Two years after Red Bank’s historic season that ended with a division title and an appearance in the Central Jersey Group III state championship game, the memories are still fresh in the minds of the Bucs. This year’s senior class will be the last whose members were on the 2015 team, and they especially are eager to taste the success of that season again.

“The bond (the 2015 team) had with each other has to be a huge reason they succeeded, aside from their talent,” said captain and senior quarterback Stephen Navitsky, who is one of eight members of the Class of 2018 who were on the varsity roster in 2015. “The tight knit and trust they had isn’t something that can be taught but it’s something that can be made.”

The Bucs used the 2016 season as both a rebuilding year and an adjustment period in the wake of graduating nearly thirty seniors from the 2015 team and joining the competitive Class A Central division. This year, the focus is again on success, and using the lessons learned from 2016 and a batch of returning starters to make the playoffs after falling just short last season.

Photo by Paula Lopez.

“There’s still a lot of youth out here, but there’s confidence in the youth, and they gained that confidence in the offseason,” said head coach Nick Giglio. “We’re ready to take on what is going to be a tremendous task at hand, but at the same time we’ve got a good group behind us that I know is in it for the long haul.”

Navitsky is one of the returning starters on a Red Bank offense that graduated nearly eight starters. The 5-foot-8 senior makes up for what he lacks in size with speed and quickness. He will enter the season as the first-string quarterback after sharing time with Chris Brannagan for much of last fall. Navitsky threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the final four games of the season.

“Coming out here we were all just trying to do our part, and as we keep going everyone just keeps getting better,” Navitsky said. “Hopefully that’ll translate to the field.”

Seniors Anthony Buanantuono and Michael Eulner return on the offensive line. Eulner, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound center, was forced to sit out for the entire season after suffering an injury in the 2016 season opener.

The Bucs’ biggest strength of their run-oriented offense this year will come from the backfield. The options at running back run deep: sophomore Makai Mickens, juniors Kashaun Turner, and Nigel Mitchell, and senior Noah Mickens each saw time last season.

Seniors Nick Arnone and Quran Malloy, who both stand at 6-foot-3 and line up at tight end, will lead the Red Bank receiving corps.

On the other side of the ball, Malloy will fill the hole in the Red Bank defense left by Chris Outterbridge. Outterbridge, an All-Shore linebacker now at Sacred Heart, was a three-year starter and a key leader for the Bucs. Giglio is looking to Malloy to follow in Outterbridge’s footsteps and become the next talented frontman of the Bucs’ defense.

“Defensively, Quran Malloy just keeps getting better and better,” Giglio said. “He has a tremendous amount of talent in him and we keep getting more and more of that out of him. He is a special kid for us at defensive end.”

“As the summer has progressed and the weeks have gone by we’re getting better and learning what we’re supposed to do,” Malloy said. “Especially since we don’t have the same players that we had last year, like Chris [Outterbridge] and other seniors that were a big part of the team last year. We have to have the younger kids step up and do their part.”

The Bucs will set up in a 3-4 front on defense with Malloy, returning starter and senior Kevin Weisman and returning starter Kashaun Turner along the defensive line. The defensive secondary, led by Mitchell and the Mickens brothers, is set to be a strong point of improvement for a defense that allowed 21.7 points per game last year.

Red Bank witnessed firsthand the toughness of the A Central division last year and has spent this offseason preparing to face that level of competition again. The lessons they learned about never taking a week off when recent state finalists like St. John Vianney, Raritan, and Rumson-Fair Haven are on the schedule in nearly consecutive weeks have translated into positive signs on the practice field and, the Bucs hope, into success come Week 1.

“We know what we have to face every week, and we can’t take a day off,” Giglio said. “If we build, then I know that we’re going to be ready for those teams as we go. If we constantly stop and go backwards, we’re going to be in trouble versus that kind of schedule.”

“We know that we’re playing bigger teams and that we’ve got to be sharper and play tougher and be better mentally,” said Navitsky. “We love the challenge.”

Head coach: Nick Giglio, ninth season (17th overall).

Career Record: 62-100.

Assistant Coaches: Steve Turner (co-off. coord.); Dan Mendoza (co-off. coord.); Phil Greene (QB/LB/special teams); Matt Norman (DB/TE); Scott Lakatos (DB); Jeff Mass (OL); Adam Bobertz (freshmen); Richie Germaine (freshmen); Christina Emrich (athletic trainer).

2016 Record: 4-6 (3-3).

Big Shoes to Fill: Colin Chatto, Jr., LB and Tyquann Crawford, So., LB

Current Sacred Heart linebacker Chris Outterbridge finished with 196 tackles over the past two seasons and was an integral part of the Bucs defense for all four years of his high school career. Replacing him won’t be easy, but Chatto and Crawford are both strong candidates to fill that role.

X Factor: Makai Mickens, So., RB

The “sky’s the limit” with Mickens’ ability and instincts, Giglio says. Mickens saw time in five varsity games as a freshman last season, and if he stays focused Giglio thinks he has the potential to become one of the top young running backs in the Shore.

Glue Guy: Quran Malloy, Sr., DE

The similarities between Malloy and Outterbridge extend beyond their skills and positions on the field. Malloy is stepping up and becoming the voice of the Red Bank team in the same way that Outterbridge did as a senior, and he’ll be able to motivate the Bucs on both sides of the ball.

Impact Newcomer: Kashaun Turner, Jr., RB/DT

The Bucs bring a loaded (and young) running back corps to the table. Turner was a defensive starter last fall and has shown promise lining up in the backfield during camp. The Bucs will look to capitalize on the 6-foot-1 junior’s size and strength on the offensive side of the ball this year.

Pivotal Game: Sept. 22 vs. St. John Vianney

The Bucs were handed their first taste of A Central football in Week 3 last season with a 37-0 loss on the road against the Lancers. This year’s matchup will be a true test to see how well the Bucs have adapted to face the three-time defending division champions.

 

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