Building the Foundation: 2023 Red Bank Regional Football Preview
Year two under head coach Shane Fallon saw Red Bank reverse its record from the prior season, close the year strong with wins in three of its final four games, and set the program back on course to be a contender. Now, the Bucs will look to take the next step.
Red Bank is coming off a 7-4 season that included a three-game run through one of the NJSIAA’s regional invitational tournaments, which matched up teams who just missed the playoffs and allowed them a chance to have a postseason of their own. The Bucs, who nearly took down division champion Ocean in the final week of the regular season, responded with victories over Princeton, Steinert, and Brick Memorial before a Thanksgiving defeat at the hands of Long Branch.
With seven starters returning on each side of the ball, including several three-year starters, Red Bank will try to break through to return to the NJSIAA playoffs and contend for a Colonial Division title in a six-team grouping that features some of the Shore’s best.
The Bucs’ multiple-formation offense was No. 8 in the Shore averaging 28.1 points per game last season and has two returning first team all-division selections, including Second Team All-Shore lineman Griffin Egan at right tackle. The senior Harvard University commit stands 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds and anchors an offensive line that also features senior Nick Gandolfo (6-2, 130) at left tackle, senior Brendon Jervert (6-3, 220) at left guard, senior Chris Lahey (6-0, 210) at center, and junior Alex Costic (5-11, 235) at right guard. Junior Matt Peduto (5-11, 225), senior Sebastian Goncalves (5-11, 240), and junior Dean Goldberg (6-1, 200) are competing for playing time and add depth up front.
That group will look to open holes for a pair of veteran running backs in seniors Jah’Cire Jones (5-11, 190) and Gunnar Eckerstrom (6-1, 205). Jones ran for 697 yards and five touchdowns and was a first team all-division pick while Eckerstrom ran for 502 yards and 11 touchdowns and was a second team all-division selection last season.
Red Bank graduated its top two receivers from last season but returns 6-foot-4 senior Liam Stack, who was an all-division selection on defense, as well as seniors Sean Forbes (6-2, 180) and Brady Carroll (6-4, 200). The tight ends are junior Ryan Swords (6-4, 200) and junior Thomas McBride (6-3, 200).
Those five players give senior Alex Choback plenty of big targets in the passing game as he takes over as Red Bank’s starting quarterback. Choback does have varsity experience as a starting linebacker last season.
Junior Quinn Niesz brings versatility between running back and wide receiver and will be the offense’s utility player.
Red Bank also had a strong defensive unit that finished 12th in the Shore allowing 16.8 points per game last fall. The defensive line has Egan and Jevert at defensive end along with Gandolfo, Peduto, and senior Josh Nesheiwat (6-0, 220) at defensive tackle. Egan was excellent on defense last season, finishing fourth in the Shore with nine sacks.
Senior Evan Eckerstrom leads the linebackers after recording 62 tackles and 3.5 sacks and earning a second team all-division selection. He will be flanked by Swords and senior Matthew Kelly (5-10, 205) as the outside linebackers. Choback was a starting linebacker last year but with him taking over at quarterback the Bucs will opt to keep him on one side of the ball.
Stack returns as the strong safety after potsing a team-high 77 tackles last season. The cornerbacks are seniors Myles Moore and Sam Dengler with Niesz also expected to see playing time. Junior Jermaine Rose is the free safety.
Senior Nick Gandolfo (6-2, 230) returns as the team’s punter and will take over as the kicker after All-Shore selection Giancarlo Dautaj graduated.
The challenge for Red Bank this season will be a difficult schedule in the Colonial Division. After competing with Ocean, Brick Memorial, Brick, Neptune, and Toms River South in the 2022 Freedom Division, the Bucs will now face Point Boro, Long Branch, Manalapan, Colts Neck, and Raritan. All five of those teams made the playoffs last season, including Raritan reaching its second straight sectional final and Point Boro finishing the season 9-1.
Fallon is a championship coach who set the foundation of the Rumson-Fair Haven dynasty, and he has a great staff around him that includes former Wall head coach Chris Barnes, who led the Crimson Knights to a sectional title during his tenure. There are some key players to replace but Red Bank has the roster to contend with those aforementioned teams if it can stay healthy and play consistent football.
At a Glance
Head coach: Shane Fallon, 3rd season (19th overall)
Career record: 119-68 (11-11 at RBR)
2022 record: 7-4
Coaching staff: Joe Passo (Offensive Coordinator/QB/WR); Bill Pietsch (Defensive Coordinator/LB); John Legere (Special Teams Coordinator/DB); Chris Barnes (RB); Brian Gay (TE/OLB); Tyler Karalewich (DL); Jeff Mass (OL); Adam Bobertz (Freshmen); Chris LeRoy (Freshmen); Leo Olsen (Director of Football Operations); Evan Sabo (Manager/Game Day Coordinator); Christina Emrich (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 3 – Thursday, Sept. 14 vs. Point Boro
The Panthers won a division title last season and have one of the top offenses in the Shore with a big-play triple-option scheme. This will be a major test for the Bucs and an opportunity to make a statement and establish itself as a division title contender.
Player to Watch: Griffin Egan, Sr., OL/DL
Egan (6-5, 265), who is committed to the admissions process at Harvard University, was a two-way standout last season as a blocker and on defense where he recorded nine sacks. He was a Second Team All-Shore selection last fall.
Impact Newcomer: Ryan Swords, Jr., TE/OLB
Swords has earned a starting role on both sides of the ball where he will play tight end and outside linebacker.
Big Shoes to Fill: Alex Choback, Sr., QB
Choback was a starting linebacker last season and now takes over at quarterback after Pierce Olsen graduated. Olsen threw for 1,461 yards and 17 touchdowns to finish sixth in the Shore in passing yards.
|Friday 9/1||@Freehold Township||6:30pm|
|Thursday 9/14||Point Boro||6:30pm|
|Saturday 9/23||@Colts Neck||12pm|
|Friday 10/13||Donovan Catholic||6:30pm|
|Thursday 11/23||@Long Branch||10:30am|