Dynasty Mode: 2021 Wall Township High School Football Preview
It’s easy to focus on who isn’t there this year, but at the same time, man, the list of players Wall is bringing back really deserves all the attention.
Casey Larkin and Logan Peters are two of the best players in program history for the Crimson Knights and were instrumental in the team winning an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 title, a Shore Conference championship, going 18-1 over the past two years, and finishing as the No. 1 team in New Jersey in 2020. You don’t just replace players like them and move on without noticing.
That is not the focus for Wall, however. Nor should it be. The Knights have an exceptional senior class leading the way in 2021 that is out to secure its legacy and continue Wall’s dynasty. Charlie Sasso, Colin Riley, Blake Rezk, Matt Dollive, Brian Byrne, Max Oakley, Lou Pilla, Jake Davis; the list goes on. Wall remains loaded with a total of 17 returning starters.
The Crimson Knights have been the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference since Oct. 8, 2019, a span of 15 in-season weeks and what will be a total of 698 calendar days when they begin the season on Sept. 5. There will be several worthy challengers for the top spot in the Shore this season, but they’re going to have to go through Wall if they want the belt.
Wall’s offense returns eight starters, including two three-year starters and one four-year starter. The offensive line features senior four-year starter Brian Byrne (6-foot-2, 230) as the left guard, senior three-year starter Max Oakley (6-foot, 205) as the left tackle and junior returning starter Billy Carr (6-foot-4, 215) as the right guard. Senior Joe Palmisano (5-foot-11, 240) is the center and senior Jack Remishofski (5-foot-11, 215) is the right tackle. Byrne was a second-team All-Shore selection last season.
At tight end the Crimson Knights have one of the Shore’s best in 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior three-year starter Blake Rezk, who was a first-team All-Shore selection on defense last season. Senior Lou Pilla (6-foot-1, 205) is also at tight end. The tandem is equally adept in the passing game and delivering blocks in the running game.
Senior Matt Dollive, who is also a lacrosse standout committed to the United States Military Academy, is back as a three-year starting wide receiver and will be joined by another returning starter, senior Jack Coan. Wall is so deep at tight end with Rezk and Pilla that they decided to move 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior Jaquari Medler to wide receiver where he could have a huge impact in the passing game.
Taking over at quarterback will be 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior Jake Davis, who played mostly defense last year. Senior Cole Brennan is also in the mix, which would allow them to move Davis around to multiple positions on the offensive side. Stepping in at running back will be junior Mike Fumarola, who started a couple games last season when Larkin was injured. Senior Charlie Sasso will also be in line for some carries as he has been over the past two seasons.
On defense, Wall returns a whopping nine starters from a unit that was No. 1 in the Shore allowing a paltry 5.4 points per game with four shutouts.
Rezk, an All-Shore defensive lineman, is a three-year returning starter at defensive end. He made 41 tackles and recorded three sacks last season. Senior Joe Sommers (6-foot, 250) is the returning starter at nose tackle and Byrne will join the defensive line as the other defensive end.
Wall’s group of linebackers is tremendous, led by Sasso, the reigning Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year. A four-year starter at inside linebacker, Sasso recorded 97 tackles in just seven games along with 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 2 fumble recoveries and is a two-time first-team All-Shore selection. He is committed to Monmouth University.
Coming off the edge is another four-year starter and All-Shore selection, senior Colin Riley. The Knights’ top pass rusher had 72 tackles with a team-leading 7 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 11 hurries and a forced fumble last season. Fumarola is also a returning starter at inside linebacker and Pilla is a returning starter at outside linebacker.
In the secondary, Davis is back as the strong safety after seeing significant time last season and Dollive is the returning starter at free safety. The cornerbacks are Coan and junior Dom Giglio.
There is little doubt Wall will be a frontrunner for division, Shore Conference and state sectional championships this season, but the road back to the top of the mountain will be treacherous. In addition to the Shore Conference American Division schedule that includes Rumson-Fair Haven, Donovan Catholic, Colts Neck and Toms River North, the Crimson Knights also have a nondivisional game against Red Bank Catholic and a non-conference game against Lenape. They open with Rumson and then face RBC just five days later. Their preseason strength of schedule rating is the fifth hardest of any public school in New Jersey, according to Gridiron New Jersey’s formula.
Wall has a chance to accomplish special things this season and possesses the talent, experience and big-game composure to achieve every goal on its list. The target is on their back once again, but this group has flourished under pressure. That part of their legacy is already intact.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Returning starters: 8
QB: Jake Davis, Sr. or Cole Brennan, Sr.
RB: Mike Fumarola, Jr., RS; Charlie Sasso, Sr., RS
WR: Matt Dollive, Sr., RS; Jack Coan, Sr., RS; Jaquari Medler, Jr.
TE: Blake Rezk, Sr., 3RS; Lou Pilla, Sr., RS
LT: Max Oakley, Sr., 3RS
LG: Brian Byrne, Sr., 4RS
C: Joe Palmisano, Sr.
RG: Billy Carr, Jr., RS
RT: Jack Remishofski, Sr.
Returning starters: 9
DE: Blake Rezk, Sr., 3RS
NT: Joe Sommers, Sr., RS
DE: Brian Byrne, Sr.
OLB: Colin Riley, Sr., 4RS
ILB: Charlie Sasso, Sr., 4RS
ILB: Mike Fumarola, Jr., RS
OLB: Lou Pilla, Sr., RS
CB: Jack Coan, Sr.
CB: Dom Giglio, Jr.
SS: Jake Davis, Sr., RS
FS: Matt Dollive, Sr., RS
K: Max Oakley, Sr., 3RS
P: Max Oakley, Sr., 3RS
Head coach: Tony Grandinetti, 5th season
Career record: 30-10
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Jeremy Balina (Defensive Coordinator); Mike Cerminaro (QB); Bob Grace (RB); Fred Sprengel (TE); Tim Heaney (DL); James Cadigan (DL); Tom Daly (OLB); Joe LaFerlita (DB); Chris Quinlan (DB); Victor Rivera (Head Freshmen Coach); Dan Shine (Freshmen asst.); Matt McDonough (Freshmen asst.); Brendan McDermott (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Charlie Sasso, Sr., LB/RB
Several of Wall’s players fit into this category, but it’s hard to pass up Sasso. Not only was he the Shore Conference Defensive Player of the Year, he was selected as the DPOY for the entire state. He is the heart and soul of Wall’s defense, plain and simple.
Players Under the Radar: Colin Riley, Sr., LB and Brian Byrne, Sr., OL/DL
Sasso gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but Riley and Byrne are also four-year starters and returning All-Shore players. Riley has had several huge games and big plays and Byrne has been a standout lineman since the moment he stepped on the field.
Impact Newcomer: Jaquari Medler, Jr., WR/LB
Medler isn’t really a newcomer but he will be switching positions after working as a tight end last season. He is big, strong and fast and gives the Knights yet another weapon in their passing game.
Top Position Group: Linebackers
This is a pretty easy one with Charlie Sasso and Colin Riley as four-year starters and Mike Fumarola and Lou Pilla entering their second year as starters. This is as good as it gets at the second level.
Big Shoes to Fill: Jake Davis, Sr., QB
Davis has all the traits to be a standout quarterback for the Crimson Knights as he steps in after the graduation of two-time All-Shore selection Logan Peters.
X-Factor: A Brutal Schedule
Wall has one of the toughest schedules in the state, plays in the Shore Conference’s top division and has a hellacious two-game stretch to open the season in which it plays Rumson and Red Bank Catholic just five days apart. If nothing else, the Knights will be extremely battle-hardened when the postseason arrives.
Sunday, Sept. 5 – vs. Rumson-Fair Haven at Rutgers University, 8 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – vs. Toms River North, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – vs. Colts Neck, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – at Donovan Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 – vs. Lenape, 7 p.m.