The numbers haven't been pretty for since it last appeared in a state sectional final during the 2003 season. The Bucs have produced just one non-losing season (5-5 in 2004) since then and had not won more than two games in a season until last year's 4-6 campaign.
There is a big difference for Red Bank as it heads into the 2011 season, however. Where the question used to be could the Bucs dig out of their almost decade-long hole, today's unknown is just how big of a stride they will take next.
“Expectations are really high,” said senior quarterback Terrance Scanlon. “It's almost like it's the first year here for all of us because we've never had expectations or standards to live up to. Now we have something, and it's like starting on a new slate.”
Last year Red Bank, in its second season under head coach Nick Giglio, surprised the Shore Conference with a 4-6 record that could have been even better considering a 35-34 double-overtime loss to Raritan and a 9-3 loss to eventual NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II champion Rumson-Fair Haven. The Bucs had a win over Barnegat, a South Jersey Group II playoff team, and closed out the season with a 19-0 shutout of rival Long Branch on Thanksgiving. To put perspective on how far the Bucs have come in their third season under Giglio, it was their first shutout of a Shore Conference team since defeating Lakewood, 13-0, in 2007 and their first win over Long Branch since 2003.
“We've learned a lesson that when you work hard you get more out of it,” said senior middle linebacker/running back Pat Quinn. “Guys are definitely more excited coming into the season because we know we have something to look forward to, but we still have to take it day-by-day and game-by-game.”
One of the biggest reasons for Red Bank's optimism comes in the form of its returning players, especially at the skill positions on offense. The Bucs will still be an option team but have switched from a spread wing-T to a split-back veer offense. Red Bank isn't big along the offensive line, so the change in scheme will help its offense stay true to its game plan without having to overly worry about losing the battle in the trenches.
“We feel we are in one of the toughest divisions in the Shore Conference (Class A Central) and with the size matchups we are going to face we don't really stand toe-to-toe with those teams,” Giglio said. “We have to get our running backs to the line fast and help the line out. We feel we have a perimeter passing game and that's something that works in our favor, and obviously in the option you don't have to block everybody.”
Taking over the starting quarterback duties full time will be Scanlon. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior split time between quarterback and wide receiver last season, starting three game under center. Scanlon grew a couple inches in the offseason and looks the part of a top quarterback with a strong, accurate arm and the ability to make plays outside of the pocket and be a factor in the running game. He has garnered collegiate interest from and Wagner.
The running back corps includes Quinn, junior Jahimere Hinton, senior Ajhan Wilson and junior Tajhi Tomaino. Tomaino, who saw time at both running back and receiver last year, will play both positions this season. He will be joined on the perimeter by senior Tyheem Crawford, a returning starter, who gives Scanlon a major weapon on the outside with his speed and athleticism. Another receiver that will see time is 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior Nick Patterson. Shifting from offensive line to tight end will be junior Garrett Sickels. One of the Shore Conference's most heavily-recruited players, Sickels already has offers from Tennessee, Florida, Central Florida, Rutgers, Georgia and most recently, Stanford, as a defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is yet another option for Scanlon in the passing game and also supplies an experienced blocker to assist the running game.
“I played tight end my freshman year and last year I was at left tackle because that's where the team needed me,” Sickels said. “My job is to do my best to help out the team, but I'm definitely excited to be back at tight end.”
The offensive line features a pair of returning starters on the right side in senior Tyler Karalewich, a guard, and junior Anthony Sarbello, a tackle. Junior Dillon Stambaugh played his way into the starting lineup last season as a sophomore and will be a two-way starter this season. Also an accomplished wrestler for the Bucs, Stambaugh will line up at center along the offensive line. The left side of the line has 240-pound senior Mike Wagner at guard and junior Wylie Bogden at tackle.
“We lost a lot of big lineman from last year, and while we might be undersized this year we have confidence in them,” Scanlon said.
Defensively, the Bucs will run a 3-3-5 odd stack, which is becoming one of the more popular defenses in the Shore Conference because of the ability it gives coaches to create confusion at the line of scrimmage. For the defense to work, however, the three down lineman need to be solid, and Red Bank feels it has the players to make it happen. Junior Issac Coates, a 285-pounder, will be the nose tackle with Sickels and Karalewich as the defensive ends.
A strong group of linebackers includes Quinn as the middle 'backer' with Stambaugh and Wilson as the outside linebackers. Senior Charlie Bonanno will also see playing time at outside linebacker. The strong safeties, who can play back and are also walked up close to the line of scrimmage, are Crawford and Hinton. The cornerbacks are Tomaino and 5-foot-11 senior Seph Williams, and the free safety is junior Ross Gisondi.
“With that defense we have people that can run and people that can stand up and play linebacker – and we have multiple people there,” Giglio said. “But we need the front three to stabilize the line and let the linebackers run, and we feel we have the kids to do that.”
On special teams, senior Mike Malley will be the kicker and Gisondi will be the punter.
Another step in the right direction is certainly on the horizon for Red Bank. They have the players and are instilling a winning culture. The big question is whether they can live up to expectations from both inside and outside the program.
“We have to play with a chip on our shoulder,” Quinn said. “And play every game without overlooking anybody.”