The 2012 high school football season was a glorious one for the Red Wings of Hoboken, who captured the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state championship at MetLife Stadium with a convincing 39-9 rout of Roselle Park.
The one-sided victory capped a dominating three-game run in the state playoffs, as the Red Wings outscored their three playoff opponents, namely Dunellen, Dayton Regional, and Roselle Park, by a lopsided combined score of 128-23, giving the program its first state title since the undefeated 12-0 campaign in 2005.
The Red Wings lost their two main offensive cogs, namely Hudson Reporter Most Valuable Player Donte Carter and Rahmein Herron, to graduation, so it has forced veteran head coach Lou Taglieri, the 2012 Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year, to scramble a little to find suitable replacements as he begins his ninth season as the Red Wings’ head coach.
“No question, Carter and Herron were special players,” said Taglieri, mentioning that both are currently playing college football. “To say that I’m going to be able to replace them, I can’t. So we’re putting that state championship in a vault and looking to find a way for these kids to find an identity for themselves.”
It could very well mean that the Red Wings will throw the ball more, even out of the conventional run-oriented Delaware Wing-T formation, considering that quarterback Dante Bass and his top receiver Kain Dunham both return.
Both players had moments of brilliance last season. Dunham made one of the best receptions ever recorded in Hoboken in the Red Wings’ late-season rout of Jefferson and had another sensational grab in the state championship game at MetLife Stadium.
“We do have a pretty good quarterback and a pretty good receiver,” Taglieri said. “We also have two very good tight ends, so we’d like to throw it a little more. We’ve worked on that a lot so far. It loosens things up for our offense. We’re not going to be afraid to use it.”
Bass, a 5-10, 180-pound senior, has to become the team’s leader this season.
“He hasn’t hit his full potential yet,” Taglieri said. “He’s coming along. We might have to go through Bass this season to be successful.”
Dunham (6-1, 190) has received his share of offers from schools like Wagner and Towson.
“He’s very aggressive,” Taglieri said. “He goes up and gets the ball. He’s not afraid of going to get the ball.”
Taglieri is a little unsure of his backfield situation.
“We have more than enough talent there,” Taglieri said. “They just have to get better. There’s no substitute for experience and we don’t have it in the backfield. We want kids who can run the ball and not put the ball on the ground.”
One returning player is senior Terry Perry (5-9, 185), who gained more than 400 yards as a fill-in for Carter and Herron last season.
“He got more than his fair share of carries,” Taglieri said. “We’re counting on him to do more this year.”
Taglieri is high on junior Josh Mercado (5-10, 180).
“I really like him,” Taglieri said “He’s very athletic and can run and jump. He also catches the ball pretty well out of the backfield.”
Junior Michael Williamson (5-10, 175) and sophomores Marquis Roberts (5-9, 160) and Kyeise Lopez (5-8, 170) are all battling for playing time in the Red Wing backfield.
“Plain and simple, they have to block as well,” Taglieri said of his running backs. “If they don’t block, they don’t play.”
Taglieri also likes his two tight ends, namely seniors
Robert Montanez (6-1, 240) and Dashawn Reed (6-2, 220). There will be some sets where the Red Wings put both tight ends on the field together.
The Red Wings have a huge offensive line, spearheaded by junior tackle Daniel Clifford (6-4, 280), who is a big-time Division I talent. Clifford is going to get his fair share of offers from major college programs before he graduates in 2015.
Senior Noel Gonzalez (6-1, 230) is the other tackle, with senior Monaque Younger (5-11, 240) and junior Eric Benekin (5-10, 225) at guards and talented junior Preston Mars (6-0, 220) at center.
The Red Wings’ defensive unit looks solid.
Reed is a player to watch at defensive end.
“He’s a hell of a defensive player,” Taglieri said of Reed. “As Reed goes, so does our defense.”
Benekin is the other defensive end, with Younger and Clifford at defensive tackle. Montanez will also rotate in at defensive tackle.
The linebackers are Gonzalez and Mars, who returns to his starting position where he dominated many times last season.
The Red Wings utilize five defensive backs to capitalize on their speed and athleticism.
“More coaches are going to a 4-2-5 set, because they have more athletes who can play in the secondary,” Taglieri said.
Perry and sophomore Daquil Neal (5-11, 165) are the cornerbacks. Neal has enjoyed a sensational preseason to earn the starting nod.
Dunham and Bass are the safeties, with Mercado serving as the rover back, moving up as a linebacker at times while focusing on the secondary most of the time.
“The best athletes have to play,” Taglieri said.
The Red Wings open the 2013 season at Memorial on Thursday, Sept. 12.
Taglieri doesn’t know what to make of his team just yet.
“It’s too early to make a judgment about this team,” Taglieri said. “After Week 4 or 5, you can come and talk to me.”
By then, the Red Wings will be steamrolling their way toward another state playoff bid, with a second straight state title not out of the question. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.