TINTON FALLS — The 2021 football season was a breakthrough year for the Monmouth Regional High School Falcons under the leadership of Coach Dan Wendel.
In his third season at the helm, Wendel guided the Falcons to the program’s first winning season since 2017. Monmouth Regional finished 6-4 and played a game in the South Jersey Group II state sectional playoffs.
Wendel believes his 2022 squad can put together a winning season and make a return trip to the state sectional playoffs.
Monmouth Regional will open the season at home on Sept. 2 against Red Bank Regional High School. The contest against the Buccaneers will mark the first time since 2010 that the Falcons have hosted a Friday night game in Tinton Falls.
“We have high expectations for this group. We want to see as a whole how collectively this program can move forward,” Wendel said.
Monmouth Regional has several players who will be starters for a third year, beginning with senior quarterback Anthony Jehn and senior running back Julian Jones.
Jehn threw for 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021, while Jones solidified himself as one of the most talented running backs in the Shore Conference by rushing for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Jones said he is hoping to have an even better season in 2022 to help the Falcons rise to the next level as a program.
“I know most of us want to come in and have a big season just like we did last year. We want to build off our team chemistry and work hard together and finish together,” he said.
Seniors Aidan Schilke (left tackle) and Lucas Bomtempo (left guard) will be three-year starters when they anchor the offensive line.
Junior Dave O’Grady (center) and senior John Pannullo (right guard) are back for another season as starters. Senior Justin May is expected to complete the offensive line at right tackle.
Jehn will be throwing to seniors Tahaj Wiggins, Prince Hostler and Sevin Dismuke. In 2021, Wiggins caught 29 passes for 534 yards and five touchdowns.
Junior Griffin Hicks will seek to make his mark as succeeds Loukas Plasteras at tight end. In 2021, Plasteras caught 18 passes (3 TDs) and he helped to clear the way for the Falcons’ ground game.
On defense, Monmouth Regional will be led by its senior linebacking corps of Jones, Eric Crossley and Nick Huisman.
Bomtempo, Schilke, Hicks and junior Daniel Kikta are set to anchor the defensive line, while Hostler and juniors Nasir Watson, Dom O’Grady and Evan Booth highlight the secondary.
Wendel said he has been very impressed with the growth he has seen from his defensive players during the off-season.
“Those kids keep getting progressively better (as a defensive group). It’s really exciting to see how much each kid has developed each year,” he said.
Senior Brandon Ramirez will handle the punting and placekicking duties.
In 2021, the Falcons won the Shore Conference National Division title.
In 2022, the Falcons will take a step up in competition as they compete in the Independence Division against Holmdel, Raritan, Point Pleasant Borough, Manasquan and Saint John Vianney.
Wendel said the Falcons are “fired up” about having an opportunity to compete in what is expected to be a tough division and want to prove they belong in the league.
“We are looking forward to the schedule and the challenges we have each week. These kids are excited for it. They want to compete against the best teams we can possibly compete against,” the coach said.
With higher expectations entering the 2022 campaign, Wendel said the season opener against Red Bank Regional will be a good test for the Falcons to see where they are at this early point in the season.
“We are excited (to play Red Bank Regional). Week one is always exciting. We have to make sure we are ready to go,” he said.