Getting Back on Track: 2023 Holmdel Football Preview
It seems counterintuitive to call a 1-8 season important, but for the Holmdel football program, the 2022 season was simultaneously one to forget and one that brought the program closer than ever before.
The Hornets suffered injuries to key players and were without head coach Jeff Rainess for most of the season after he had a significant health scare. On top of that, Holmdel’s schedule left no margin for error with six playoff teams and three division champions among its nine opponents. For a program that does not have a history of sustained success but has made great strides under Rainess since 2016, the 2022 season left a bad taste in the mouths of players and coaches alike.
This fall is a chance to prove that the culture they’ve established over the past seven years will lead them back into contention and prove that last season was an aberration, not a trend.
Rainess, who was the 2018 Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year for leading Holmdel to the National Division title and an 8-2 record, is excited by the fact that the Hornets bring back multiple starters and have a strong bond forged through last season’s adversity.
Part of Holmdel’s identity since Rainess took over has been its split-back veer option offense that has produced multiple 1,000-yard rushers and All-Shore selections. Nine starters are back on offense with experience at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and along the offensive line.
Senior quarterback Brayden Savage was a starter last season and has been battling it out with junior Trey Critchley and promising sophomore Jack Cannon for the starting job. The running backs are seniors Anthony Setteducate, senior AJ Todisco, junior Matt Iulo, and senior Gary Collyer. Setteducate ran for 698 yards and eight touchdowns last season and was a second team all-division selection in the Independence Division. Todisco is also a returning starter.
Senior wide receiver Matt Tempone will be entering his third year as a starter and will be joined by senior returning starters Malik Taskier and Brandon Rooney and newcomer Greg Linsalata, a senior. Senior Andrew Piscatelli (6-2, 195) is a returning starter at tight end while seniors Nick Gomez and Jack Doran are also in the tight end room.
The Hornets’ offensive line has four returning starters with senior Dante Calcaterra (6-1, 245) at left tackle, senior Jason Tiller (6-1, 240) at left guard, senior Casey Brew (6-0, 220) at right guard, and senior Nick Bachman (6-3, 260) at right tackle. Bachman was a first team all-division selection last season and Brew was a second team pick. The center will be either junior Demetri Lazarou (5-11, 205) or junior Pete Visiliadis (5-10, 235).
Holmdel runs a multiple-formation defense under coordinator John Principe and returns six starters. The defensive line has junior Evan Savarese as a returning starter at defensive end and senior Christian Ferranti and sophomore Alex Reyes at the other defensive end spot. Brew and Bachman are the starting defensive tackles with Gomez and junior Cipriano Bodnar backing them up.
Both outside linebackers are returning starters with Savage and senior Connor Fields reprising their roles. Savage will be entering his third year as a starting linebacker. The inside linebacker is junior Evan Saghafi.
Holmdel’s secondary has three returning starters and is an athletic unit including several lacrosse standouts. Tempone (returning starter), Critchley, and junior Jack Powers are the cornerbacks with a pair of multi-year starters at safety with Collyer at free safety and senior Will Gilfillan at strong safety.
An underrated aspect of Holmdel’s returning cast is senior Connor Mendini, one of the Shore’s top kickers and punters who will be a four-year starter. Last season, Mendini was a perfect 20-for-20 on extra points with four field goals, including a 42-yarder that was the longest field goal in the Shore Conference.
After competing with Point Boro, Raritan, St. John Vianney, Manasquan, and Monmouth in last season’s Independence Division, Holmdel will now battle Asbury Park, Manasquan, Ocean, Shore Regional, and St. John Vianney in a new-look Constitution Division. All five of their division opponents were playoff teams last season so the Hornets’ schedule doesn’t get any easier.
From the outside, a one-win season appears miserable and without many positives, but within Holmdel’s program it had the opposite effect. The team came together amidst its struggles and entered the offseason with a collective chip on its shoulder, eager to get back on the field and put together a bounce-back season. It’s a prove-it season for Holmdel, and it’s a challenge the Hornets are looking forward to.
At a Glance
Head coach: Jeff Rainess, 8th season
Career record: 32-33
2022 record: 1-8
Offense: Split-back Veer
Coaching Staff: John Principe (Defensive Coordinator/LB); Scott Cannon (DL); John Polivka (DB; John Kaye (QB/RB); Charlie Marsh (WR); Steve Leo (Kickers/Punters); Dave Sherman (Freshmen Head Coach); Mike Oxley (Freshmen); Mike Dorsi (Freshmen); Anthony Dorsi & Scott Wentzel (Strength and Conditioning); Dave Katz (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 2 – Friday, Sept. 8 at St. John Vianney
The Hornets’ division opener will be against a talented yet young Lancers team. St. John Vianney scored a 34-27 victory when the teams met last season. This is a chance for Holmdel to start strong and get a leg up within the Constitution Division.
Player to Watch: Anthony Setteducate, Sr., RB
Setteducate was the team’s leading rusher last season with 698 yards and eight touchdowns on an average of 6.2 yards per carry.
Impact Newcomer: Jack Cannon, So., QB/DB
Cannon (6-1, 180), who had a standout freshman season on the lacrosse field, is competing to be the starting quarterback and could also see time in the defensive backfield.
Did You Know?
Holmdel’s four straight winning seasons from 2017 through 2020 are the longest such streak in program history. The Hornets went 26-11 with one division title during that span.
|Friday 9/1||@Toms River South||6pm|
|Friday 9/8||@St. John Vianney||7pm|
|Thursday 9/14||Asbury Park||7pm|