The Red Wings return a host of players from last year's team that suffered a shocking 14-13 loss to Cedar Grove in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state playoffs, some of whom are the objects of desire for the major college recruiters.
So with a veteran, talented team in hand, head coach Lou Taglieri, entering his fourth season as the Hoboken head coach, knows that anything short of a state championship run would brand the season as a complete disappointment.
"Without a doubt," Taglieri said. "There's no question that it should be a goal for every single one of them. We have a senior-dominated team. Ask each one of them and they'll tell you that they're playing for a state championship."
Taglieri was fortunate enough to take the 2005 Red Wings to the state title, but they've fallen short in the last two seasons. This is a team that has all the goods.
However, the Red Wings will be forced to face some top-flight competition to kick off the new season. They begin the season with a game against James Hillhouse High School of New Haven, Connecticut on Sept. 13 at JFK Stadium, then travel to Montvale to face state-ranked power St. Joseph of Montvale a week later.
"We have to win one of those first two games," Taglieri said. "It's like they're playoff games already, right from the beginning. They better be ready to play those games. It's going to be a handful. To be alive at the end of the season, we have to get at least one of those games."
Taglieri said that last year's team was a relatively unknown entity.
"We really didn't know what we had last year," Taglieri said. "Sometimes, we played like a good team and other times, we didn't know what was going to show up. And in the end, that showed. But this team knows itself now. They know what's expected of them. They know about the Hoboken teams of the past. But they can't live on the Hoboken tradition just because they have a Red Wing on their helmets."
Taglieri said that his team was bolstered by the opportunity to go away to training camp for a week last month, going to Camp Pontiac in Copague, N.Y. with other schools like Union City High School.
"It really helped the team to come together, because we hadn't been away for years," Taglieri said. "It helped to get us ready."
The Red Wings certainly have enough talent in their backfield, spearheaded by four players who will get their fair share of carries.
Leading the way is senior halfback Colin Edwards (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), who missed a good portion of last season with a severe shoulder injury. The speedy and powerful Edwards is 100 percent healthy and ready for the challenge of being the Red Wings' go-to guy.
"He had a great off-season," Taglieri said of Edwards. "He's definitely the one that people have to keep their eye on. He's a tough runner and he's very quick."
Senior Zach Markle (5-9, 180) is a tough, straight-ahead type runner. He's joined by senior Desmond Bates (5-11, 180) and sophomore Jason Montalvo (5-8, 160), who has the potential to be the best of the bunch.
"I could never dare compare someone with Tyrell [Dortch, the former Red Wing All-State standout]," Taglieri said. "But Jason does things, like gliding instead of running, that only Tyrell did."
Seniors Cory Willis (6-2, 190) and Robert Foster (6-3, 190) will handle the receiving duties. Senior Nate Arocho (5-9, 185), the baseball standout who is playing football for the first time, is the starter at tight end.
The offensive line returns totally intact, led by two players who are getting their fair share of NCAA Division I offers and another who will certainly have his allotment of scholarship offers as well.
The Red Wings' bookend tackles of Isaac Holmes (6-3, 290) and Michael Douglas (6-4, 305) are as good as any in New Jersey. Holmes is considering offers from the University of Miami, Florida, and Maryland, but mostly as a defensive tackle. Douglas will definitely have colleges calling once he gets the necessary SAT scores.
The guards are seniors Dom Perkins (5-10, 230) and Bernardo Nunez (6-3, 240), the Red Wings' other big-time prospect. Nunez, who is being recruited as a defensive end, is considering offers from Rutgers, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
The center is senior Justin Rubio (5-11, 270). There's plenty of size and experience on that offensive line.
"I couldn't ask for anything better than that," Taglieri said. "They have all played together for three years and their assignments haven't changed."
The defense is comprised by most of the offensive players. Holmes returns to the defensive tackle slot, where he's earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors the last two years. The same can be said for Nunez at defensive end, another two-time All-Area honoree.
Douglas joins Holmes at defensive tackle, while Rubio joins Nunez at defensive end.
The linebacker group includes returning starters Markle and Willis, along with newcomer Arocho. The secondary features Edwards and Montalvo at cornerback, with Bates and junior Travis Rivera (5-10, 175) at safety. Junior Anthony Corella (5-10, 185) will also see a lot of time at linebacker.
Being a Group I team that faces a bunch of larger schools all season, it shouldn't be hard for the Red Wings to qualify for the state playoffs and eventually earn the top seed. The power point parade will continue to mount with every passing week.
"I think we have to get to four wins to get in," Taglieri said. "It's just going to be a problem getting those four wins."
No, it won't. The Red Wings will roll into the state playoffs in November with more than a puncher's chance of winning another state championship. It has to be the goal, especially with a team with that much talent.