Face of the Franchise: Toms River East football
When a Shore Conference football program is mentioned there are certain people that always come to mind. For some, it’s unanimous no matter what era you are from. For others, it’s a fun debate comparing all-time greats from different eras whether they roamed the sidelines as coaches or broke records between the lines.
That got us at the Shore Sports Network wondering: when you think of Shore Conference football, who are the most prominent figures in each program’s history? And if there was a mountain nearby and we knew a sculptor, whose faces should be carved on its side to be forever honored?
With that in mind, we came up with a football feature that will run throughout this summer, and it’s called Face of the Franchise.
We reached out to all 43 football programs in the Shore Conference and in conjunction came up with five to six nominees for each school. The five names and their accomplishments will be listed and fans will have a chance to cast their votes to select who they feel is the Face of the Franchise for each program. Our SSN football crew of Bob Badders, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Matt Harmon will also put their heads together to make a selection. The polls will run for one week each.
At the end of the summer when the Face of the Franchise has been determined for all 43 programs, we’ll run one final poll to see who the fans think should go on top of the mountain; five legends to represent the history of Shore Conference football.
TOMS RIVER EAST
Arminio was Toms River East’s head coach for just five seasons but set the foundation for the best stretch in program history that included a pair of division titles. Arminio was the first head coach to lead the Raiders to an outright Shore Conference division championship when in 2003 East went 9-1 and captured the American Division title. The following season, Toms River East went 9-2, reached the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals, and won their second straight outright division crown by taking the Constitution Division title. The Raiders were in the top 10 in the Shore both of those seasons with their highest finish at No. 2 in 2003. Arminio went 33-18 in five seasons.
First known as a standout baseball player when the Toms River East American Little League All-Stars reached the 1995 Little League World Series, Gaynor was also a prolific passer on the gridiron.
Gaynor thrived in head coach Frank D’Alonzo’s run-and-shoot offense in the late 90s, earning All-State honors and throwing for a Shore Conference career record of 6,619 yards. He threw for 2,330 yards as a junior and as a senior in 1999 passed for 2,200 yards and 21 touchdowns. Gaynor was also a standout for the Raiders’ baseball team and helped them win the Group 4 title.
Following high school, Gaynor started his college career playing football at Northeastern University before transferring to Rutgers to play baseball.
A 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive and tight end for the Raiders, Giannetti was an All-State player and a force on both sides of the ball. A 1986 graduate of High School East, Giannetti was the cornerstone of the 1985 team that went 7-2 and won the Class A South division title under head coach Ken Snyder. He played in both the New Jersey North-South All-Star Classic and the All-Shore Gridiron Classic as a senior.
Heavily recruited from all the major colleges, Giannetti accepted a scholarship to play at Penn State University where he was a two-year starter at defensive tackle and an Associated Press third-team All-American selection in 1990.
The Indianapolis Colts selected Giannetti in the 10th round of the 1991 NFL Draft and he spent one season with the Colts. He also played for the Falcons in 1993.
Giannetti has been an assistant coach at Toms River East and Jackson Liberty. His second stint with the Raiders began in 2016 which allowed him to coach his son, Frankie, for the past three seasons.
Sandberg was a standout defensive back for the Raiders who is now Toms River East’s head coach. He was a first-team All-Shore selection and also received All-State honors as a senior in 2004 when he led the Shore Conference with a school-record eight interceptions and helped the Raiders go 9-2, reach the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals and win the Constitution Division title. He was also a standout as a junior when Toms River East went 9-1 and captured the American Division title. Both division titles were the first outright crowns in program history. He was the Raiders’ Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in career interceptions, interceptions in a season and interceptions in a game. Additionally, he was the Defensive MVP for Ocean County in the 2005 All-Shore Gridiron Classic.
Sandberg played collegiately at Division II Southern Connecticut State University where he was a three-year starter. In 2016, Sandberg was hired as Toms River East’s head coach, becoming the first former Raiders player to return as head coach. The Raiders finally snapped their 29-game regular-season losing streak in 2017, and in 2019 had their first winning season in 10 years by going 9-2, winning the Freedom Division title and advancing to the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals.
Sandberg and his staff were set to coach the Ocean County team in the 2020 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All four Steriti brothers – Vito, Vincenzo, Nico and Mario - were football standouts for Toms River East and by the end of his career, Nico would go down as one of the Raiders’ all-time greats. A dynamic offensive threat at running back, Steriti was the leader of the 2009 team that went 10-1, reached the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals and finished ranked No. 14 in the Star-Ledger Top 20.
Steriti was a first-team All-State and first-team All-Shore selection, as well as the Ocean County Player of the Year, as a senior when he ran for 1,625 yards, caught 20 passes for 285 yards and scored a total of 28 touchdowns to lead the Shore with 168 points. He also had five interceptions, including a school-record 102-yard interception return for a touchdown. He is Toms River East’s all-time leading rusher with 2,800 yards and his 46 touchdowns are also the most in program history. He also posted 665 receiving yards and 13 interceptions.
As a senior, Steriti played in both the New Jersey North-South All-Star Game and the All-Shore Gridiron Classic. He was named Offensive MVP of the North-South game. Steriti accepted a scholarship offer to the University of New Hampshire where he had a great career, finishing 8th all-time in program history with 2,395 yards rushing.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.