Strength in Numbers: 2019 Monmouth Regional Football Preview
The Monmouth Regional football team is entering a rebuild in 2019 under new head coach Dan Wendel. Instilling the right core values to a program that’s replenished their numbers and unveiled a new turf field for the season, Wendel is hopeful his Falcons squad can show progress this season thanks to a multiple offense with dynamic playmakers on the outside.
Junior quarterback Brian Yadlon is the beneficiary of Monmouth returning receivers like John DeMarzo, Sheldon Lariviere and Aidan Convery along with All-Division wideout Yassin Moore transferring from Donovan Catholic. The Falcons want to spread teams out and create mismatches out wide, while also trusting Yadlon to pull the football and run for needed yards at times.
The entire Monmouth offensive line is made up of first-year football players, adding impotence to these experienced pass catchers’ need to get open quickly. Wendel recognized that the versatility of his receiving corps should allow the offensive line time to develop.
Aidan Convery expects to be a major target of Yadlon’s in the passing game, with the senior prepared to help the team in any way possible. Convery is an explosive athlete that gets on defenders quickly with his length, boxing out smaller cornerbacks and making contested catches over the middle with ease.
Many of the Falcons receivers will also help form a skilled secondary for Jason McQuay’s defense, which is breaking in a mostly new front seven. If this team can defend the run with regularity, their secondary is not one to be tested, with Junior Keontae Wiggins making strides as a shutdown cornerback this offseason.
Wiggins will also serve as an elusive running back this season, with Moore and Convery expected to carry the rock as well.
Building from the inside out and prioritizing the trenches before developing skill position players, might be the textbook way to start a football team. Working without this luxury hasn’t fazed a Falcons team that knows their new coaches are putting them in position to make plays with regularity, with game-breaking players projected to touch the ball on offense each week for Monmouth.
Player to Watch: Aidan Convery (Sr., RB/OLB, 6-0, 180)
Wendel described Convery as the Falcons’ “glue guy” for this year. Where other skill positions players may be primed for more highlight-reel catches and flashy plays, it’s Convery that will keep this offense on the move as a jack of all trades.
Convery admitted it’s been difficult to learn a new offense but said the Falcons “know what to do now,” ahead of their season opener at Lacey. Shifting smoothly through the gears as a hybrid of a runner, Convery can get up the field in a hurry as both a ballcarrier and receiver.
Wendel didn’t rule out the possibility of Convery also taking snaps for Monmouth this season, giving the Falcons yet another look from a player they should trust to consistently make the right decisions.
On defense, Convery applies his frenetic style of play to the linebacker position, shooting gaps with speed and balance that’s hard to disrupt for opposing blockers. Once in the backfield, Convery will chase plays for a loss. He is expected to be a focal point for a very young Falcons defense this year.
Player Under the Radar: Brian Yadlon (Jr., QB, 6-0, 185)
Yadlon takes over at quarterback for Monmouth Regional this season. Wendel’s been impressed with the leadership he’s shown this summer, “getting the reads better,” in the passing game as the offensive install takes place.
Yadlon looks the part of a quarterback that won’t be fazed by the ups and downs of his new offense coming together in 2019. A composed pocket passer that takes what a defense gives him, Yadlon displays impressive vision and isn’t afraid to climb the pocket to deliver big throws downfield.
Once opposing secondaries key on Yadlon’s arm, the potential for him as a tough runner should open more dynamic plays on the ground for the likes of Convery, Wiggins, or Moore.
The Falcons scheme will handle getting the ball to the right players in space this season, with Yadlon needing to focus on keeping his composure and developing further as a leader – playing behind a completely inexperienced offensive line.
Top Unit: Wide Receivers/Secondary
Keontae Wiggins, Sheldon Lariviere, John DeMarzo, and Yassin Moore are all two-way players for Monmouth, compromising an exciting receiving corps and secondary. Wendel named his secondary as the strength of the defense, sharpening their skills by practicing against a variety of spread looks.
Wiggins is a sticky cornerback that can blanket any type of receiver with his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame. Across from him at cornerback, Lariviere is a technically-sound player that breaks on the football well. Both corners are looking to fly to the ball and create turnovers for Monmouth this season.
They’ll be joined by DeMarzo and Moore at safety. Together, their sideline-to-sideline speed at safety should allow the Falcons cornerbacks to play aggressively and get off the field. With each stop this youthful defense generates, it’s another touch for their field general Yadlon and his cast of playmakers.
Monmouth Regional will be successful if…
The offensive and defensive lines come together quicker than expected. For the offense, Wendel says his starting five up front are a tightknit group that’s already adopted a herd mentality that should bode well for development. The Falcons passing game has the potential to be a serious problem in the Patriot division but being able to gain positive yards on the ground will still prove important.
Though undersized, the Falcons line may be at an advantage when on the move and playing in space, something that fits the style of their ballcarriers nicely.
On defense, McQuay is a trusted member of Wendel’s staff, keeping the game simple for his starters. McQuay preaches the ability to diagnose plays quickly and stay unblocked to his front seven, which returns just one starter. The Falcons defensive line must at least hold their own this season if a game plan predicated on balancing short passes with quarterback runs is going to produce results for Monmouth.
Coach Jeff Sfraga will also have a big say in the development of these crucial position groups, coaching both the offensive and defensive lines.
Sfraga is the Falcons’ special teams coordinator as well, where Adam Varella is a serious weapon to split the uprights from distance.
Leading by Example
One thing that Coach Wendel should be proud of entering his first season at his alma mater is the respectability of his coaching staff within the Monmouth school system. All but two of the Falcons coaches come from inside the expansive high school, helping to create a buzz around this new-look program that’s driven roster numbers up.
Just two years removed from a 7-4 season, nuances like this have Wendel quickly laying the foundation for Monmouth Regional to add cornerstone players in the years to come. Their inexperience in the trenches is a significant obstacle to overcome in the short term, but there’s emerging leaders on both sides of the ball for this year’s Falcons that expect to keep the team competitive.
Winning the Close Ones
Last season, the Falcons opened their season with an 8-7 loss at Colts Neck, the first of four straight losses before earning a win at home against Matawan. Not only are they hoping the experience in close games can help them in 2019, but they have results from the end of last year that prove the Falcons are heading in the right direction.
After Monmouth got their offense on track to score at least 30 points in wins over Matawan and Neptune, the team was shut out at Red Bank Regional. Showing some resilience, they earned a one-point win against Asbury Park before ending their season with a 15-10 triumph at Ewing.
Focusing one week at a time typically isn’t a problem for young rosters, and that’s exactly the mentality that Monmouth Regional needs to gut out close games again this fall.
At a Glance
Head coach: Dan Wendel, first season
Career record: 0-0
2018 record: 4-5 (1-4 in Liberty Division)
Jason McQuay (DC)
Billy Williams (RB/DB)
Jeff Sfraga (OL/DL/ST)
Tye Coleman (WR/LB)
Tom Darby (OL/DL)
Anthony Guarino (Freshmen)
Rob Micheliche (Freshmen)
Domenic Miraglia (Freshmen)
Leeann Pearce (Athletic Trainer)
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Keontae Wiggins (Jr., RB/CB, 5-11, 180)
It didn’t take long for Monmouth to realize which athletes need their share of the touches this offseason, with newcomer Keontae Wiggins projected to start at running back and corner. Just how much the Falcons will use Wiggins as a traditional back remains to be seen, but he’s a gadget type player that’s surrounded by enough talent to create space on the ground.
The Falcons will likely look to Yadlon or Convery when in need of a tough yard, but Wiggins expects ample opportunities to come out of the backfield and catch passes. Also providing the Monmouth secondary with their spark, Wiggins is a vital component to this year’s team.
Rather than facing a steep learning curve on both sides of the ball, the Falcons need Wiggins to simply play fast and lead by example while flying all over the field to make plays.
X-FACTOR: Julian Jones (Fr., RB)
The wealth of talent for Monmouth Regional at the skill positions is not limited to upperclassmen. With more experienced players stacked ahead of him, freshman running back Julian Jones has caught the eye of his coaches and quarterback.
Even if Jones spends most of the season following around the likes of Wiggins, Convery, and Moore to gain valuable experience, this is a player Wendel may find touches for as the season progresses. Jones is a home run threat out of the backfield that excels at making something out of nothing.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Matt Fleschner (Jr., TE/DE, 6-5, 230)
Wendel named Junior defensive end Matt Fleschner as an impressive newcomer on a roster full of new football players. Fleschner is probably the best physical specimen on the Falcons defensive line, an athletic rush end that uses his 6-foot-5 frame well.
Fleschner will be the player the Falcons look to put in the best position to disrupt opposing offenses, which could lead to plenty of reps alongside defensive tackle Eddie Hill. Just a sophomore, Hill is a rock at the point of attack for the Monmouth defense and can play a large role in helping Fleschner get to the quarterback.
Pivotal Game: Sept. 21 vs. Ocean
Each game on the schedule is of utmost importance to Monmouth Regional through this rebuild, but with excitement growing in the community, their home opener on a new field versus their former Thanksgiving Day rival is an early-season litmus test for the Falcons.