Despite three dominant wins to open the season marked by outscoring the opposition, 102-14, Red Bank Catholic head coach Jim Portela will have you believe his Caseys have not yet played their best football.
After a closer look, Portela’s assertion may just be accurate.
The Caseys, ranked No. 1 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, have multiple starters on both sides of the ball injured and Larry Redaelli, the opening day starter at running back, is just coming back from injury. Despite all that, RBC’s depth and an ability of guys to step up in the absence of others has shone through so far this season.
On Friday night, the Caseys shook off a slow start before returning a kickoff for a touchdown, taking an interception back for a score and receiving 160 yards on the ground from Redaelli in his return as part of a 45-14 Shore Conference Class A Central win over St. John Vianney at Count Basie Field.
The win gives the Caseys (3-0, 2-0) 17 straight wins over Shore Conference teams dating back to a 26-25 overtime loss to Freehold on Oct. 9, 2010.
“We respect everybody we play, so we’re nervous about every team we play,” Portela said. “We have guys hurt, but we’re also playing young guys and those guys are learning on the fly. We gotta get everybody back and healthy and right now, I definitely believe our best football is ahead of us.”
The teams traded touchdown drives with St. John Vianney (1-2, 0-2) and its spread offense, tying the game on the first play of the second quarter when Steve Calari snared a 6-yard touchdown pass from Billy DeMato on second-and-goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, RBC’s James Taylor found a seam along the left side and raced 80 yards for a score as Patrick Toomey’s extra point made it 14-7.
On a night when the Caseys found points and key plays in unlikely places, the Caseys recovered a fumble on the kickoff following the return and eventually turned that into a 38-yard Toomey field goal.
Once DeMato (19-for-38, 236 yards, TD, 2 INT) got the ball back, he quickly marched the Lancers to the red zone before getting picked off by Chris Whitlock on third-and-3 from the 20. Whitlock raced 84 yards untouched down the right sideline for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Few if any teams in the area are going to run on Red Bank Catholic with great success. Red Bank and Manasquan tried to go through the air, but the Lancers’ passing attack is a different animal with DeMato and speedy senior receiver Ishmael Hyman lurking. With defensive injuries mounting, Whitlock, Taylor and the rest of the secondary was up to task for RBC, which hadn’t given up a point until Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are stepping up and accepting their role and no one is trying to do too much,” Taylor said. “Everyone just wants to do what they can do to help the team.”
After a slow start, Redaelli ran for 97 yards after halftime, including 48 yards as part of a 14-play, 89 yard drive, capped by a Mike Cordova 3-yard run off left end as Toomey’s point after made it 38-14 early in the fourth quarter.