Ready to Fly: 2022 Monmouth Regional High School Football Preview
For the two seasons prior to 2021, the Monmouth Regional football team put in the hard work without a lot of results. Its up-and-coming standouts, however, remained undeterred and made sure 2022 was a transformational season for the team.
With top 10 producers returning at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, the Falcons won’t be satisfied with last year’s accomplishments.
Quarterback Anthony Jehn and running back Julian Jones return as senior leaders and dynamic playmakers for a Monmouth team that has designs on improving on last year’s 6-4 record and NJSIAA Playoff appearance, even as the schedule gets tougher and the word is out that Monmouth is a team to deal with in the Shore Conference.
“The confidence these kids built last year really carried them into the offseason and summer workouts,” fourth-year Monmouth coach Dan Wendel said. “From the time they came in, they have always been willing to compete and last year gave the confidence to know that when they compete and do the right things, they will get results.”
Jehn finished ninth in the Shore Conference in 2021 with 1,400 passing yards, Jones was 10th in the conference with just under 1,200 rushing yards and Tahaj Wiggins was eighth at the Shore with 534 receiving yards. With an offseason to build on that success and four years of developing a rapport with one another, Wendel expects the results to be even better now that all three are seniors.
“We were able to install the offense a lot quicker this year because of how many guys we have back, so there is an opportunity to expand the playbook a little bit more with this group,” Wendel said. “We still want to play to our strengths, which I think led to some of our success last year, but any time you can give good players more opportunities to make plays, it’s something you have to consider and these guys are all-in.”
Monmouth also has several other statistical standouts back. Senior Eric Crossley is back at fullback and middle linebacker after leading the team with 84 tackles in 2022, while the Falcons’ top two sack leaders – Nick Huisman (five) and Lucas Bomtempo (four) – also return to the defense.
“The great thing about this group is you can throw them into situations and they will figure it out,” Wendel said. “In past years, you knew there would be problems that would arise and you didn’t know how guys would deal with it because they hadn’t really experienced that adversity before. We started to see that growth last year and I think it’s even better this year. Tough situations are going to come up and I have a lot of confidence that this group will be able to handle them.”
Monmouth at a Glance
Projected Starters (RS=Returning Starter; 3RS=Third-year Starter)
Returning Starters: 8
QB: Anthony Jehn, Sr. 3RS
RB: Julian Jones, Sr. 3RS
FB: Eric Crossley, Sr. RS
WR: Tahaj Wiggins, Sr. RS; Nick Huisman, Sr.
WR: Prince Hostler, Sr.; Sevin Dismuke, Sr.; Kaiden Stafford, Jr.
TE: Griffin Hicks, Jr.; Daniel Kitka, Jr.
LT: Aidan Schilke, Sr. 3RS
LG: Lucas Bomtempo, Sr. 3RS
C: Dave O’Grady, Jr. RS
RG: John Pannullo, Sr. RS
RT: Justin May, Sr.
Returning Starters: 6
DE: Lucas Bomtempo, Sr. 3RS
DT: Aidan Schilke, Sr. 3RS
DT: Carter Susser-Damms, Sr.
DE: Griffin Hicks, Jr.; Daniel Kitka, Jr.
OLB: Nick Huisman, Sr. 3RS
ILB: Eric Crossley, Sr. 3RS
OLB: Julian Jones, Sr. RS
CB: Prince Hostler, Sr.
CB: Nasir Watson, Jr.
SS: Nick Crossley, Jr.; Dom Grady, Jr.
FS: Evan Booth, Jr. RS
K: Brandon Ramirez, Sr.
P: Brandon Ramirez
Head Coach: Dan Wendel, fourth season
Career Record: 8-19
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Jason McQuay (Def. Coordinator/LB/RB), Rich Mosca (Def. Coordinator/OL/DL), Malik Wiggins (Special Teams/WR/DB), Mario Fragale (OL/DL), Billy D. Williams (RB/OLB), Andrew Faccone (Video), Anthony Guarino (Freshman), Jonathan Ciavarra (Freshman), Adam Elsieidy (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Julian Jones, Sr., RB/LB
Jones has been an impact back since his sophomore season and is coming off an impressive junior campaign in which he finished 10th in the Shore Conference in rushing with 1,198 yards to go with 14 touchdowns. Jones is also going to see more snaps on the other side of the ball at outside linebacker, where his physical play, athleticism and senior leadership are critical to the Falcons' defense.
Players Under the Radar: Lucas Bomtempo and Aidan Schilke, Sr., OL/DL
With so many seniors back in the fold this season, Monmouth plans to have plenty of leaders, even if they go somewhat unheralded compared to Jehn and Jones. On the line, the key duo is Bomtempo and Schilke, who are both in line to get the majority of snaps on the defensive line while also anchoring the left side of the offensive line. Both are returning starters on a senior-heavy offensive line that also includes guard John Panullo and first-year starter at tackle Justin May, as well as junior Dave O’Grady – who is making the move from tackle to center.
Top Position Group: Wide Receivers
The Falcons look solid at several position groups thanks to their considerable experience, but the wide receivers have a chance to make a major impact this season. Jones will be the focus of the opposing defense on most weeks, which means that dangerous receivers like Tahaj Wiggins Prince Hostler, Sevin Dismuke and Huisman could have a field day, especially with a proven senior quarterback like Jehn targeting them in the passing game.
Big Shoes to Fill: Griffin Hicks, Jr. TE/OLB
Monmouth’s biggest loss to graduation was tight end and defensive end Loukas Plasteras, who was a threat in the passing game as the team’s second-leading receiver and a pass-rush threat on the other side as well. Hicks will be taking over a similar role, occupying the tight end position on offense and playing the outside linebacker position opposite Jones on defense. With so much experience around him, Hicks will not have to go above and beyond his capabilities for Monmouth to succeed, but the Falcons will be looking for a solid debut from Plasteras’s replacement.
More than any position or player, it is the close-knit nature of his team that has Wendel excited about the possibilities in 2022. In addition to being an experienced group, this senior class is the first to come into the program as freshmen with Wendel as the head coach, so they are his first four-year class since he was promoted from offensive coordinator to the head job in 2019. That group also saw the varsity team go 0-9 in their first year and helped the Falcons get to 6-4 a year ago, so it has put in the work and seen the payoff.
“Whatever adversity we try and throw at them, they band together and give it their best effort,” Wendel said. “To me, that’s the most important thing for a team to have. You never know what can happen week-to-week, but no matter what it is, our kids have shown us that they are going to bond together and overcome it.”
Rivalry Game: Friday, Oct. 7 at Point Boro
Monmouth does not have an obvious geographical rival on this year’s schedule, but it does have a psychological one. Point Boro has handled the Falcons in recent years and the Panthers figure to be a title contender in Group II again this season. On the way to a South Jersey Group II championship in 2021, the Panthers beat Monmouth during the regular season, 49-6, then bounced the Falcons in the first round of the playoffs, 34-14.
Point Boro and Pinelands are the only teams on this year’s schedule that Monmouth played last year, so the many returning players on the team remember playing Point Boro, especially because it was the team that ended their season. The schedule is much tougher this year leading up to that game, so either Monmouth will be looking to validate an eye-opening start to their season or it could also be in desperate need of a win to keep any postseason hope alive.
“Every kid wants to test himself against the best competition, so we are looking forward to the challenge,” Wendel said. “Everyone is excited to get out there and see how we measure up. We’re excited.”
Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Red Bank, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9 at Raritan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16 at St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24 vs. Holmdel, Noon
Friday, Sept. 30 at Shore, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7 at Point Boro, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 15 vs. Pinelands, Noon
Saturday, Oct. 22 vs. Manasquan, Noon