Gridiron Classic: After Record-Setting Season, Jaden Gallo Reps Reformed Holmdel Program
From the time he joined the Holmdel football program in the fall of 2018, Jaden Gallo has been a part of a program that has earned the respect of its opponents and Gallo’s peers from around the Shore Conference.
Not long before that, however, that was not really the case. Gallo remembers watching the transformation as his older brother, Dean, helped turn Holmdel from a 2-8 team during his sophomore year in 2016 to a combined 14-6 over his final two seasons.
Four years after his brother graduated, Holmdel has gone from a team that might get an occasional token representative in the All-Shore Gridiron Classic to a program that supplies impact players to the Monmouth County roster.
This season, Gallo is the lone representative from a 3-6 Hornets team in 2022, but he is one slated to make an impact Wednesday night at Brick Township High School.
“My brother was in this game and there aren’t too many running backs that come through Holmdel and play in it,” Jaden Gallo said. “It might have just been us. It’s cool – I like going back and telling all my friends and all of my teammates about it. I’m having a really good time. I like meeting everybody from the Shore Conference, all the good players.”
Holmdel graduate and single-season rushing record-holder Jaden Gallo. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)[/caption]During 2018, Jaden got a front-row seat as his brother posted a 1,200-yard season during Holmdel’s 8-2 campaign that concluded with the Hornets winning a playoff game, 42-0, over Nottingham before bowing out to Somerville in a hard-fought, 31-20 loss.
One year later, Gallo found himself in the mix for varsity carries and by the time he was a junior, he was Holmdel’s featured running back rushing for more than 1,000 yards, just like his older brother. Not only did Gallo post 1,011 yards with 14 touchdowns, but he did so in only seven games as Holmdel went 6-1 during the truncated 2020 season.
This past fall, Holmdel did not do as much winning, but Gallo turned in a record-breaking effort against what might have been Holmdel’s toughest schedule ever from start-to-finish. Jaden Gallo rushed for 1,401 yards – the most in a single-season in Holmdel history – to go with 15 rushing touchdowns, 208 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions as Holmdel battled to a 3-6 finish against quality opponents each week.
Gallo’s career wrapped up with a 105-yard performance against Manasquan in a 39-7 Holmdel loss in the NJSIAA Central Group III first round and was later named to the Shore Sports Network All-Shore First Team as a running back.
Holmdel also had another player, linebacker Thomas Sardo, named to the team, but he was unable to attend.
“We have earned the right to have a few guys here,” Gallo said. “I know in years past, maybe there was one guy from Holmdel who would be here and the other guys might not really know who he was. I feel like I earned my spot here and we have another guy (Sardo) people are asking about, like ‘Why isn’t he here?’ We have earned the right to be in this game now and I think other guys around the Shore realize that.”
While Gallo will certainly get his share of touches out of the backfield for Monmouth’s dynamic offense, he has also demonstrated his ability to play cornerback during practice this week and is likely to see action on both sides of the ball on Wednesday.
“Gallo can play corner, he can play running back,” Middletown South and Monmouth County head coach Steve Antonucci said. “These guys are athletes and they are multi-talented and that’s the great thing about this game. They don’t necessarily come here as just a running back. You have all these two-way guys and it’s our job as coaches to figure out how to use their talents. It’s a tribute to the kids who can play two ways.”
Gallo will be ready to answer the bell on defense, but his hope for himself and his fellow running backs – Manalapan’s Elijah Marquez and Marlboro’s Zach Mendes – is to get in the endzone at least one time each.
“We’ve only got three running backs, but I’m loving it,” Gallo said. “That’s more playing time. Elijah is really good. He is the power back, I’m more of a speed guy and Zach is a little bit of both. It’s a good mix and I’m just hoping I can use my speed and break a few big runs for us. Hopefully we can all have our moments. I’m hoping for at least a touchdown.”
In past years, Holmdel’s All-Shore representative would just be happy to have an opportunity to play in a winning environment with some of the Shore’s best. While Gallo does not take that opportunity for granted, he also embraces the chance to represent a transformed Holmdel program by making a serious impact on Wednesday.
“We have a good balance,” Gallo said. “We’re all becoming friends right now. I love meeting all these guys, but we know what the goal is. We’re still talking about Ocean County and how we want to win this game.”