Young Bucs: 2021 Red Bank High School Football Preview
Shane Fallon made his mark as a head coach at Rumson-Fair Haven, where he helped establish the football culture that exists today at one of the Shore Conference’s best football schools. Now, Fallon is gearing up for his first season at the neighboring school just three miles west on Ridge Road.
Red Bank Regional welcomes Fallon aboard as its head coach coming off a 2-4 2020 campaign in which the Bucs captured a pair of lopsided wins, suffered a pair of lopsided losses and lost the two tightly-contested games they were in – one to Raritan and another to Ocean.
With six returning senior starters – Cian Curylo, Jack Grassi, Gus Dal Pra, Matt Dengler, Pete Thomas and Sean Masonius – a rising core of underclassmen and a new coaching staff, there will be a new-look element to Red Bank this coming season and Fallon is hoping to establish a winning process right away while looking for the spark that takes what has been a solid Bucs program to the next level over the next several years.
“I really like the seniors,” Fallon said. “They say all the right things, they work hard, they are coachable and the coaching staff loves them. I have been really happy with the staff we have put together and the kids are responding to it.
“The junior class has some important pieces to the puzzle and the sophomore class is extremely talented,” Fallon said. “They are the future of Red Bank Regional football. Some of the sophomores will get on the field a lot this year and others may not because of the seniors and juniors ahead of them. Whoever plays, it’s going to be position-based so could be some sophomores who end up being really big players for us down the road who might not see a whole lot of time yet. There is a lot of competition, which is where you always want to be as a program heading into any season.”
Red Bank at a Glance
Projected Starters (RS=Returning Starter)
Offense: Multiple I
QB: Jack Grassi, Sr.; Pierce Olsen, Jr.
RB: Cian Curylo, Sr., RS; Jah’Cire Jones, So.
WR: Gus Dal Pra, Sr., RS; Gunnar Eckerstrom, So.
WR: Ky’Yam Martin, Jr.; Lamar Hicks, Jr.;
WR: Matt Dengler, Sr., RS; Kevin Spencer, Sr.
LT: Jack Killgannon, Sr.
LG: William Mewborn, Sr.
C: Sean Masonius, Sr., RS; Hank Dal Pra, Jr.
RG: Pete Thomas, Sr., RS; Will Anan, Sr.
RT: Griffin Egan, So.; Michael Mueller, Sr.
DE: Dylan Goldberg, Sr.; Nasir Hunt, Sr.
DT: Peter Thomas, Sr., RS
DT: Colin Swords, Sr.
DE: Patrick Cody, Sr.
OLB: Cian Curylo, Sr., RS
MLB: Sean Masonius, Sr., RS
OLB: Michael Buonantuono, Sr.
CB: Brendan Laughlin, Jr.; Pierce Olsen, Jr.; Alex Choback, So.
CB: Matt Dengler, Sr., RS; Jah’Cire Jones, So.
SS: Gus Dal Pra, Sr., RS
FS: Jack Grassi, Sr., RS; Gunnar Eckerstrom, So.
K: Gian Carlo Duataj, Jr.
P: Nick Gandolpho, So.
Head Coach: Shane Fallon, first season
Career Record: 108-56
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Chris Barnes (RB), Glenn Grainger (DB), Tyler Karalewich (DL), Noel Kavanagh (QB), John Legere (DB), Jeff Mass (OL), Bill Pietsch (LB), Adam Bobertz (Freshman), Chris Leroy (Freshman), Christina Emrich (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Cian Curylo, Sr., RB/LB
Curylo emerged as a go-to runner out of the backfield and a linebacker on the defense for last year’s Bucs team and will be a greater focal point during his senior season.
“We’re going to be a very balanced team,” Fallon said. “I don’t expect it to be one guy who is getting all the touches or carrying us on either side of the ball but the six returning seniors are going to be our core and Cian Curylo is the guy within that group who is probably going to be our No. 1 option. He is a physical kid, he runs hard, he is a smart player, which I think describes a lot of the guys in that senior group.”
Players Under the Radar: Gus Dal Pra, Sr., WR/DB
Dal Pra is a returning starter and will now be a standout for Red Bank. The senior will be a key cog in the passing game as a wide receiver for his new quarterback and on the defensive side, will be a leader in an experienced, talented secondary.
“He is a complete football player, plain and simple,” Fallon said. “When I got here, all the coaches raved about him and they were right. He has a great feel for the game, great hands and he is very good on special teams.”
Impact Newcomers: Jah’Cire Jones (So., RB/CB) and Gunnar Eckerstrom (So., WR/DB)
Red Bank’s sophomore class has a chance to make an impact this season and Jones and Eckerstrom are two of the underclassmen looking to break into big roles right away. Jones is making a strong case to get meaningful carries at running back as a sophomore while Eckerstrom could be in the mix as a slot receiver. Both sophomores are also part of Red Bank’s deep group of defensive backs.
“Jones is going to be very good,” Fallon said. “He is already in the mix to get some time at running back and he is probably going to end up playing both ways. And Gunnar is a guy who just stands out on the field. He is tall, he is tough, he moves well and when you consider he is only a sophomore, it makes you take notice of what he can already do.”
Top Position Group: Secondary
Speaking of the defensive backs, Fallon anticipates the secondary will be the strength of the team because of the experienced players that comprise its core, as well as the depth beyond whatever ends up being the starting unit on Sept. 2 vs. Asbury Park. Grassi and Dal Pra are two senior leaders for the safety positions while juniors Pierce Olsen and Brendan Laughlin and sophomores Alex Choback and Jones are in on the cornerback competition along with the senior holdover in Dengler. Eckerstrom is also making a serious push to play at safety.
“They are smart, athletic and they have really picked up on our cover-two scheme,” Fallon said. “They have been able to mesh run fits well with the corners and safeties. We’re boxing people in and gang tackling, not blowing responsibilities in coverage. In practice, we have tried to attack them in the passing game and confuse them and they are doing a good job playing assignment football.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Jack Grassi, Sr., QB/DB
Red Bank’s best offensive weapon in 2020 was now-graduated two-way athlete Owen Laughlin, the older brother of current junior Brendan. Owen Laughlin was a dual-threat quarterback who led the team in rushing and was also an adept passer – a combination of skills that Grassi will be looking to cover as he ascends toward the starting job on opening day. Grassi is also a capable athlete, but he might end up playing it differently with a new coaching staff and scheme in place.
X-Factor: The Trenches
If the secondary lives up to its early promise and the skill-position players deliver on their considerable potential, that leaves the offensive line and the defensive front seven as the key to Red Bank’s season. There is some experience back – Thomas and Masonius return to the interior of the offensive line with Thomas also playing defensive tackle and Masonius middle linebacker – but it will mostly be a deep collection of contributors. Most of the group on the lines and among the linebackers consists of seniors, with sophomore standout Griffin Egan pushing his way onto the starting offensive line at right tackle.
Thursday, Sept. 2 at Asbury Park, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 11 at Manasquan, 2 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 at J.F. Kennedy-Iselin, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23 vs. Ocean, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 at Raritan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6 at Long Branch, 7 p.m.