attachment-Howell Booster Team Page

It was only six years ago that Howell was, arguably, the Shore Conference’s most star-studded public-school team. The Rebels went 9-2 and won a first-round NJSIAA Group V Playoff game – the last state playoff win in the last state playoff appearance for the Howell program.

In the years since, Howell has fallen on some hard times but there is reason for optimism this season. After going a combined 6-30 between 2018 and 2021, the Rebels climbed back to .500 at 5-5 a season ago and bring back a host of productive players from last year’s squad.

Howell boasted a dangerous offense in 2022 and when that offense clicked, the Rebels were hard to beat. They went 4-1 when scoring at least 20 points and 1-4 when scoring 20 or fewer, so this year’s group will be looking to both consistently finish drives in pursuit of 20-plus points while also dropping the hammer on defense with more consistency.

The pieces appear to be in place to make those strides, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Rebels will have to replace a unique player in Jack Gartenstein – who played both quarterback and receiver last year – and third-year coach Bill Hill Sr. will have the option of leaning on returning part-time quarterback Egan Nelms exclusively or mixing in Jr. Vince Meehan as more of a dual-threat option. Nelms threw for 952 yards and seven touchdowns (seven interceptions) as a junior while completing 62 percent (80-for-129) of his pass attempts in the time-share with Gartenstein (953 passing yards and five touchdowns).

Nelms will have an experienced, capable group around him on offense, highlighted by a strong group of receivers that he will be targeting. Senior Kevin Maloney finished second in the Shore Conference with 59 receptions and fourth with 700 receiving yards while also hauling in seven touchdowns. Junior Zach Padilla and senior Matt Iandoli will be two more regular options for Nelms, while juniors Ryan Cross, Luke Allard and Jason Borgia give the Rebels depth at the position. Senior Declan Flaherty and junior Gavin Carr are also standout athletes at tight end and two-way players who will contribute on offense, as well as on defense.

Howell’s running game was not at full strength in 2022 because of an injury to tailback Brandon Wright, who comes into 2023 looking to make up for lost time after playing only three games as a junior. Juniors Anthony Rivera and Juan DeJesus filled in admirably as sophomores and their experience in 2022 now gives Howell three capable options out of the backfield.

Seniors Jaxson Campese and Dan Bailey will be the two leaders on the offensive line, with both entering their third year as starters. Campese will anchor the line at center, while Bailey occupies the right tackle position next to junior right guard Cory Moses Lonon. The left side of the line will be new, with Dan Robertozzi taking over at left tackle and junior Mike Saweris in line to start at left guard.

Howell also boasts a steady returner at kicker, with senior Adam Picado coming off a junior season in which he knocked through all 18 of his extra-point attempts to go with a pair of field goals.

The Howell defense has a similar composition to the offense, with an accomplished linebacker group, a young-but-experienced secondary, and a defensive line with a blend of potential and unknown. The linebackers are likely to lead the way on defense, with seniors Ray DeFrancesco, Joe Cate and Flaherty all returning to the mix along with Carr. DeFrancesco (65) and Cate (60) were second and third on the team, respectively, in tackles, while Flaherty and Carr will help try to cover the loss of top tackler, Sam Mele.

The secondary features four projected junior starters – three of whom are returning starters. Padilla, DeJesus and Shaw are the experienced starters, with Padilla and DeJesus on the corners and Shaw the free safety. Meehan will round out the secondary as the strong safety, giving Howell a unit that has a chance to be markedly better than last year’s and even better in 2024.

If there is an unknown on defense, it is on the line. Senior defensive end Alex Lorenzo will be a key figure in the equation after missing most of his junior year due to injury coming off a sophomore season in which he earned a starting job on the line. Classmate Sebastian Malekov will play the other defensive end, while sophomore Joshua Cofer, junior David Strouse and Lonon will be impact newcomers to the line.

With a three-win improvement from 2021 to 2022 and competitive showings in its five losses, Howell has the look of a team on the way up. The schedule will be more challenging than last year’s, but there is an opportunity for a strong start that the Rebels hope can lay the foundation to a return to the NJSIAA Playoffs.

attachment-Howell Booster Team Page

Howell at a Glance

Head Coach: Bill Hill Sr., third season

2022 Record: 5-5

Coaching Staff: Bill Hill Jr. (Def. Coordinator), Len Abline (Special Teams/OL), Tom Bradley (OL), Ken Bradley (RB/LB), Adam Sacco (DL), Kevin DiGiorgio (RB/Strength Coach), Larry Peslak (Freshman), Nick Farrar (Freshman Def. Coordinator), Amy Ghione (Athletic Trainer)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: Even/Odd

Circle the Calendar: Sept. 14 vs. Marlboro

A 28-24 win over a Mustangs team that won a state playoff game might have been Howell’s biggest win of 2022, so when Marlboro pays the Rebels a visit in Week 3, it will be out for revenge. Howell figures to be locked in competitive games throughout the first four weeks and a rivalry game against a Freehold Regional District rival could be the game that catapults the Rebels toward their own return to the postseason.

Big Shoes to Fill: Vince Meehan, Jr., QB/DB

A broken thumb limited Meehan’s ability to contribute last season, but he has the skillset to make an impact in several areas of the game. That description sounds a lot like Jack Gartenstein, who was a multi-threat talent for Howell last year who made the Rebels hard to defend. If anyone on this year’s team has a chance to be that kind of player at some point over the next two seasons, it is probably Meehan, who at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, can be a major difference-maker on both sides of the ball.

X-Factors: Brandon Wright and Alex Lorenzo

In addition to Meehan, both Wright and Lorenzo also missed significant time last season after entering camp as players primed for big junior seasons. Now seniors, both Wright and Lorenzo could hold the key to a big season for Howell as players who will look to carry parts of the roster that is relatively unproven. Wright is slated to be the feature back after rushing for better than 400 yards in three games, while Lorenzo slots back in at defensive end after battling various ailments over the past two seasons.

Impact Newcomer: Josh Cofer, So., DT

At 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, Cofer stands out in any setting, even in the trenches when he is battling other linemen. What makes Cofer unique is he is only a sophomore and like Lorenzo, he will have a significant say in how well Howell’s defensive line – and, in turn, its defense on the whole – fairs in 2023.


2023 Schedule

Friday, Sept. 1 at Wall, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Middletown North, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 14 vs. Marlboro, 6 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 22 at Jackson Memorial, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 29 vs. Manalapan, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 6 vs. Southern, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 13 at Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 20 at Lacey, 7 p.m.

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