Great Expectations: 2023 Red Bank Catholic Football Preview
Over the past two seasons, Red Bank Catholic’s football program has gone 21-3, appeared in consecutive NJSIAA Non-Public B title games, and secured a state championship. Zoom out to the last six seasons and RBC sports a 48-11 record, another state title, and a total of four division crowns. Switch to a wide-angle lens and the view is more of the same.
Since breaking into the upper echelon of the Shore Conference with an 8-2 record and a division title in 2005, the Caseys have been a consistent threat to finish No. 1 in the Shore and one of the conference’s standard-bearing programs. With multiple All-Shore standouts returning and a crew of players hungry to make their mark, RBC enters the 2023 season once again expecting to compete for championships at the division and state level.
Under fourth-year head coach Mike Lange, the Caseys are coming off a 10-2 season in which they won the American Division championship and reached the Non-Public B state final. Their two defeats came again non-conference opponents, dropping a 17-0 contest to Seton Hall Prep in the regular season and falling to DePaul, 19-17, in the state final. Along the way, RBC posted impressive division wins over Wall (25-3), Middletown South (35-0), Donovan Catholic (14-7), Manalapan (23-0), and Rumson-Fair Haven (42-14).
The schedule is even more challenging this season with Toms River North, last season’s 14-0 NJSIAA Group 5 champion, replacing Manalapan within the division. RBC opens the season against state No. 1 Bergen Catholic and has nondivisional games vs. Colts Neck and Howell, plus traveling to state-ranked Seton Hall Prep on Sept. 30.
It is certainly a daunting schedule, but Red Bank Catholic begins the season ranked in the top 10 in New Jersey for a reason. Replacing one of the program’s all-time greats in running back/safety Sabino Portella plus All-Shore selections Najih Rahman (WR/CB) and Aidan Donohue (DL) won’t be easy, but returning eight starters on each side of the ball is certainly a good place to start.
The Caseys’ spread offense has size and experience up front, one of New Jersey’s best wide receivers, and an up-and-coming quarterback who had an excellent debut season as a sophomore. The unit was third in the Shore last season averaging 33.9 points per game.
Junior quarterback Frankie Williams threw a touchdown pass on his first varsity snap last season and was off and running from there, finishing third in the Shore in passing yards with 1,625 yards and 20 touchdowns against just two interceptions. After earning Second Team All-Shore honors, he’s primed for another big season.
His top target is senior wideout Emanuel Ross (6-3, 195), a Stanford commit who was a First Team All-Shore selection last fall hauling in 29 receptions for 615 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Ross showed flashes of the special player he has now become and his presence on the outside should continue to draw plenty of attention from opposing secondaries and help keep the boxes light for RBC’s rushing attack. Senior Stephen Myers also returns as a starting wide receiver while 6-foot-5 senior Jack Bohm-Squicciarini is now at wide receiver after being a tight end the last two seasons.
Running back is a question mark coming into the season with the graduation of Portella and Torin Harmon, but the Caseys have some good options to turn to. Senior Luke Wassef looked good in limited opportunities last season, as did junior Jamie Gutridge. Those two look to be RBC’s primary backs with junior Matt Lonczak also in the mix.
The tight ends are senior Luke Krzyzkowski (6-foot-3, 225), a returning starter, and senior James Macdonald.
Four starters return along the offensive line and the group is led by a pair of the Shore’s best on the right side. Senior Lorenzo Portella (6-2, 270) will enter his fourth year as a starting lineman and is at right guard. Senior Tyler Burnham (6-6, 305) will be a starter for the third straight year and is at right tackle. Portella was a First Team All-Shore pick last season while Burnham earned Second Team All-Shore honors. Senior center Luke Mascarenhas (6-1, 255) is a returning starter, as is senior left tackle Patrick Magee (6-2, 255). The newcomer on the line is senior Daniel Lezeau (6-2, 260) at left guard. While the running back room doesn’t have the proven veterans as in past seasons, the group will have a big, physical, and experienced line to run behind.
The Caseys’ defense was also superb last season, holding opponents to 10.9 points per game with three shutouts to finish as the No. 2 scoring defense in the Shore. Eight starters return in their 40-front scheme with standouts at all three levels.
Leading the way is senior linebacker Davin Brewton, a Shore Sports Network First Team All-Shore selection who is committed to the University of Pittsburgh. He recorded 108 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, an interception, a fumble return touchdown, and a forced fumble last season and will be entering his third year as a starter. He is the Caseys’ middle linebacker with Wassef (58 tackles) a returning starter at outside linebacker. Gutridge will step in as the other outside linebacker.
The defensive line has three returning standouts with Portella at defensive tackle, Third Team All-Shore selection Logan Graham (6-2, 240) at defensive end, and senior Avery Barnes (6-2, 260) also at defensive end. Graham posted 55 tackles, 3 sacks, and 12 tackles for loss last season. Lezeau joins the starting defensive line as a defensive tackle.
The secondary has to replace Portella (SS) and Rahman (CB) but returns a total of three players who either started or played a significant number of snaps throughout the season. Ross is a three-year returning starter at cornerback and senior Isiah Nash also returns as a starting corner. Myers is the returning starter at free safety after pulling down two interceptions last season. Competing for the starting strong safety position are senior Colin Earnest and sophomore Blake Caruso.
Both specialists also return with senior Justin LaMorte the team’s kicker and senior VJ Muscillo as the punter. LaMorte was sixth in the Shore in scoring among kickers last season, converting 29 of 30 extra points and connecting on three field goals.
Starting with a season-opening showdown against mighty Bergen Catholic, RBC has a treacherous schedule to navigate if it hopes to win another division title and return to the state final where DePaul appears to be the favorite in Non-Public B. How it all plays out remains to be seen, but history has shown that the Caseys will find a way to be in the mix when it matters most.
At a Glance
Head coach: Mike Lange, 4th season
Career record: 26-5
2022 record: 10-2
Defense: 40 front
Coaching staff: Mike Rosenfeld (Offensive Coordinator); Kevin Gaul (Defensive Coordinator); Matt Finucane (OL); Andrew Lamura (RB/S); Jason Rutan (FB/DL); Joe Gallagher (WR/DB); Jay Graham (DL); John Cipot (TE); Keith Hugger (Special Teams Coordinator); Craig Nelson (Asst. OL); Anthony Flego (Freshmen Head Coach); Matt Mosquera (Freshmen); Don Gilson (Freshmen); Laura Barry (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 4 – Friday, Sept. 22 at Rumson-Fair Haven
You could close your eyes and throw a dart at RBC’s schedule and likely hit a marquee game, so there are many to pick from including the season-opener vs. Bergen Catholic and the last two games of the regular season against Toms River North and Donovan Catholic, respectively. The Caseys’ Week 4 matchup with Rumson-Fair Haven is our pick because of the rivalry between the two schools, not to mention both are in contention for the division title and, potentially, to be No. 1 in the Shore. The atmosphere has been epic in past matchups and it should be more of the same this season.
Player to Watch: Emanuel Ross, Sr., WR/DB
Ross, who is verbally committed to Stanford University, caught 29 passes for 615 yards last season and is one of the top wide receivers in the state.
Impact Newcomer: Daniel Lezeau, Sr., OL/DL
Lezeau earned a starting role on both the offensive and defensive lines where he will play left guard and defensive tackle, respectively.
Big Shoes to Fill: The running backs
Sabino Portella ran for 1,150 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and Torin Harmon was also an impactful runner. Luke Wassef and Jamie Gutridge will be the Caseys’ lead backs this season after playing well in limited action last year.
Did you Know?
During the NJSIAA playoff era (1974-present), RBC has won four state titles and secured 15 division titles. Twelve of those division titles and three of the state titles have all come since 2005.
|@Seton Hall Prep
|@Toms River North