By Jim Hintelmann
RED BANK – Schools with traditionally strong football programs that are rebuilding usually are described as reloading, and that’s the case with Red Bank Catholic this season.
The Caseys, which rolled to a 10-1 record a year ago, lost a standout senior class, including tackle Quenton Nelson, now playing at Notre Dame, but they will still be a state power. RBC has won 33-straight games against Shore Conference schools. The last loss was a double overtime setback to Freehold in 2010.
RBC moves up to the rugged B Division North this season, but coach Jim Portella goes into the season with an optimistic outlook despite the stronger schedule.
“Eight of the nine teams on our schedule qualified for the NJSIAA (New Jersey State interscholastic Athletic Association) playoffs last year, and four of them won sectional titles,” Portella said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
RBC averaged 43 points a game last year. Its lone loss was to national power St. Joseph’s (Montvale) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public III playoffs.
RBC, which has five returning starters, will again use a West Coast Offense and will have an outstanding player to run it in junior quarterback Eddie Hahn, who shared the position last year with Pat Toomey.
Hahn, a solid two-way player, gives RBC its most potent passing game in years.
“He’s a very athletic player, no doubt about it,” Portella said. “He’s an outstanding passer and runner.”
Despite playing part time, Hahn scored four touchdowns and completed 17 of 33 passes for 367 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for 248 yards in 25 carries and made 26 solo tackles from his safety position. He will also do the punting.
Despite losing leading rusher Larry Redaelli through graduation, RBC will still have a solid running game with tailbacks Michael Cordova and Tommy Spernal. Dylan Murphy, Nick Cella and Nick LaGrippo will divide time at fullback.
RBC will have a flock of good wide receivers, led by Trevor Cowley. He will share time with Nick Lubischer, John Portella, Mike Demonte, Joe Luff and Dan Lukawski. Jamie Gordinier, who will play at Miami next year, will start at tight end.
Despite the losses of Nelson and Tim O’Hara (Lehigh), RBC will still have a strong offensive line with plenty of size.
“High school football comes down to the offensive line,” Portella said. “How well we do will depend on the linemen.”
The only returning starters are center Nick Roy and guard Ryan Kroeger, but there are plenty of talented linemen to replace the graduated players from a year ago.
The other tentative starters will be tackles Liam Smith and Neil Horenburg while Dan Wilen, Charlie Gargiulo and Ryan Oneidas will share time at the other guard position.
RBC returns six starters from a 4-3 defense that allowed only 8.7 points per game a year ago.
Wilen and Doug Zockoll are the starting defensive ends, backed up by Gargiulo. Kroeger, who will play at Fordham, Smith and Horenburg are the tackles.
We’re mixing in some new guys on the defense,” the coach said, “but all them have a great work ethic and are coming along nicely. I’m pleased with the way they are progressing.”
Gordinier, Murphy, LaGrippo and Wilen lead a solid linebacker crew.
RBC will have one of the area’s top secondaries with Hahn, DeMonte and Michael Cordova returning from last year. Also expected to get playing time are Spernal, Colin Shaughnessy and Luff.
Toomey, last year’s kicker, graduated, but RBC has a capable replacement in newcomer Vince Gallo, who played soccer a year ago.
“He’s looking very impressive in practice,” Portella said. “We’re fortunate to have him.”
RBC’s main goal this year is winning the Non-Public III state championship, but defending champion St. Joseph’s (Montvale) remains a major obstacle.
“We’re looking forward to playing them this year,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be different this season.”
RBC will open its season Friday, Sept. 5, when it travels to Wall. This will be followed by six straight home games.
Missing from the schedule for the first time since 1957 is Thanksgiving Day rival Rumson-Fair Haven Regional. That leaves RBC without a Thanksgiving Day game. Its regular season will end Nov. 7 against Jackson Memorial.
RBC 2014 Football Schedule
Sept. 5, Away vs. Wall, 7p.m.
Sept. 12, Home vs. Long Branch, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19, Home vs. St. Joe’s Metuchen, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26, Home vs. Neptune, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3, Bye
Oct. 10, Home vs. Colts Neck, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17, Home vs. Red Bank Regional, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24, Home vs. Manalapan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31, Away vs. Ocean, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7, Away vs. Jackson Memorial, 7 p.m.
Please click here for the Red Bank Catholic 2014 football roster: Red Bank Catholic 2014 Football Roster