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Toms River East has fought to get back into contention since authoring a 9-2 season complete with a division title in 2019, and the Raiders have over a dozen players with varsity experience returning this season as they aim to compete in the new-look Liberty Division.

East is coming off a 3-7 season competing in the Liberty Division with Matawan, Barnegat, Pinelands, Jackson Liberty, and Manchester. The Raiders had a nice victory over a seven-win Pinelands team, shut out Barnegat, and eked out an overtime win over Jackson Liberty. Four of their seven losses came against some of the best offenses in the Shore in Toms River North (1), Point Boro (2), Brick Memorial (6), and Matawan (7).

While the Raiders remain in the Liberty Division, just they and Pinelands are holdovers from a season ago. Central Regional, Monmouth Regional, Neptune, and district rival Toms River South join the fold for 2023. Pinelands is the only team that had a winning record last season so there is an opportunity for Toms River East and the other teams in the division to rebound from losing seasons and contend for a championship.

The Raiders offense only yielded 12.3 points per game to finish 37th in the Shore, so finding ways to consistently get into the end zone has been a focal point of the offseason. Seven starters or rotational players return in East’s spread offense with senior Brandon Peins back at quarterback. He threw for 797 yards and five touchdowns last season. Junior Anthony DeMarco is also at quarterback.

The running backs are juniors Christian Valeo and Avery Phillips, the wide receivers are senior Nevin Hart and juniors Izzy Singleton and Mason Pentz, and the tight ends are seniors Aiden Schumann and Jake Buckman and junior Dylan Errion.

The offensive line features junior James Lynch and senior Gabe Lezama at left tackle, seniors Antonio Hernandez and Justin Bell at left guard, and seniors Eli Scott and Michael Dimitratos working at center. The right side of the line has senior Dougie Spadaro and junior Dylan Spalletta at right guard and seniors Alexander Hall and Ethan Smith at right tackle.

Toms River East’s defense allowed 28.6 points per game last season, a total that was inflated some by lopsided losses to Point Boro, Matawan, Toms River North and Brick Memorial. In the Raiders’ other six games, they allowed just 14.8 points per game against Toms River South, Manchester, Pinelands, Barnegat, Jackson Liberty, and Lacey. If the defense can play closer to that number they’ll be in excellent shape.

The defensive ends are Buckman, Hall, Hernandez, and junior Terrance Thomas and the defensive tackles are Lynch, senior MJ Williams, sophomore Sean Hudson, and senior Christian Zanakis. Williams was a First Team All-Liberty Division pick last season.

Senior Andrew Brush returns at inside linebacker after making 50 tackles last season and will be flanked by his brother, sophomore Luke Brush. Seniors Tommy Altieri and Dylan Pentz are also at inside linebacker.

The outside linebacker/strong safety hybrids are Phillips and Singleton along with senior Kenny Pandolf and sophomore Brandon Siebert. The cornerback room features Hart and senior Aidan Carney along with Valeo and junior PJ Kempker. DeMarco is the free safety with senior Anthony Luster already in the mix.

On special teams, junior Mert Fat is competing for both the kicker and punter position along with Jaidel Tavernite (kicker) and Phillips (punter).

Since their memorable 2019 season in which they reached the sectional semifinals and became just the sixth team in program history to win nine or more games, the Raiders have struggled to regain that championship form. With a division that is wide-open, this season represents an opportunity for the Raiders to become a contender once again.


At a Glance

Head coach: Kyle Sandberg, 8th season

Career record: 21-45

2022 record: 3-7

Offense: Spread

Defense: Multiple

Coaching staff: Andrew Bilodeau (RB/LB); Dan Cicala (DB/QB); Rob Dietlmeier (DL/OL); Tony Durkin (Offensive Coordinator); April Florie (WR/LB); Nick Florio (OL/DL); Frank Giannetti (DL/OL); Frank Marino (OL/DL); Steve Petrosino (WR/DB); Dylan Raineri (LB/RB); Mike Nemeth (Freshmen Head Coach); Casey Scallon (Freshmen Assistant); Kendal Culver (Athletic Trainer); Kristen Dilloian (Athletic Trainer).


Circle the Date: Week 3 – Friday, Sept. 15 vs. Toms River South

The rival Indians will head to Dvorak Field in Week 3 where the Raiders will try to reverse last season’s 22-14 loss and gain a leg up in the Liberty Division.


Player to Watch: Brandon Peins, Sr., QB

Peins returns to helm the Raiders’ offense after throwing for 797 yards and five touchdowns last season.


Under the Radar: MJ Williams, Sr., DT

Williams was a First Team All-Liberty Division selection last season and returns to bolster a defense that was strong against similar competition.


Big Shoes to Fill: Running backs

The Raiders need to replace the production of Amari Phillips, who led the team in rushing with 638 yards and four touchdowns last season.



Friday 8/25@Brick6pm
Friday 9/1Toms River North6pm
Friday 9/8@Central7pm
Friday 9/15Toms River South6pm
Friday 9/22@Pinelands6pm
Friday 9/29Lakewood6pm
Friday 10/6Monmouth6pm
Friday 10/13@Point Beach7pm
Friday 10/20@Neptune6pm



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