By Ryan Fennell
Former RFH Bulldog wide receiver Ryan Kirchner will be in town this weekend, but not because his former team plays its first round state playoff game against Rahway this Friday.
Kirchner will be preparing with the Great Danes of the University of Albany as they ready for a pivotal matchup against the Monmouth University Hawks this Saturday at noon.
Monmouth’s homecoming loss to Duquesne two weeks ago coupled with Albany’s 31-17 loss to Bryant last Saturday has created a four-team battle for the top spot in the Northeast Conference and a must-win game for both teams this weekend in West Long Branch.
Four teams are tied for first and second place in the NEC heading into this weekend with Albany and Duquesne atop the conference at 5-1 and Monmouth and Bryant tied for second at 4-2.
Kirchner was a member of the 2007 Bulldog team that reached the Group II state final against Carteret but came up short.
During his career at RFH, Kirchner amassed 104 receptions for 1,360 yards, scored 20 touchdowns and made nine interceptions.
As a Bulldog Kirchner was named to the CJ Group II first team All-State and first-team All-Shore as a senior, which was preceded by two selections to the All-Patriot Division team, and second-team All-Shore as a junior.
He was also selected as the MVP of the Shore Gridiron Classic as a senior.
Kirchner said his experience at RFH under head football coach Shane Fallon prepared him for his college career at Albany.
“I had an awesome experience at RFH under Coach Fallon,” Kirchner said. “He’s a tremendous coach and a good friend of mine now. We won a lot of ball games. Unfortunately we didn’t win our state championship my senior year. It would have been nice but that’s the game.”
“I never had a losing season there and that’s a big tribute to Coach Fallon,” Kirchner added. “He won a state championship last year and hopefully he’ll win another one this year.”
Coming out of Rumson-Fair Haven, Kirchner headed to another successful program in Albany where Coach Bob Ford’s 247 career victories ranks first among active NCAA Division I FCS head coaches.
Kirchner put in the necessary work to make the transition from high school football to college football in his first year by red-shirting and spending time in the weight room while continuing to practice and improve his football skills.
“It’s definitely a big jump,” Kirchner said. “It takes time. I red-shirted one year and that made a big difference for me. I got to spend a lot of time in the weight room and I was in there four days a week. Physically I got faster and stronger, which I needed to do and it translated well onto the field for me.”
Since his transformation into a Great Dane for the University of Albany, Kirchner has played in every game since moving into the wide-receiver rotation as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and finished that season third on the team in receptions with 16.
In 2010 Kirchner had the fifth-best single-season total in program history with 50 receptions for 504 yards and one touchdown. After his coach, Ford, decided to try Kirchner out as a punt returner at the start of the 2010 season, Kirchner went on to lead the NEC in punt return yards and average with 280 yards and a 10.4 average. Kirchner also holds the second-longest punt return in school history when he scored on an 80-yard run back against Wagner in 2010.
Kirchner has started all nine games for Albany this season and leads the team with 32 receptions for 352 yards with an 11-yards per reception average and six touchdowns.
So far, Kirchner has returned 20 punts for 157-yards and is averaging 7.8-yards per return with a long of 36-yards.
Overall, the junior wide receiver has 509 all-purpose yards and averages 56.6-yards per game.
Last week, in the loss to Bryant, Kirchner hauled in three passes for 31-yards and a touchdown.
Although it won’t be his first time playing at home since heading to Albany, Kirchner is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family when his team faces rival Monmouth this Saturday.
“We’re excited to play Monmouth,” Kirchner said. “For me, personally, it’s always a fun one to go see and play in front of family and friends. It’s nice to go home and play close to home because I get a lot of family and friends that may not get to see me play all the time, so it’ll be nice to play in front of them.”
However, in true sportsmanlike fashion, Kirchner said that it’s just the next game on the schedule and that his team is ready to play every week.
“I have tremendous respect for Coach (Kevin) Callahan and his staff,” Kirchner added. “I think they do a tremendous job down there.”