Run it Back: 2022 Red Bank Catholic High School Football Preview
In order to repeat as state champions, Red Bank Catholic's first and most important task is to mostly forget about last season.
"Coach Lange always prides us on, yeah, we had an amazing year, but that's in the past now," said RBC senior linebacker Michael Palmieri. "That doesn't matter now. We're working for another one."
The defending NJSIAA Non-Public B state champions hit the field for practice this August preparing to make another run at a state championship - this time with a target on their backs. Plenty of elite talent and invaluable leaders left through graduation, including quarterback Alex Brown (Bucknell), tight end/defensive end Alex Bauman (Tulane), offensive tackle Vince Carpenter (Purdue), linemen Ashton Mejias and Michael Conneely, running back/linebacker Rajahn Cooper, defensive end Ryan McPherson, and defensive backs Joe Diorio and Corbett Cimini.
"A lot of kids have to step up because we lost some key players and captains last year who were the glue of the team," said senior two-way standout Sabino Portella. "But we also bring back a lot of guys and we're already back on track. We have what it takes to get to that level again, it's just a matter of doing it on the field."
Even with the graduation of multiple standout players, RBC has the talent and the experience to once again be among New Jersey's best and make a run at Shore Sports Network Team of the Year honors, which they won last year as the No. 1 team in the final SSN Top 10. Portella and senior wide receiver Najih Rahman were First Team All-Shore selections last season, while junior linebacker Davin Brewton and junior two-way lineman Lorenzo Portella are rising stars who played huge rules in last season's state championship run. Hulking junior lineman Tyler Burnham and gifted junior wide receiver Emanuel Ross have received FBS interest, Palmieri was a menace in the state championship game, senior running back Torin Harmon is a game-breaker, and senior defensive end Aidan Donohue and senior defensive back Robert Stolfa are experienced veterans. An outstanding core is certainly there.
That doesn't mean the Caseys are without question marks, however. The answers may end up being brilliant, but there are still some unknowns heading into Week 0 vs. St. John Vianney.
Chief among them is who will play quarterback following Brown, whose inspirational performances in the playoffs following the death of his mother captured national headlines and helped lead the Caseys to championship glory. Junior Frank Fufaro and sophomore Frankie Williams are competing for the starting position.
"Our offense is very complicated, especially for the QB, but both guys are picking it up very well and both are very talented," Portella said. "They definitely have big shoes to fill but whoever it ends up being will be just fine."
The talent and experience at the skill positions should help either Fufaro or Williams hit the ground running - and passing - in RBC's spread offense. Rahman, who is committed to Brown University, is a two-time All-Shore selection, including a First Team All-Shore spot last season when he caught 32 passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Ross is a leading candidate to have a breakout season and Stolfa is a returning starter, as well. In the backfield, Portella and Harmon form what is arguably the best backfield duo in the Shore. Portella was a First Team All-Shore selection on defense last season and was also the Caseys' leading rusher with 845 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Harmon brings a home run ability to the backfield and last season ran for 567 yards and three touchdowns on an average of 10.7 yards per carry.
Three of the five offensive line positions will be manned by first-year starters, all of whom are underclassmen. Junior Patrick Magee (6-1, 250) is the left tackle, junior Bryan Miller (5-11, 245) is the left guard, and junior Luke Mascarehus (6-0, 250) is the center. The right side of the line is anchored by two returning standouts in Lorenzo Portella (6-2, 275) at right guard and Burnham (6-6, 295) at right tackle.
RBC's offense was No. 2 in the Shore last season averaging 32.7 points per game and the ingredients are there for the Caseys to have another high-scoring attack this fall.
The Red Bank Catholic defense was also excellent, finishing No. 3 in the Shore allowing just 11.4 points per game. In the Caseys' 13-8 win over DePaul in the Non-Public B state championship game, the defense was incredible, led by Brewton's 18 tackles, Palmieri's two tackles for loss, and an interception by Portella. A total of six starters return in RBC's 40 defensive front with two returning starters at each level.
Along the defensive line, Donohue is a returning starter at defensive end and Portella is a returning starter at defensive tackle. Joining them will be junior Avery Barnes (6-3, 265) at tackle and junior Logan Graham (6-2, 210) at end.
Brewton was one of the Shore's best linebackers last season, especially during the second half of the season and the playoffs when he really began to thrive. He finished with 119 tackles and holds a handful of FBS offers entering his junior season. He is the middle linebacker with Palmieri on one side and junior Luke Wassef on the other.
The secondary is led by Portella (68 tackles, 2 INTs) at strong safety and Harmon at free safety. A pair of newcomers will be the starting cornerbacks with junior Isaiah Nash and senior Devin Henry joining the defensive backfield.
On special teams, the kicking job is between freshman Blake Caruso and junior Justin Lamorte. Junior VJ Muscillo will be the punter.
Last season, RBC was in the Constitution Division with Manasquan, Raritan, Red Bank, and Ocean. The Caseys jump up to the American Division this year and will play a loaded division schedule against Rumson-Fair Haven, Wall, Middletown South, Manalapan, and Donovan Catholic.
Winning a state championship is a difficult goal to achieve. Repeating is even tougher. The Caseys know this and they're ready to begin their journey toward another ring.
"It puts more of a chip on our shoulder because we know we have to work that much harder to get back to the same place we were last year," Palmieri said.
For Portella, this will be his final season as a football player. A two-time NJSIAA wrestling state medalist, he is committed to the University of North Carolina where he will wrestle collegiately.
"There were a lot of questions from the outside about whether I was going to play football this year and I don't know where they got that from," Portella said. "There was never a doubt in my mind I was going to play football. After winning junior year there's only one way to go out. It definitely means a lot more to me. When I was an underclassman I did it for the seniors and now that I'm a senior I hope I can close it out the right way."
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Returning starters: 7
QB: Frank Fufaro, Jr. or Frankie Williams, So.
RB: Sabino Portella, Sr., 3RS; Torin Harmon, Sr., RS
WR: Najih Rahman, Sr., 3RS; Emmanuel Ross, Jr., RS; Robert Stolfa, Sr., RS.
TE: Jack Bohm-Squicciarini, Jr. or Luke Krsykowski, Jr.
LT: Patrick Magee, Jr.
LG: Bryan Miller, Jr.
C: Luke Mascarehus, Jr.
RG: Lorenzo Portella, So., 3RS
RT: Tyler Burnham, So. RS
Returning starters: 6
DE: Aidan Donohue, Sr., RS
DT: Avery Barnes, Jr.
DT: Lorenzo Portella, Jr., RS
DE: Logan Graham, Jr.
OLB: Luke Wassef, Jr.
MLB: Davin Brewton, Jr., RS
OLB: Michael Palmieri, Sr., RS
CB: Isaiah Nash, Jr
CB: Devin Henry, Sr.
SS: Sabino Portella, Sr., 3RS
FS: Torin Harmon, Sr., RS
K: Blake Caruso, Fr. or Justin Lamorte, Jr.
P: VJ Muscillo, Jr.
Head coach: Mike Lange, 3rd season (4th overall)
Career record: 17-3 at RBC (17-10 career).
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Joe O’Connor (Offensive Coordinator); Kevin Gaul (Defensive Coordinator); Mike Rosenfeld (QB); Joe Gallagher (WR/DB); Keith Hugger (WR/Special Teams); Jay Graham (DL); Jason Rutan (TE/DE); Andrew Lamura (RB/DB); Matt Finucane (OL); Tony Flego (Head Freshmen Coach); Don Gilson (Freshmen asst.), Matt Mosquera (Freshmen asst.); Lauren Barry (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Sabino Portella, Sr., RB/DB
A returning First Team All-Shore defensive back and a standout running back, Portella recorded 68 tackles with two interceptions and ran for a team-leading 845 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Player Under the Radar: Emanuel Ross, Jr., WR
Look for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Ross to make his presence felt this season after showing flashes in limited opportunities as a sophomore. He already has 15 scholarship offers, including Wake Forest, Penn State, and West Virginia.
Impact Newcomer: Frankie Fufaro, Jr., QB and Frankie Williams, So., QB
Whichever player wins the starting quarterback job will have plenty of opportunities to make an impact in RBC's balanced offense.
Big Shoes to Fill: Jack Bohm-Squicciarini, Jr., TE and Luke Krsykowski, Jr., TE
Current Tulane freshman Alex Bauman was a two-time First Team All-State tight end and earned Shore Sports Network MVP honors last fall. The tight end position is also very prominent in the RBC offense. Both Krsykowski (6-4, 220) and Bohm-Squicciarini (6-5, 205) fit the mold in terms of size.
Rivalry game: Oct. 21 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven
Not only are the Caseys and Bulldogs rivals via proximity, but they have also been two of the Shore Conference's best football programs for quite some time. They have played some epic games over the past few seasons and something is always on the line when they meet.
Aug. 27 - vs. St. John Vianney at Ocean City HS, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 - vs. Freehold Boro, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 - @Wall, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 - @Middletown South, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 - vs. Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Seton Hall Prep, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 - @Manalapan, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 - vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 - vs. Curtis (NY), 7 p.m.