Football – The Mighty Caseys: 2017 Red Bank Catholic Preview
Frank Edgerly’s return to the Shore Conference at the helm of the Red Bank Catholic program brought highs and lows. The Caseys went 5-5 on the year, the first time they’d taken home less than six wins since 2004. They battled injuries throughout the season, at one point running through not three, not four, but five different starting quarterbacks. They played one of the most difficult schedules in the Shore, one that included three eventual state finalists, all without a bye week. They were a young and inexperienced team with only 12 seniors on the roster, facing veteran-heavy opponents like Middletown South, Wall and Manasquan.
What were the highs? The lessons learned: by Edgerly, about how the Shore had changed in the eight years he’d been away, and by the players, about the level of toughness that the competitive, post-realignment Class B North division required.
“In this division, with the depth of talent, depth of coaching, quality of the programs, you have to make sure you’re developing your depth because as the season goes on, it’s a grind,” said Edgerly, who returned to coach his alma mater last fall after spending eight years as a scout and a coach in the NFL. “At some point in time, your 2 or your 3 or your 4 are going to have to play a pivotal role, because this is a very physically demanding division.”
This year is different. With 18 returning seniors and nearly 10 returning starters, Red Bank Catholic is back in business. Expectations are high, with many around the conference wondering if this will be the year that Red Bank Catholic returns to the top of the Shore. Edgerly is no stranger to that success; his Casey teams went 54-43 over ten seasons and won three division titles from 2005 to 2008.
“Every team in the Shore is a great team. They have great coaches and we’ve just got to be ready for every game,” said senior defensive back Matt Ansell. “We can’t take any week off, and you never know when your name’s going to be called, so you’ve always got to be ready to step up.”
“Last year we were a young team, and then we had some injuries that required us to play some younger kids,” said Edgerly. “It’s a grind getting through it, but then you come out the other side and you have some more experience. I would say that this senior class in terms of setting the bar is second-to-none. That bar they’ve established is what’s going to be the difference between this year’s and last year’s team.”
The Caseys bring back the majority of their offensive starters, most notably junior quarterback Steve Lubischer and senior running back Zack Bair. The 6-foot-1 signal caller won the starting job out of camp last season, but suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of the team’s season opener against Middletown South that kept him out for seven weeks. Lubischer returned for the final three games of the season to throw for 641 yards and six touchdowns.
Bair rushed for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns last fall and recently received his first FCS offer from Bryant University. Bair’s speed off of the grab--he runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash--will be an essential piece of Red Bank Catholic’s multiple-pro offense this season.
“It’s definitely a good outlook,” said Bair. “We’ve been working hard and competing every day, and we’re looking forward to the first game September 8.”
Red Bank Catholic also returns one of the Shore’s most highly-touted tight ends in Kevin Bauman. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore received his first FBS offer from Rutgers in June and saw varsity action as a freshman last year, turning heads with 196 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Charlie Gordinier, the younger brother of former Red Bank Catholic standout and current Miami Hurricane Jamie Gordinier, will look to make an impact at tight end. Senior Brandon Lombana is also a key returnee in the Caseys’ receiving corps, a group that graduated only one senior. Lombana caught four touchdown passes last year, and his athleticism and quickness will make him one of Lubischer’s favorite targets.
Four of the five starters on last year’s offensive line return. Seniors Michael Griggs and Conor Smith, who gave verbal commitments this summer to Colgate and Harvard, respectively, will anchor the line. Junior Tommy Smith, a 6-foot-2 left guard, showed promise last year as a two-way lineman. The line is rounded out by senior Brandon Dente at right guard and 6-foot-3, 255-pound senior transfer (Howell) Richard Christie at right tackle.
Leading the line on the opposite side of the ball will be 6-foot-6, 245-pound senior defensive end Emmett McNamara, who had 40 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Caseys last season. McNamara gave a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia in July and is entering only his second season of high school football, but his size and his potential are impressing teams and coaches all around the Shore, his own included.
“You get a kid (like McNamara) that’s that size and can move around pretty good, everyone’s going to see the potential,” said Edgerly. “Potential’s good, but at some point in time production has to supersede potential, so we’re really excited to see what he’s going to be able to do this year.”
Ansell returns to command the Red Bank Catholic secondary in the Caseys’ 3-3-5 defense, aiming to restructure a unit that allowed 25.1 points per game last fall, nearly as many as they scored offensively (25.3). Ansell had two interceptions and 85 tackles during the 2016 season, and finished with 38 tackles his sophomore year in 2015. Junior linebacker Gino Tartamella will also boost the Caseys’ linebacking unit after collecting 57 tackles as a sophomore. Fellow junior Anthony Romano also returns after seeing time mainly on special teams as a sophomore and will start at safety.
“We’re pretty confident about what our schedule has this year and we’re just looking to work hard every day in practice,” said Ansell. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back on defense, so we’re looking pretty strong. We’ve just got to do our job and get ready for Week 1.”
Junior Ryan O’Hara will again handle the kicking duties for the Caseys. O’Hara hit a 23-yard field goal with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter to secure Red Bank Catholic’s first win of the 2016 season in Week 2 against Middletown North.
In last year’s preseason preview, Edgerly said that what the 2016 team “lacks in experience, they certainly make up for in talent.” This year, the Caseys have that valuable combination of experience and talent. The challenges will come right away. Again, the Caseys are without a bye week, and their season opener on the road against Middletown South will be the first true test to see how the Caseys have grown and matured since last season.
“We feel that we’re going to be a competitive team. Like anything else, we need to stay healthy. But right now, through the course of the offseason, through obviously the summer and the preseason, we’re pretty happy about the level of work we put in,” said Edgerly. “Now, what that translates into, time’s going to tell.”
At a Glance
Head Coach: Frank Edgerly, second season (12th overall)
Career record: 59-48.
Assistant Coaches: Matt Ahearn (def. coord.); Matt Bijas (TE/DB); Joe Gallagher (WR/DB); Keith Hugger (special teams); Mike Lange (RB/LB); T.J. Moriarty (off. assistant); Mike Rosenfeld (RB/LB); Nick Varanelli (OL/DL); Tony Flego (freshmen); Joe Lanza (freshmen); Doug Whitlock (freshmen).
2016 record: 5-5 (3-3).
Big Shoes to Fill: Emmett McNamara, Sr., DE
The focus of everyone’s attention on the Red Bank Catholic defense last fall was on All-Division defensive end Nasir Darnell, who averaged seven tackles a game and is now suiting up for Harvard. That meant that Emmett McNamara flew under the radar, collecting 40 tackles and 1.5 sacks. This year, Edgerly says, McNamara’s “got a big bullseye on his back” and the Caseys will look to him to fill that defensive leadership position left vacant by Darnell’s departure.
X Factor: Staying healthy
Health proved to be the Caseys’ Achilles heel last fall. If they can avoid a bite from the injury bug as they face one of the Shore’s most grueling schedules then it’s likely that the Caseys will be a contender in both the Shore and the state come November.
Glue Guy: Nick Brusca, Sr., (RB/QB/LB)
Brusca, a running back by nature, found himself starting at quarterback in the midst of the Caseys’ injury woes last fall. He threw four touchdown passes and ran for another in a mid-October game against Long Branch only to suffer a season-ending rib injury the next week against St. John Vianney. Edgerly says that Brusca has the respect of the team and the respect of the staff, and after a grueling offseason recovery, he’s sure to be one of the senior leaders on this team as a triple threat with potential at running back, quarterback, and linebacker.
Impact Newcomer: Anthony Romano, Jr., WR/DB
Romano actually took some snaps under center last season during the Caseys’ quarterback crisis, and saw additional time as a sophomore on special teams. He’ll enter the season as Red Bank Catholic’s starting safety, and might even see time at wide receiver.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 14 vs. Long Branch
Red Bank Catholic took home a 35-20 win over Long Branch last season, when both teams were in rebuilding years. This year, both the Caseys and the Green Wave are back and rebuilt, Long Branch with an experienced quarterback and a receiving corps full of seniors. This’ll be a fun matchup to watch, and, even cooler, it’ll take place on the big stage at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers.
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.