With back-to-back seven-win seasons under his belt, Central Regional head coach Justin Fumando believes the Golden Eagles have laid the foundation for a program that can be among the Shore Conference’s elite on an annual basis. While he does not believe in rebuilding, Fumando and his staff know this season will be a challenge as they try to replace 13 starters who graduated coupled with the transfer of one of the Shore’s top running backs.

Central finished 7-3 in 2017 and tied Brick Memorial for the Class A South division championship. They now find themselves in the American Division where they will battle perennial powers like Manalapan and Middletown South with their only familiar opponent being Toms River North. Fumando believes it’s a credit to his program that the Golden Eagles have been placed in a division filled with Group 5 schools that have been successful in recent years and he expects his players to embrace the challenge.

Considerable talent has left the school in Bayville as eight of those who graduated were selected to play in the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic in July. On top of that, running back Kavon Chambers has transferred to St. John Vianney following a sophomore season in which he ran for over 1,400 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.

Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images
Central Regional's Troy Warren (51), Derric Esporrin (55), Cody Anderson (17), Darius Martorano (3) and Isaiah Johnston (7). Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images

The good news for Central is it believes strongly in its new tailback, senior Isaiah Johnston, who is a transfer from Monroe. Johnston ran for over 500 yards last season, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, and should fit perfectly in the Golden Eagles’ Multiple-I offense. Junior Jamar Lively will also see action in the backfield with both he and Johnston running behind rugged sophomore fullback Danny Taris, a converted tight end.

It appears junior Gavin Whalen will start at quarterback with two-year starter Joe Fowler being moved to tight end to fill a need. The 6-foot-1 Fowler is a superb athlete and the Golden Eagles will take advantage of that with the knowledge they can move him around to help where needed. Whalen saw some action last year and it won’t take long for him to develop a relationship with senior Darius Martorano, who caught 21 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns last fall. The other wide receiver spot will be filled by a pair of promising sophomores in Brandon Montgomery and Michael Prasad.

The offensive line is a work in progress but does return two senior starters in right guard Nick Provenzano (6-foot-3, 290 pounds) and left guard Derric Esporrin (5-foot-11, 265 pounds), the latter of whom is dealing with an injury and early on will be replaced by senior Robert Murphy and sophomore Ryan Bassett. Junior Pete Rahtjen (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) will start at center with juniors Hunter Dasti and Elijah Copes getting the nod at the tackle positions.

Central’s defense allowed only 14 points a game last season but only three starters return in senior lineman Troy Warren (60 tackles, four sacks) and senior linebackers Jadyn Harris and Austin MacClemmy. Senior Anthony Rivera will join Harris as the inside linebackers in the 3-4 alignment while senior Cody Anderson and junior Gunnar Nemeth battle for the other outside starting spot opposite MacClemmy.  Warren is part of a large group that will get time up front including sophomore Sayquan Mosley and Dasti along with junior Kyzion Collins-Andrews and sophomore Imeer Johnson.

There will be all new faces in the defensive backfield with Martorano (one of the few players to go both ways) likely to start at one cornerback spot with junior Tyrese Campbell-Mack and sophomore Marvin Goodwine also to see plenty of action at that position. Goodwine is best known for his basketball talents but his quickness has translated well onto the football field.  Three players are in the mix at safety with seniors Johnston and Chris Rizzo and sophomore Nick Sura to rotate between the two spots. Junior Cody Blocker is expected to handle both the punting and place-kicking chores as the replacement for Shane Black, who was among the Shore’s best last season.

The Golden Eagles swing into action early, hosting Brick Memorial in Week 0 on August 31 before facing new division foes Howell and Freehold Township. The schedule includes a visit to Manalapan in Week 6 where Fumando, a former assistant for the Braves, will go up against one of his mentors in Ed Gurrieri. Don’t bother asking him about that game…. right now, he’s focused only on winning game No. 1.

At a Glance

Head Coach: Justin Fumando, third season

Career record: 14-5

2017 record: 7-3 (6-1)

Coaching staff:  Chris James (off. coord./QB); Jarrett Pidgeon (def. coord./ILB); Matt Kiefer (OL); Tom Koenig (WR); Terrance Hardy (DB/special teams); Joe Tenpenny (OLB); James Plummer (RB); Pat Reilly (Director of Football Operations); Walter Karasiewicz, Shawn Darling (freshman); Devin Solvik (athletic trainer).

Base offense: Multiple I

Base defense 3-4

Big Shoes to Fill: Isaiah Johnston, Sr., RB/S

Chambers and 2017 graduate Mike Bickford combined for 3,200 yards the last two seasons and Central coaches are confident Johnston can fill the tailback spot with little loss in production.  The Monroe transfer will also help in the defensive backfield.

X-Factor: Defense

Defensive coordinator Jarrett Pidgeon has the difficult task of replacing eight starters from a unit that gave up just 14 points per game last season. Plenty of sophomores could see considerable action and how quickly they find their place could go a long way to determining whether the Golden Eagles are a contender or pretender in the new American Division.

Impact Newcomer: Gavin Whalen, Jr., QB

Yes, he saw action last year but this is now a different situation as he takes over the starting spot at quarterback. The passing game has been inconsistent in recent years so Whalen’s ability to be successful and take pressure off the running game will be a key.

Pivotal Game: Sept. 7 at Howell

Central’s first game in the new American Division is a road test with a Rebels team that was hit even harder by graduation. A win here would be a big boost to a team loaded with first-time starters.


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