It is a strange sight to go to a Rumson-Fair Haven Regional football practice and not see Shane Fallon running the show.
Fallon, who coached the Bulldogs to the 2010 NJSIAA Central Group II championship — the only sectional football title the school has ever won — and who is the school’s all-time winningest football coach with 106 victories, resigned shortly after last season to pursue his masters degree.
Bryan Batchler, an assistant coach at RFH since 2005, is now the head coach.
And while there are slight differences between the personable Fallon and the energetic Batchler, it appears all is more than well with this program.
“It was a pretty smooth transition,” said senior middle linebacker J.T. Jennings, a three-year starter. “Batch was always one of the guys behind the scenes who put in countless hours with film and prep work and everything. It was a smoother transition than most schools would have having their head coach leave. It’s up-tempo all the time.
“(Batchler and Fallon) are very similar. Batch definitely took a lot away from Fallon.”
“(Batchler) was on the staff, but he was so a leader as far as coaches go,” said senior Peter Righi, who has moved to right offensive tackle from center and weighs 285 pounds.
And one gets the feeling Batchler, who is close friends with Fallon, is more than ready for the challenge of leading a program that has been to a sectional championship game three of the last six seasons.
“Shane started preparing me to be a head coach about four years ago, when he started saying, ‘Hey, it’s time when you need to do this (have increased responsibilities,)’ ” said Batchler, who coached the defensive backs and special teams under Fallon.
The cupboard is far from bare. Nine starters return on defense.
Among the returnees are Jennings and outside linebackers Thomas Martello and Tucker Briggs.
However, Jennings will be sidelined for at least the first three games of the season after he broke his foot in an Aug. 27 tri-scrimmage with Roxbury and Sayreville, Batchler said. Batchler hopes Jennings can return for the Red Bank Regional game on Oct. 4. Max Pfrang, a 6-foot-0, 225-pound sophomore, will take Jennings’ place.
Senior end Donald Bedell, who made a non-binding verbal commitment to Rutgers University this summer, leads the defensive line.
There will be changes on the offensive side. Danny Roberto, a solid two-year starter at quarterback, graduated. The Bulldogs will not be running the spread nearly as much as they have in recent years.
Charlie Pirrello, who was Batchler’s scholastic head coach at Northern Burlington and was also a former head coach at Holy Cross of Delran, takes over as the offensive coordinator. Pirrello coached Northern Burlington to two sectional championships and Holy Cross to a state championship.
Rumson, with returning running backs Charlie Volker and Dylan Zohn and a good-sized offensive line, led by Righi, Tim Litttefield, who will move from guard to center, will try and emphasize the running game.
“This is one of the best offensive lines we’ve had in my nine years here,” Batchler said.
Senior Brian Dunphy, who started against Holmdel two seasons ago when Roberto did not play because of injury, will likely be the starting quarterback.