RAHWAY – It was an interesting first-year for Rahway head coach Brian Russo a year ago.
The Indians first lost consecutive one-touchdown games, but then bounced back to beat Hillside and Bernards on the road to even their record at 2-2.
Then a three-game losing streak followed, the last two defeats by one touchdown and then by one point.
However, a playoff berth in Central Jersey, Group 3 was still on the line on the playoff cutoff date weekend.
This time, again on the road, Rahway came out on top by one point as the Indians found a way to win at Governor Livingston 21-20 and make the grade for the first time in CJ, G3.
Although a young Indians team finished just 3-7, they still were able to make the playoffs and then gave CJ, G2 semifinalist Johnson a good game in their season-finale before falling 21-17.
In conclusion, there were five losses last season that could have gone the other way.
“We really had one senior last year and I was proud of the way our kids fought,” Russo said. “We have to finish games this time.”
Back to guide the Multiple-I offensive scheme is senior quarterback Zahir Wilder.
“We’ve been limiting his reps on defense so he can focus more at quarterback,” Russo said. “He’s become more of a leader in the huddle and more of a team guy. His mechanics have improved and he has more of a burst.
“Thankfully, he’s healthy.”
Rahway has eight returning starters on offense, including a rotation of four tailbacks and two fullbacks.
“We have some speed there,” Russo said. “We have a number of kids that can really move it.”
Russo also has eight returning starters on defense and begins the conversation there with senior inside linebacker A.J. Smith.
“He’s a great kid and a great student,” Russo said. “He’s an extension of a coach on the field.”
Russo also has high hopes for senior end Jay-Quan Johnson.
“He has the body and the speed and strength,” Russo said. “He’s still figuring out the position.”
Rahway lost Marquis Muschett, a key player for the Indians as a junior last season, to Pope John of Sparta.
“With one year under my belt I feel that I have a better relationship with the kids,” Russo said. “The kids spent a lot of time in the weight room in the winter, spring and summer for my first full season with them.
“We’re trying to establish a team-first attitude.”
Rahway is scheduled to open its season Sept. 10 at home at Veterans Field against Hillside, with kickoff – as of now – set for 1 p.m.
“Hillside is very athletic, has a new coach and his ready to go, so we really have to be prepared,” Russo said. “A have a lot of respect for all of the teams in our division.”
Rahway remains in the Mountain Division of the Mid-State 38 Conference. The six teams in the Mountain Division this year are Rahway, Somerville, Cranford, Gov. Livingston, Voorhees and North Plainfield.
Hillside is one of six teams situated in the Valley Division.
Rahway, which went 0-4 at home last year, won its last home game against Hillside two years ago by the score of 35-12, which was the only Indians victory in 2014.
LT Terrell Frazier, junior, (6-2, 225)
LG Jymier Anderson, sophomore, (5-9, 250)
C Axton Cederquist, senior, (6-4, 230)
RG Fahrod Davis, senior, (6-0, 250)
RT Vincent Rogers, senior, (6-0, 290)
TE David Hall, junior, (6-2, 210)
FB Dominic Williams, junior, (6-0, 225)
FB Key’maan Coleman, junior, (5-8, 175)
TB Terrance Anderson, senior, (5-8, 185)
TB Zion Pendleton, sophomore, (5-8, 150)
TB Dashon Moore, sophomore, (5-6, 130)
TB Nasir Velez, senior, (5-7, 140)
QB Zahir Wilder, senior, (6-0, 175)
WR Jerrish Halsey, junior, (5-10, 140)
WR Keyshawn Cummings, junior, (6-0, 170)
WR Qadreek Strickland, senior, (5-10, 150)
WR Justin Lacefield, senior, (5-7, 150)
PK Oliver Watson, junior, (6-3, 200)
Returning starters (8): J. Anderson, Davis,
Rogers, Williams, Coleman, T. Anderson,
RAHWAY’S 4-4 DEFENSE:
E Jay-Quan Johnson, senior, (6-2, 250)
T Vincent Rogers, senior, (6-0, 290)
T Jymier Anderson, sophomore, (5-9, 250)
T Fahrod Davis, senior, (6-0, 250)
T Axton Cederquist, senior, (6-4, 230)
E David Hall, junior, (6-2, 210)
E Dominic Williams, junior, (6-0, 225)
ILB A.J. Smith, senior, (5-10, 185)
ILB Bernard Howell, senior, (5-10, 175)
OLB Christian Collins, senior, (5-11, 155)
OLB Qadreek Strickland, senior, (5-10, 150)
OLB Zion Pendleton, sophomore, (5-8, 150)
CB Raul Torres, junior, (5-7, 150)
CB Nasir Velez, senior, (5-7, 140)
S Justin Lacefield, senior, (5-7, 150)
P Bernard Howell, senior, (5-10, 175)
Returning starters (8): Johnson, Rogers,
Smith, Howell, Strickland, Pendleton,
Head coach: Brian Russo, since 2015.
A 1996 Woodbridge graduate.
Second season: 3-7 (.300)
Conference: Mid-State 38
Section: Central Jersey, Group 3
Rahway’s last sectional title: 1984
2015: (3-7 and 2-3, tied third Mountain Division)
Veterans Field: Grass.
Russo’s nine-season (2003-2011) record at Woodbridge
was 48-45 (.516), including three winning seasons,
three .500 campaigns, five playoff seasons
and two playoff victories, both coming on the road.
Russo guided his first and last Woodbridge squads
to 8-3 marks, with the 2011 team – as the sixth seed –
winning at third-seeded Burlington Township 24-21
in a Central Jersey, Group 3 quarterfinal.
Rahway’s 21-20 win at Gov. Livingston enabled it to
qualify for last year’s CJ, G3 playoffs.
RAHWAY INDIANS 2016
Sept. 10 Hillside, 1 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.
Sept. 24 Cranford, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 Somerville, 1 p.m.
Oct. 22 at Scotch Plains, 2 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Summit, 1 p.m.
Nov. 5 North Plainfield, 2 p.m.
Nov. 24 Johnson, 10:30 a.m.
2015 RAHWAY INDIANS (3-7)
(A) Roselle 7, Rahway 0
(H) Warren Hills 28, Rahway 21
(A) Rahway 20, Hillside 14
(A) Rahway 14, Bernards 6
(A) Delaware Valley 42, Rahway 7
(H) Voorhees 24, Rahway 17
(H) Summit 13, Rahway 12
(A) Rahway 21, Gov. Livingston 20
(A) Rumson-Fair Haven 43, Rahway 6
(H) Johnson 21, Rahway 17
Head coach: Brian Russo,
Section: Central Jersey, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Mountain 2-3
Points for: 135
Points against: 218