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Back in 2021, Monmouth Regional broke through with its first winning season in four years and the Falcons’ reward was a much harder schedule while playing in the Independence Division in 2022. Facing a step up in competition, Monmouth labored to a 2-7 finish, but not without putting a scare into several teams that ultimately pulled out wins over the Falcons. Last year’s slate included one-score losses to Raritan and Pinelands and 10-point losses to both Shore and Manasquan – not to mention wins over both Red Bank and Holmdel.

Now back in the Liberty Division, Monmouth is positioned to do more winning in 2023, but will have some wrinkles to iron out on a roster that will have to replace some key pieces. Tailback Julian Jones and receiver Ta’haj Wiggins were significant big-play threats that kept opposing defenses on their toes when they weren’t putting them on their heels. This year’s group of backs and receivers is loaded with new starters, although returning senior receiver Kaiden Stafford will provide a threat in the passing game for senior quarterback Dom O’Grady.

O’Grady is taking over the quarterback position and in addition to the 5-foot-11 Stafford, he will be throwing to two more classmates in Nick Crossley and Zy’Air Clark. Both seniors are slight in build – Crossley at 5-8 and Clark at 5-9 – both are quick and elusive players who can get open. Junior Frank Colvin shares a similar profile at 5-9, 155 pounds and will also figure into the passing game as a receiver.

With Jones graduated, seniors Nasir Watson and Jaylen Harris are next in line as Monmouth’s feature backs – a position the Falcons have been able to lean on over the years and will expect to continue to do so. O’Grady will also have a returning starting tight end as a target, with Griffin Hicks back in the fold this season.

While Monmouth boasts a group of smaller receivers, the Falcons’ lack of size is especially noteworthy when it comes to the offensive line – particularly on the right side. Tackle David O’Grady and guard Jaden Reevey are both listed under six-foot and 200 pounds, but both seniors also return with experience after proving they can excel as varsity linemen. The left side of the line, meanwhile, is considerably bigger, with 6-2, 205-pound senior Jayden Harris at tackle and sophomore Liam Rea taking over at guard at 6-2 and 285 pounds. Senior Haven Tinsley rounds out the line as the new starting center.

Six starters return on the Monmouth defense and 10 of the 11 projected starters heading into Week 0 are seniors, giving the Falcons plenty of leadership on that side of the ball. Hicks, Reevey and Harris will be part of the defensive front, while standout defensive end Dan Kikta (6-2, 215 pounds) returns at defensive end after chasing down seven sacks as a junior.

Crossley (68 tackles) and fellow senior Even Booth (55) were two of Monmouth’s top three tacklers in 2022 and are back this season, with Crossley as a versatile player who can fill a linebacker or rover position in the 4-2-5 scheme and Booth as more of a true strong safety. Seniors Jake Rickert and Dante Jehn are two new starters at the linebacker level, while Watson is back in his role as starting free safety. The Falcons will also run out a pair of new cornerbacks in senior Branon Geiger and sophomore Ahmir Wiggins.

Last season’s struggles could very well feed success in 2023 for Monmouth, especially with the move back to the Liberty Division. Some position battles could carry into the season, but with a solid group of seniors – many of whom improved through the grind of 2022 – the Falcons have a chance to make some noise over the course of the season.


Monmouth At a Glance

Head Coach: Dan Wendel, fifth season

Career Record: 10-26

2022 Record: 2-7

Coaching Staff: Jason McQuay (Def. Coordinator/RB/LB), Rich Mosca (OL/DL), Billy D. Williams (RB/OLB), Malik Wiggins (WR/DB), Mario Fragale (OL/DL), Anthony Guarino (Freshman), Jonathan Ciavarra (Freshman), Andrew Faccone (Video), Adam Elsieidy (Athletic Trainer)

Offense: Spread

Defense: 4-2-5

Circle the Date: Sept. 29 vs. Red Bank

Monmouth picked up a huge win over the Bucs last year and Red Bank figures to be out for revenge when the teams meet on the final Friday of September. From Monmouth’s perspective, that will be a good barometer for measuring the progress of this year’s team considering Red Bank is one of only three teams on this year’s schedule that the Falcons faced last season (Pinelands and Shore) and the first of the three teams Monmouth plays in 2023.

Big Shoes to Fill: Nasir Watson and Jaylen Harris

Julian Jones graduated as one of 13 1,000-yard rushers in the Shore Conference in 2022 after racking up 1,065 – good for eighth in the conference. In his absence, Watson and Harris will look to pick up the slack after playing backup roles a year ago. The two seniors are returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, so neither is a stranger to the action in the trenches. Stafford is another player with a lot on his plate this season, as he takes over the No. 1 receiver spot following the graduation of an explosive 6-5 weapon in Ta’haj Wiggins (30 receptions, 408 yards, three touchdowns in 2022).

X-Factor: Dom O’Grady, Sr., QB

With some big-play options graduated and a relatively undersized offensive line, execution will be paramount for the Monmouth offense and that challenge lands at the feet of O’Grady. The senior signal-caller has been part of the varsity operation for multiple years and the Falcons will rely upon his understanding of coach Dan Wendel’s system and ability to distribute the ball to a capable collection of receivers and backs.

Impact Newcomer: Liam Rea, So., LG

Despite fielding its fair share of new starters, Monmouth is likely to be a senior-heavy outfit – at least at the start of the season. Rea, though, is one of two sophomores set to start in the opener, along with cornerback Ahmir Wiggins. Monmouth’s other four starting linemen range from 190 to 210 pounds, so having Rea in there at 6-2, 285 pounds gives the Falcons a physically imposing presence to follow throughout this season, as well as to build around going forward.


2023 Schedule

Friday, Aug. 25 at Barnegat, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 2 at Keansburg, Noon

Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Toms River South, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 15 at Neptune, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 22 vs. Central, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 29 vs. Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 6 at Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 13 vs. Shore, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 20 at Pinelands, 6:30 p.m.

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