football season opened Saturday with high expectations. Seniors who, as freshmen, went undefeated, led the team onto the field, and the crowd was treated to a beautiful rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" by senior Breyonna Clark.
But the game ended on a realistic, if somber, note. Red Bank Catholic won 47-0 and, as RBR Coach Nick Giglio observed afterward, "showed why they are the best team on the Shore."
The Bucs played without senior standout Dillon Stambaugh, who likely would have helped contain the score. But at the end of the day, RBR was simply outmatched in this non-conference game.
Before a capacity crowd at Red Bank Regional High School, under partly cloudly skies and the humidity of one of the last days of summer, RBR fought hard for four quarters. The Bucs' Will Noglows, Isaac Coates, Garrett Sickels and Wylie Bogden met RBC's captains at midfield for the coin toss. RBC won, elected to kick, and buried the ball in the endzone. RBR started out on its own 20.
Senior Alex Fox, starting at quarterback, pushed hard, but the Bucs were forced to punt deep in their own territory. RBR senior Ross Gisondi punted, and then ran upfield to tackle the Casey's punt returner. It was the beginning of a see-saw battle and a scoreless first quarter.
The Casey's threatened on their first possession of the game, but RBR junior Mario Williams recovered a Casey fumble in the endzone, and the Bucs took over at their own 20 at 7:12 of the first quarter. But RBR's Fox was sacked, giving rise to a fourth and long for the Bucs. Again, the Bucs punted.
The Caseys took over at their own 44 at 5:46 of the firstquarter. Again, the Bucs held on, with Gisondi sacking RBC quarterback Patrick Toomey, forcing the Caseys to punt.
RBR started out at its own 27, but RBC intercepted a Fox pass, and the first quarter ended with the Caseys on the Bucs' 4 yard line. On the first play of the second quarter, RBC running back Michael Cordova carried the ball into the endzone. With the extra point, RBC went up 7-0, and the Caseys scored again with just under six minutes left in the second quarter, and then again, on a Toomey pass into the endzone just before the end of the second quarter. On the Bucs' next possession, senior Jahimere Hinton ran the ball to the 50-yard line, but was pulled down as time ran out in the half.
The third quarter went no better for the Bucs. Cordova ran one in for the Caseys, and a safety at 10:44 of the third quarter put the Caseys ahead 30-0. Toomey threw another touchdown pass for RBC with just over eight minutes remaining in the third, and the extra point put the Caseys up 37-0.
But the Caseys weren't finished. With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, the Caseys kicked a 32-yard field goal. A Bucs fumble on their own five yard line ended the Bucs' scoring chances in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Fox, senior running back Will Noglows and sophomore running back Trevor Riley combined to move the ball, but the Bucs lost the ball on downs with just over three minutes remaining. The Caseys took over at the 45 yard line and ran it in for a touchdown with just over a minute left in the game. With the extra point, the final score was Caseys 47, Bucs 0.
RBR's coach Giglio observed that the Bucs "have a lot of new faces. There's a learning curve, and one of the things they need to learn is a sense of urgency."
But he noted that RBC is an outstanding team, and that the Bucs would be back to work this week on the fundamentals. The Bucs next play this Friday night at Wall Township.
On a personal note, at the beginning of the game, the crowdobserved a moment of silence for , who passed away on Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Bitman, a former football player and the father of two RBR graduates, would surelyhave been at the game. Surely, too, he would have left the game never doubting that the Bucs will put more wins on the board this year than losses.
Bob Neff serves as the mayor of Little Silver and has a son who plays for the Bucs.