Caseys Ready To Defend Title

Caseys Ready To Defend Title

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Ryan Wydra @schoops1

The Red Bank Catholic Caseys 2014 campaign was certainly memorable. After three consecutive undefeated regular seasons’, the team always seemed to hit a wall in the postseason. Even after the frustration and disappointment, the Caseys would always be right there working hard to get better. However, this past season would be a different story. In a season where the team had their 40 game winning streak against Shore Conference competition snapped, the Caseys took the opportunity to refocus and retool. Sometimes in life you have to take a step back in order to move forward. This is exactly what the Caseys were able to do. The team would rally around each other and come back stronger than ever. It was this momentum that began one of the greatest stories of the postseason.

The Red Bank Catholic Caseys would cruise to their first ever Non Public Group III State Championship. The Caseys ripped through Delbarton in the second round, defeating them 45-20. Red Bank Catholic would ultimately avenge two straight losses to St. Joseph’s Montvale by rolling to a 44-14 victory. St. Joseph’s Montvale were the three time defending Sectioinal Champions. This was a great day for all Red Bank Catholic players, coaches, and fans.


This year, the Caseys find themselves going into a different situation to start camp. In years past, players were always thinking about what they had to do to finally win that section. This year, RBC will no longer be the hunters in this bracket. They will come into the season as the defending Non Public Group III Champions.”It isn’t any different because we won,we know every season is a season in itself. You have a new group of kids, and you have to do the best you can with them. There’s an excitement level about the program. They have a great work ethic. They prepare hard and have had a great offseason. Right now, we’re just looking to get the pieces in place” added Red Bank Catholic Head Coach Jim Portela. Everyone is going to be watching what the Caseys can do. While it was great to think about the postseason, it is only August and RBC has a Shore Conference schedule to complete. The Caseys will be a lot of fun to watch all season long.


Head Coach: Jim Portela (seventh year) 55-10

2014 Record: 11-1 Non Public Group III Champions

Key Returns: Eddie Hahn (Sr QB/DB) Liam Smith (Sr OL/DL) Ryan Oneidas (Sr OL/DL) Colin Shaughnessy (Sr WR/QB/DB) Dan Lukawski (Sr WR/DB)  Mike Balzofiore (Sr WR/DB)  Dylan Murphy (Sr RB/LB) Michael Wilen (Sr RB/LB) Christian Foley (Sr TE/DE) Charlie Gargiulo (Sr OL/DL) Liam McArdle (Sr WR/DB)

Key Losses:Jamie Gordinier (TE/LB) Nick Lagrippo (RB/LB) Tommy Spernal (RB/DB) Mike Cordova (RB/DB) Trevor Cowley (WR/DB) Nick Lubischer (WR/DB) Steve Dnistrian (TE/DL)  Matt Donald (OL/DL) Dan Wilen (OL/DL) Ryan Kroeger (OL/DL) Ryan McCue (OL/DL)

Eddie Hahn Offense

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The Caseys return one of the best offensive players in the State. This past Summer, Eddie Hahn decided to take his talents to the University of Connecticut after the season. UConn is getting a special player that can make big plays down the field. During the 2014 season, Hahn threw for 1,485 yards and 20 passing touchdowns. The signal caller also made defenders pay with his mobility, rushing for 531 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Eddie Hahn is a matchup nightmare playing out of the zone read formation. Hahn can read the defense and decide where he wants to go with the ball. The threat of Hahn also opens up the running game. Defenses cannot sell out on the running backs in the Caseys system. “Eddie has improved greatly in the offseason. His arm strength, and comfort level in the offense has gotten better. When you see him, he is visibly bigger and stronger as he’s up over 200lbs” added Portela on Eddie Hahn. It will be up to the Senior Quarterback to keep this offense rolling in every situation. Colin Shaughnessy will be the backup Quarterback. Shaughnessy has looked sharp running the offense in camp. Kyle Moore is also an up and coming sophomore at the position. Moore has a strong skill set and a lot of mobility. Shaughnessy and Moore give the Caseys great depth behind Hahn.

IMG_1961Red Bank Catholic will have to replace two stars at the running back position. Tommy Spernal and Mike Cordova were everything you could have asked for in a running back. The two backs simply got the job done every week. This season, the Caseys will use multiple backs to get the job done. Seniors Dylan Murphy and Mike Wilen will carry the load.Dylan Murphy is a strong back at 6’0″ and 205 pounds. He’ll make the transition from fullback to running back. Murphy will get the bulk of the carries and make a huge impact this season.  Wilen will play the fullback position with a good combination of speed and power. Wilen at 6’1″ knows how to get the tough yards. Both these backs will make the Caseys running game very hard to stop. Anthony Purge and Joseph Hagan will also be a part of the rotation. They can add another element to an already strong running attack. “We’re fortunate because we feel like we have 4-5 tailbacks who can contribute this year. I do feel like running back is one of our deeper positions”. added Portela on his running back situation. The Caseys will once again thrive in the backfield.

The team will also need some new players to step up at the Wide Receiver position. The Caseys graduated leading receiver Trevor Cowley, along with Nick Lubischer, and John Portela. Colin Shaughnessy will be a big part of the passing game this year. Shaughnessy is quite the athlete and can play multiple positions on the field. Shaughnessy will be a big target in the red zone for this team. Senior Daniel Lukawski will also step in after getting minimal action last year. Lukawski is a quick receiver at 5’10” and 165lbs. Lukawski has a lot of speed and will beat defenders deep. Liam McCardell, Michael Balzofiore, and Brett Habich will also have the opportunity to contribute in the passing game. This is a group that has looked really solid in camp  They have all developed good chemistry with Quarterback Eddie Hahn.


The Caseys are also stacked at the Tight End position. Christian Foley is a multi-talented player at 6’1″ and 190lbs. Foley can boost the running game by becoming an extra blocker on the outside. Foley is also a good receiver and not afraid to make those tough catches over the middle. Senior Anthony DeStefano and Junior Nasir Darnell will also be in the mix. Both players add an additional weapon to the offense. They can create a lot of mismatches for the linebackers through the crossing routes.

RBC will once again be strong on the offensive line with the return of Senior Captains Liam Smith and Ryan Oneidas. Smith is a huge powerhouse on the Offensive line at 6’5″ and 270lbs. Liam is one of the best offensive lineman in the state.  Oneidas is another force at 6’3″ and 265lbs. However, the team will also have three new starters on the line.  The Caseys will rely on the leadership of Smith and Oneidas to help the new starters make an easy transition. Charlie Gargiulo, and Thomas Clark will step in as the starters on this offensive line. Both players have spent a lot of time working hard in the offseason. They have gotten bigger, stronger, and have worked on their technique. The final position is still up for grabs as Brandon Dente, Alex Sargiss, Connor Moore, and Michael Griggs are all fighting for the spot. Clearly, the Caseys have a lot of depth and will have no problem winning the battle in the trenches this season.

We had a chance to talk with Senior Captain Liam Smith

RBC DefenseThe Red Bank Catholic defense will line up without All-American Linebacker Jamie Gordinier for the first time in three years. Gordinier is now playing for the Miami Hurricanes after an unbelievable senior season with 117 tackles. Nick Lagrippo also had over 100 tackles in 2014. The Caseys will have to replace the production from two of the best linebackers in school history, but retooling at a position has never been a problem for this program. Seniors Dylan Murphy and Michael Wilen are ready to step in and lead this defense in the middle. Both Murphy and Wilen are big and strong players that can shoot through the gap and blow up plays. They are also athletic and can thrive in pass coverage if needed. The team will also benefit from their strong leadership skills. These two will be exactly what RBC needs to maintain their dominance on the defensive side of the ball. Joseph Hagan and Justin Noah will also be in the rotation to make an impact at this position. Hagan and Noah are both instinctive players who know how to be around the ball. Look for this group to be one of the best linebacking cores in the Shore.

The RBC defensive line was among the best in 2014. Do not expect anything less this season. Nasir Darnell and Charlie Gargiulo are both defensive ends that are very quick off the edge. These ends can use their speed and athleticism to get around offensive tackles and punish opposing quarterbacks. They will disrput the flow of any offense this season. Senior Captain Liam Smith heads up a very good group of defensive tackles. Smith is just as much of a matchup nightmare on the defensive side of the ball. It will be very hard for any offensive lineman to keep him from getting through the line. Thomas Clark and Alex Sargiss are also very powerful at the postion. Clark is a tremendous force at 255lbs, and Sargiss is 270lbs. You will not see many teams running any dive plays against this line. Look for RBC to pile up the sacks this season!

This defense will also be just as intimidating in the defensive backfield. Teams will have to think twice before trying to throw against such an athletic group. The Caseys simply do not give up big plays. Seniors Dan Lukawski and Mike Balzofiore will occupy the corner positions. Lukawski and Balzofiore both have experience from playing last year. They each had an interception during the 2014 season.

Eddie Hahn and Colin Shaughnessy return at the safety postions. They are a huge asset to the defensive backfield with their ability to make plays. Hahn is coming off a big season defensively with 2 interceptions and 12 deflected passes. Both safeties can provide support over the top, and in the box against the run. They are very smart and instinctive on the field. Liam McArdle and Anthony Purge will also provide depth in the defensive backfield. The Caseys have so much talent at this position and can go with a lot of different combinations. Look for RBC to mix and match coverages to keep other teams on their toes.

Red Bank Catholic will look to get off to a fast start. After observing camp, the team is playing together really well, and the new starters are making an easy transition. The Caseys are one of those programs’ that always seem to reload at every position. Coach Portela and his staff do a fantastic job developing young players. The kids know their roles and are always prepared both mentally and physically.

RBC speech
Photo Courtesy of MSGVarsity

This is a team that is loaded with talent at every single position. The offense will go as far as Eddie Hahn can take it. Hahn has so many weapons in the backfield, and on the outside. You can bet that the Caseys will once again put a lot of points on the board. The defense is also full of players that really bring an intimidating presence. Dylan Murphy and Michael Wilen are ready to lead the way and motivate their teammates. The defensive line is as tough as you can get and are ready to win every battle at the line of scrimmage.

For the first time in 5 years, RBC will not go into the season as the No 1 team in the Shore. You can bet that the team will go into Week 1 with a chip on their shoulder. The Caseys will look to take their 2015 campaign by storm and reclaim the No 1 spot in the Shore.  The team is also in a great position to compete for a second consecutive state championship. If the Caseys play an A game each and every week, they are capable of beating anyone in the State. The sky is the limit for this Red Bank Catholic team!

NJSR had a chance to catch up with RBC Head Coach Jim Portela


9/11 At Long Branch – 7PM

9/19 At St. Joseph’s Metuchen – 1PM

9/25 At Neptune – 7PM

10/2 vs Wall – 7PM

10/10 At Colts Neck – 12PM

10/16 At Red Bank Regional – 7PM

10/23 At Manalapan – 7PM

10/30 vs Ocean Twp – 7PM

11/6 vs Jackson Memorial – 7PM

11/13 State Tournament – 7PM

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Ryan Wydra is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the New Jersey Sports Report LLC. He is a 21 year follower of High School Sports in New Jersey and brings a passion and fire to the field. Ryan is a graduate of Stockton University and Southern Regional High School. You can follow him on twitter at @schoops1.