Getting Back On The Winning Tide: 2021 Toms River East High School Football Preview
Cloudy skies can change your whole outlook on a day, the way you prepare, the way others prepare for you, namely on a sports field.
When it's clouds mixed with rain and windy conditions, and you happen to be on the water, the vessel starts to rock and you don't have the day you envisioned to have, especially when the last few times you went out, it was sunny skies and calm seas.
The Covid-19 pandemic was just one of those cloudy days for the Toms River East Raiders in 2020, who after going 9-2 in 2019 went 3-5 a season later.
Along the way, head coach Kyle Sandberg was sidelined in training camp with his own battle against Covid-19.
"Last year was rough for us because I got Covid early on, at the beginning of camp, and it shut down everything so we didn't have a camp last year at all," Sandberg told Shore Sports Network. "When I came back, we had 3 full days of practice (before we had) to play our first game, and then we had another five days to play our second game, so it was rough last year without camp. It took us time to get to our team and we finished the year strong, obviously, with the pod play and winning that bracket."
It has been a normal training camp for the Raiders in 2021 as they hope to turn the tide onto calmer waters and pick up where they left off after the 2019 season.
"I feel like last year was a blur," Sandberg said. "I feel like 2019 was a decade ago so to me, this year, it feels like a newer year, a lot of coaching with this new group so we obviously have to do a great job with what we've built over the previous five years and yea, we're obviously hoping it continues on the path we left off before Covid."
While they would like to pick up where they left off and build upon that success in order to be back on the winning tide, everyone will have to play their best and trust the guy next to them.
"If we compete with this group, that's a great advantage as well," Sandberg said. "I've always preached that to my kids, to my teams that if we can compete and be in it in the 4th quarter and throughout the game, a lot of good things can happen."
Who lines up where for the Raiders this season -- you'll find out Week 1, maybe. Each position spot is earned through good play on this team, nothing is given. The Raiders are built tough and ready to compete for each other, the team, school, and the TRE community.
At A Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: 2-Back Pistol
QB: Eric Scanlon, Sr.; Joe Scala, Jr.
RB: Dante Carr, Sr.
RB: Anthony Encarnacion, Sr.
RB: Nick Medina, Sr.
RB: David Anema, Jr.
RB: Chris Dineen, Sr.
RB: Aidan Gallipoli, Sr.
RB: Nevin Hart, So.
RB: Amari Phillips, Jr.
RB: Michael Pond, So.
RB: Brian Schnur, Jr.
WR: Mike Bruno, Jr.
WR: Jake Buckman, So.
WR: Mossimo Elboukili, Sr.
WR: Joe McCullough, Sr.
WR: Cam Oliva, Sr.
WR: Aiden Vosper, Sr.
OL: Thomas Pravata, Sr.
OL: Nino Scala, Sr.
OL: Ryan Ushock, Jr.
OL: Derek Weltman, Jr.
OL: Brian Baxter, Sr.
OL: Isaac Claudio, Sr.
OL: Zander Hall, So.
OL: Nick Marinelli, Sr.
OL: Joe Rome, Jr.
OL: MJ Williams. So.
DL: Thomas Pravata, Sr.
DL: Brian Baxter, Sr.
DE: Jake Buckman, So.
DL: Isaac Claudio, Sr.
DL: Zander Hall, So.
DL: Nick Marinelli, Sr.
DL: Joe Rome, Jr.
DL: MJ Williams, So.
LB: Dante Carr, Sr.
LB: Nick Medina, Sr.
LB: David Anema, Jr.
LB: Mike Bruno, Jr.
LB: Aidan Gallipoli, Sr.
LB: Amari Phillips, Jr.
DB: Mehki DeVaughn, Jr.
DB: Anthony Encarnacion, Sr.
DB: Eric Scanlon, Sr.
DB: Chris Dineen, Sr.
DB: Mossimo Elboukili, Sr.
DB: Nevin Hart, So.
DB: Joe McCullough, Sr.
DB: Cam Oliva, Sr.
DB: Michael Pond, So.
DB: Joe Scala, Jr.
DB: Brian Schnur, Jr.
DB: Aiden Vosper, Sr.
K: Mike Bruno; Joe McCullough
P: Mike Bruno; Dante Carr
Head Coach: Kyle Sandberg, 6th season
Career Record: 17-31
Team Record Last Five Seasons:
Assistant Coaches: Joe Arminio Jr. (STC/LB); Andrew Bilodeau (DB); Dan Cicala (DC); Tony Durkin (RB); Frank Giannetti (STC/DL); Matt Hughes (OL); Steve Petrosino (WR); Dylan Rainieri (LB); Mario Steriti (DB); Jake McCartney (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Nick Medina, Sr., RB/LB
He's been a ball hawk on defense and one of the overall keys to the Raiders success in the last couple seasons. Now it's his senior year and Medina could get a bulk of the carries out of the backfield on offense following the graduations of Yusuf Ahmed, Gino Gallo and Matt Luty after last season. Medina is not just a top player for the Raiders, but someone who could excel at the next level as well with colleges checking in on and recruiting the senior running back/linebacker.
Player Under the Radar: Eric Scanlon, Sr., QB/DB
The door is open for Eric Scanlon. Nick Totten and Dennis Holzapfel graduated and Dante Carr, who is a senior this year, may get most of his time at running back. Scanlon has a golden opportunity to take the quarterback job and keep it if he plays well and directs the offense where it needs to go. Along with all that, colleges are checking in on Scanlon as well.
Impact Newcomer: David Anema, Jr., RB/LB
The more solid depth at running back Toms River East has, the more successful they will be on game day. David Anema has a big opportunity to show what he can do this season.
Top Position Group: Running Backs
It's been a staple of the program for years and when the running game is creme de la creme, the Raiders are in that same conversation on the field and in the standings. They lost a couple big parts of their running game to graduation again after last season and if players like Nick Medina, Dante Carr, David Anema and Anthony Encarnacion among the stable of running backs for East help fill the void and excel in what they do, the Raiders will be a team to be reckoned with this season.
Big Shoes To Fill: Anthony Encarnacion, Sr., RB/DB
Yusuf Ahmed, one of the key players at Toms River East in recent seasons, is now at Davidson College playing football. Ahmed was also a track star and is just an all around good athlete. Anthony Encarnacion will be one of the running backs tasked with helping fill the void and excelling in the running game to help propel the Raiders to more wins.
X-Factor: Mental Toughness/Execution
It's always tough to start a season on the road and Southern Regional is a tough first test for the Raiders. Frankly, it's a tough schedule throughout this season but that's the way things were perceived heading into 2019, then the Raiders went 9-2. In order for something like that to happen again, they need to pound the ball into the end zone and never look back.
But it all starts with Week 1.
"They got to have grit and they got to be intense, play with passion and fury," Sandberg said. "That's what I try to preach to these kids, it's a mentality, being tough and scrappy is something I try to implement into their heads. That goes a long way."
Friday, Sept. 2 - at Southern, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 -- vs. Toms River South, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 -- at St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 -- vs. Freehold, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 2 -- at Long Branch, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 -- at Toms River North, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 -- vs. Manasquan, 6 p.m.
Toms River East Over The Years
You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More From Shore Sports Network: