Football – In With the New: 2016 Holmdel Football Preview
As a high school football player, Jeff Rainess learned the game in a stable program with a continuous message for four year. His first head coaching job will be at a program that has been anything but stable at the head coaching position.
In his first season as a head football coach at the varsity level, Jeff Rainess will look to take the lessons he learned playing in Morris Knolls program that has had the same head coach for four decades and apply them to a Holmdel program that is now on its fourth coach in four years.
Rainess coached as an assistant at Mater Dei Prep last season, but as a resident of Holmdel, he is familiar with the high school and feeder programs and is interested in serving as the coach for the long haul.
“Coming from Morris Knolls, where they’ve have the same coach for 42 years and a rich tradition, I always had a vision for what I wanted it to look like if I got a chance to run a program,” Rainess said. “It’s definitely a moldable program to where if you come in with a plan and do things your way, you can build something for the long haul.
“It drives me that people are counting on me to get this right and it’s something I definitely want to deliver. It’s going to take time and there are going to be losses and growing pains, but I want everyone on this team to know that however long it takes, they are a key part of it. I want these guys coming back after they’ve graduated high school and college and we’re still running the same stuff and talking the same language.”
Seniors like Tristan Wong and Vincent Vitiello have seen three other head coaches come and go and while Rainess’s future plans will have little bearing on outgoing players, the veterans on the Hornets like what they have seen so far.
“No coach is only planning to stay one year when they are trying to install a culture and a philosophy,” Wong said. “Then you see them leave, and it kind of hurts, but you move on. With Coach Rainess, I feel like he is going to stay because he’s a Holmdel guy and he cares about this town.”
“He know the community and he know about the school and the program and what is needed to fix it. He’s a Holmdel guy, so it’s hard for him to leave. Because we all know where he lives,” Vitiello joked.
With the loss of senior quarterback Aneesh Agrawal, who transferred to Middletown South, it may require a long haul for Holmdel to reach the ranks of contenders in a Class A Central division full of them. Fortunately for Holmdel, the Hornets are also welcoming a number of transfers into the program to complement the holdovers from a year ago.
Sophomore trio of Jeff DeCicco, Jack Tedeschi and Mack Byrne all enter the program as potential contributors this season as Holmdel looks to build toward the future. DeCicco spent time in the Red Bank Catholic program before transferring back to Holmdel this season. He will step right in and take over at quarterback, while Tedeschi plays on both lines and Byrne looks for time at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield.
The focus this year will be on the sophomore signal-caller, who replaces an established talent in Agrawal who may have flown under the radar as a capable quarterback on a losing team. Although only a sophomore and only in the Holmdel program for a short while thus far, DeCicco is earning the trust and respect of the coaching staff and the seniors.
“My old coach always said the best time to play a sophomore is when he’s a junior,” Rainess said. “But it is what it is. We have a young group that is here and a lot of those guys give us the best chance, so they are going to play.”
Holmdel returns some experience to the skill positions on offense, as well as in its linebacking corps and secondary. Seniors Tristan Wong and Johnny O’Beirne form a promising duo in both the offensive backfield and as inside linebackers on the defense. O’Beirne will play fullback on the offensive side, while Wong handles the primary tailback duties. Senior David Noor will also be a steady contributor at tailback, while sophomore Dean Gallo could also earn some time, according to Rainess.
Vitiello leads the Hornets’ group of wide receivers, with Byrne and junior Scott DuPont also in the fold. The group has been hard at work with DeCicco as Holmdel attempts to quickly build a formidable passing game.
Vitiello, Byrne, Door, DuPont and Gallo are among the players vying for time in the secondary, with Vitiello taking on a leadership role.
Putting together an offensive line is among Rainess’s top priorities this season as Holmdel returns only senior tackle Matt Brady to the offensive line. Brady will also play on the defensive line with senior Giacomo Curreri.
Rainess was mum about which base offense and defense he sees the Hornets running this season, but if his experience at Mater Dei Prep – where he coached running backs and linebackers last season – is any indication, Holmdel will be looking to put the ball in the air with DeCicco. The sophomore quarterback himself said only that he is ready to run the plays that his coach calls – whether he is throwing the ball or giving it up.
Regardless of what offense and defense Holmdel settles into this season, the focus for Rainess and his staff is simply to get the program settled. The constant turnover has created a great deal of uncertainty for the players who have spent three or four seasons in the program and has made prospective players look elsewhere to spend their high school years.
“I like that everyone is getting more committed,” DeCicco said. “That was definitely one of the concerns before, but knowing the coaches and seeing the way the players are putting the work in has made this a place where I feel like we can have success.”
If the additions of DeCicco, Byrne and Tedeschi are any indication, Rainess may indeed be offering something of great value to the program. To this point, the young group is buying their new coaches’ plan to build a winning tradition at Holmdel and, more importantly, he will be here to see it through.
“These guys have been through this before and they’ve heard it all,” Rainess said. “They’ve had three different guys come in and ask them to prove themselves. I wanted to let them know that I want to prove myself to them. They have put in the work and I know from being around the older guys here that they are going to give me the effort. I want to prove to them that this program deserves their effort.”
Head Coach: Jeff Rainess, first season
Career Record: 0-0
Assistant Coaches: John Principe (Assistant Head Coach/Def. Coordinator/LB), Scott Cannon (DL), John Gazerwitz (DB), Brendan Quinn (WR), Mike Cantelli (RB), Jon Power (OL), Dwight Sheehan (OL).
2015 Record: 1-8 (0-6).
Big Shoes to Fill: Jeff DeCicco, QB
Aneesh Agrawal would have been a three-year starter had he not transferred to Middletown South, so the move to the sophomore DeCicco represents hitting the restart button. On the plus side, the entire program is beginning anew and DeCicco will have an offense that’s build to suit his ability.
X-Factor: The trenches
Holmdel returns some experience at the skill positions and will have the potential to make plays on both sides, but the offensive and defensive lines carry some question marks due to lack of experience. The more of those questions the Hornets can answer, the quicker the rebuild moves into the next phase.
Glue Guy: Johnny O’Beirne, FB/LB
A hard-nosed fullback and linebacker, O’Beirne is the kind of player who should thrive from a more physical camp and more aggressive mentality.
Impact Newcomer: Jack Tedeschi, OL/DL
A transfer from St. John Vianney, Tedeschi has a chance to contribute on both the offensive and defensive lines right away and will be a key piece in the young foundation of the program.
Pivotal Game: Sept. 16 vs. Spotswood
The Hornets dropped a 14-13 game on the road to the Chargers last year, so a win over Spotswood this season would signify progress and put Holmdel in position to improve on last year's one-win campaign.