Football – Regaining Their ‘Edge': 2016 Red Bank Catholic Preview
By Ella Brockway - Student Contributor
It’s been a long time since Frank Edgerly stood on a sideline and called the shots for the Red Bank Catholic Caseys. His first stint at his alma mater lasted from 1999 to 2008, and ended with a 28-0 win against rival Rumson-Fair Haven in November of 2008.
Eight years later, Edgerly is back as the head of the RBC program. The 1990 RBC graduate spent those years away working on some of the biggest football stages in the country: initially as the Director of Recruiting Operations at Rutgers University, then as a personnel scout for the New England Patriots from 2009 to 2013, and later as an offensive assistant for the Cleveland Browns from 2013 until 2016.
“This was just one of those unique opportunities,” said Edgerly, who accepted the job after the Caseys’ previous coach, Jim Portela (63-13 career record) resigned this spring. “The timing was right, the family situation was right, combined with the fact that it’s home. Everyone asks me, ‘why would you come back, why would you leave the NFL?’, and I say, ‘why not?’”
With years of professional experience under his belt, Edgerly is ready to take command of a young Red Bank Catholic team that he believes has the potential to go far into the postseason.
“We are a very young team, but what we lack in experience we certainly have in talent,” Edgerly said. “This is a team that is certainly going to improve week to week, and I’m really excited (about) where I see this going.”
A main priority this preseason for the Caseys has been reconstructing the offense that was built around former quarterback and current University of Connecticut safety Eddie Hahn. Hahn directed the Caseys’ offense for three seasons, and led a unit that averaged 350 yards per game. Junior Tommy Lang and sophomore Steve Lubischer are still battling for the starting position, but Edgerly has confidence that whoever starts will get the job done and lead the Caseys’ pro-style offense.
“When you talk about successful high school offenses, most of them run through the quarterback position,” said Edgerly. “Whether it’s both guys playing, or one quarterback separates from the other, whoever we put out there is going to be the best thing for this offense, and it starts at that position.”
The Caseys do return a deep receiving corps and one of the stronger backfields in the Shore, despite graduating wide receiver Mike Balzofiore (Bucknell) and running backs Dylan Murphy (East Stroudsburg) and Mike Wilen (Sacred Heart). Junior running back Zack Bair is the Caseys’ leading returning rusher from last season, albeit with just 28 carries for 110 yards and one touchdown. Juniors Matt Ansell and Brandon Lombana and senior Max Hazard return after making appearances during the Caseys’ 2015 campaign.
“This is definitely a wide receiver-friendly offense,” said Hazard, who collected 262 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches last fall. “There’s a lot of spacing and a lot of routes to run. It’s an offense that can get you open and find you the ball, so we’re all pretty excited about that.”
The Caseys lost the main staples of their offensive line when Liam Smith and Ryan Oneidas moved on to the college level, where they now play at Duke and Lehigh, respectively, but the 2016 offensive line shows size and promise. Alex Sargiss, a 6-foot-3 senior, and Michael Griggs, a 6-foot-4 junior, are both returning starters. Colin O’Hara, a 6-foot-4 senior who was injured last season, and Conor Smith, a 6-foot-5 junior, will each play a key role on the line. Edgerly has high hopes for sophomore Tommy Smith, a 6-foot-2 two-way lineman who has shown his potential in the preseason.
“Right now, Tommy is starting both offensively and defensively as a sophomore, and that’s saying a lot,” Edgerly said. “(As) a sophomore who is starting two ways and is playing an intricate part of what we’re doing, I think he’s in a position to have the biggest impact.”
On the other side of the ball, the sheer athleticism of the Caseys’ 4-3 defense might be enough to make them one of the best teams in the Shore. Senior defensive end Nasir Darnell made a name for himself as one of the conference’s premier pass rushers last fall when he collected 74 tackles and six sacks. Both Edgerly and Darnell are excited about the potential of the 2016 defense.
“I’ve seen flashes of true potential, and it’s something that people are really going to be afraid of once we click,” said Darnell, a Harvard recruit. “I’m looking to lead the defense, and be one of the most physical defenses that RBC has seen in the last couple of years.”
“Our ability to run is really probably our greatest strength defensively,” said Edgerly. “We’ve got young guys back there, so you understand there’s going to be some hiccups along the way. But we have a pretty good idea of where we’re going, and we’re excited about where we’re going.”
Edgerly’s first game back at the helm of the Caseys program will be on September 9 at home against Middletown South, a team that won the North Jersey 2, Group IV state championship last season and will be one of the strongest returning teams in the Shore Conference. For Edgerly and his players, the mentality is set, and the goal is a championship.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and it all starts with Middletown South,” said Darnell. “Every game, we just have to look to be 1-0, and then as that builds up, we’ve got to look for the state championship.”
Head Coach: Frank Edgerly, first season (11th overall)
Career Record: 54-43 (Second stint at Red Bank Catholic, first coached from 1999-2008).
2015 Record: 8-3 (4-2).
Assistant Coaches: Matt Ahern (OL/def. Coord.); Mike Lang (LB/OL); Jason Cadet (FB/DL); Mike Rosenfeld (RB/LB); Joe Gallagher (DB/WR); Keith Hugger (DB/WR); Matt Bijas (TE/S); Tony Flego, Nick Varanelli, Joe Lanza (freshman), Amanda Ballarini (athletic trainer).
Big Shoes to Fill: Tommy Lang, Jr., QB and Steve Lubischer, So., QB
It’ll be hard to replace a quarterback like Hahn, who threw for more than 1,700 yards in his senior season and guided the program to its first state championship in 38 years in 2014. That said, the future at the quarterback position still looks bright, and Lang and Lubischer will look to step outside of Hahn’s shadow and forge their own identities as leaders of the RBC offense.
X-Factor: Staying Healthy
Few teams in the Shore face as grueling of a schedule as the Caseys will this season: four scrimmages, nine straight games without a bye week, and then the playoffs. If the Caseys’ core lineup can stay healthy, then they’ll be a likely contender come late November.
Glue Guys: Colin O’Hara, Sr., OL/DL and Connor Moore, Sr., OL/DL
O’Hara and Moore are both senior linemen who are back for their final high school season after battling injuries over the past two years - O’Hara in 2015, and Moore in 2014. Both have the motivation and focus to lead both the senior class and the underclassmen just by keeping people together and focused.
Impact Newcomer: Tommy Smith, So., OL/DL
Red Bank Catholic has a long tradition of producing talented two-way linemen: Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame), Ryan Kroeger (Fordham), Liam Smith (Duke) and Ryan Oneidas (Lehigh). Smith has the strength, the talent and the size to be the next in the line of great Casey linemen.
Pivotal Game: Sept. 9 vs. Middletown South
The Caseys’ competitive schedule opens up with a Class B North matchup with top-ranked Middletown South. Edgerly’s first game back in town will give a good impression of how the Caseys will handle the high-level talent of the Shore.