting better everyday.”
RBC is expecting to start nine defensive seniors, leading Portela to believe that the defense could be the strongest aspect of the team.
“We always put a lot on our seniors and expect them to lead the way. With that many seniors playing defense, we’re expecting them to lead the way for us. Our senior class, as a whole, we’re expecting big things from.”
For years, Red Bank Catholic has been among the best in the Shore Conference in football, and now, they are working to make a run at their second sectional title in school history.
But even Portela knows they are not alone.
“I don’t think there’s a team that’s practicing right now whose goal is to not win a championship,” he said.
The Caseys will open the season, at Red Bank Regional, on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 1 p.m.