High School Football Coverage
Greg Tufaro, @GregTufaro
Sometimes you’ve got to tear it all down before you can build it up again.
Such is the case for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School football team. Not only have the Raiders not had a winning season in 12 years, it’s finished with just one victory in each of the past four seasons, with each of those wins coming in the state consolation game.
Now, with a new head coach in Austin Holman – SPF’s third head coach in four seasons – it’s time to try a different approach, and that starts with the absolute basics.
“From the first meeting with the parents and with the players, before I knew anybody’s name, I said we’re going to get in football position,” said Holman, a first-time head football coach, a former wide receiver at Randolph High School and Bowling Green University, where he played under Urban Meyer. “We drop down in football position every day, before practice, after practice, during practice, and that’s what we need to do. We need to get better pad level to get ourselves in better position. It’s the little things. These guys were in a lot of games and let it get away from them. That’s why we’re going to take of the little things now, and hopefully that turns into big things, which equals wins.
FOOTBALL PREVIEW INDEX: A handy collection of links to the entire 2019 Courier News Mid-State 36 football preview
Holman has run the gamut as a football coach, serving as an assistant and a coordinator in all three phases during his coaching career, including stints at New Brunswick, South Brunswick, Elizabeth, Union and Colonia, being mentored by a host of big-name high school coaches. He’s also a long-time head track coach, winning a state titles at New Brunswick and Elizabeth.
Holman said he’s learned a lot from the great coaches he’s assisted, and is excited to finally have an opportunity to run his own program. One of his first orders of business was to not only get the best football players at Scotch Plains-Fanwood into the fold, but he also did a great job recruiting the best athletes in the school, and the numbers show it.
“I don’t need anybody from Westfield, Plainfield, Summit or any of the other neighboring towns,” said Holman, who credits the entire Scotch Plains-Fanwood family, including coaches from across the school’s athletic programs for helping him in his quest to rebuild. “I want the best players in Scotch Plains and Fanwood, and I believe I have that. We went out and recruited the best players on the lacrosse team, the best players on the baseball team, the best players on the basketball team and the best wrestlers in the school. All those teams have worked to be successful and have been successful, as well as the track program. I believe we have all those players now.
“The numbers have grown. When I started at my first practice on July 12, we had about 40-45. Then when we started camp, we had about 50-55, and now we’re at about 70 on the varsity. When we started, we had nine freshmen, now we have 25 freshmen. We’re getting close to that 100 number where the AD is getting calls from me that we need more helmets, more pads, more shoulder pads, and more helmet caps. He groans a little bit, but then he says, ‘That’s a great problem.’”
With a junior-heavy club, Scotch Plains-Fanwood could see its fortunes turn around for the foreseeable future if things go as planned. The Raiders have had success before, enjoying a run as a local powerhouse in the early 2000s. The hope is with the foundation being rebuilt, they can get there again – and soon.
“I’m looking for improvement,” Holman said. “Improvement on the little things. It started with football position, and then from football position we went into actually blocking and tackling. From play calling to getting lined up correctly to all the other little tidbits of football. We’re getting better at all of those and we’re going to be a better team because of that.”
Senior Jake Hahn and junior Hayden Widder are sharing the quarterback position, at least to start the season. Junior Shawn Martin will be the lead back, with sophomore Isiah Nathaniel at tight end. Junior Christian Piesch and senior returner Camden Ricci lead a stable of receivers.
Junior left tackle Kenny Yeager anchors the offensive line, as well as on the D-line at defensive end. Junior Jack Manville is at center and middle linebacker, with Hahn at corner leading the secondary. Senior slot receiver and strong safety Justin Clark should also have an impact as a first-year varsity player.
“We’re preaching in a positive way, but we’re not soft on them,” Holman said. “We’re not wiping their noses every time it runs. We go out there and we push them, and they haven’t been pushed like this before. And just like anything else, it’s tough to get it out of them, but they know it’s for the positive and they respect that. And they’re pushing to do what we’re asking them to do, even though they’ve never done it before. They have great energy out there, they’re playing together, they love each other, they’re hugging each other after plays, high-fiving and chest-bumping. They’re doing all the things successful programs do when you’re playing the right way and playing together.”
Simeon Pincus can be reached at SPincus@GannettNJ.com. Follow him on Twitter @SimeonPincus and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SimeonPincusCN
SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD RAIDERS
Coach: Austin Holman, first season
Assistants: Peter Kane (DC), Kyle Anderson (QB/DB), Dan Doherty (RB/LB), John Fletcher (OL/DL), Greg Mobus (DL/OL), Will Miska (WR), Mark Fabiano (Freshmen), Ken Hernandez (Freshmen).
Classification: North Group V
League: Mid-State 36 Delaware Division
2018 Results: (1-8 overall, 0-5 in Raritan)
at North Hunterdon L 59-27
at Montgomery L 41-21
Immaculata L 40-30
Summit L 64-26
Warren Hills L 42-14
at Governor Livingston L 28-12
at Colonia L 35-7
New Brunswick L 59-44
Kearny W 49-0 in consolation game
9/6-Holy Cross, 1 p.m.
9/13-at Carteret, 7 p.m.
9/21-Cranford, 1 p.m.
9/27-at Immaculata, 7 p.m.
10/5-North Hunterdon, 2 p.m.
10/12-Montgomery, 1 p.m.
10/18-at J.F. Kennedy, 7 p.m.
10/26-at Plainfield, 1 p.m.
11/2-Colonia, 1 p.m.
Offensive formation: Power spread
Defensive formation: 4-2-5
Returning players: Kenny Yeagar (Jr., OL/DL), Jake Hahn (Sr., QB/DB), Mike Banic (So., OL/DL), Shawn Martin (Jr. RB/DB), Camden Ricci (Sr. WR/DB).
Top newcomers: Christian Piesch (Jr., WR/OLB), Marshall Young (Jr., RB/DB), Liam Mahr (Jr., OL/DL), Jack Manville (Jr. OL/LB), Justin Clark (Sr. RB/OLB), Hayden Widder (Jr., QB), Isiah Nathaniel (So., TE/LB).