RAHWAY – The Indians were one win away from playing for a state championship last year and leading their semifinal game before falling at eventual North 2, Group 3 champion West Essex.
Hoping to get back to that spot and then go one step further, Rahway has returning quarterback Jakir Robinson leading its Multiple-I offense once again.
“Jakir’s work-ethic is second-to-none,” head coach Brian Russo said. “He put on some good weight and took the weight room seriously.
“He’s led by example the whole summer.”
Another key senior skill position player back is Zion Pendleton – Rahway’s jack-of-all-trades, but in this case also a master-of-many.
Pendleton is Rahway’s lead running back, a ferocious linebacker and also a gifted kick returner.
“He’s one of the best players in our league,” Russo said. “Whether it’s on offense, defense or special teams, he can do it all.
“Zion is willing to do anything and plays with a great motor.”
Dashon Moore is another returning senior member of the backfield.
“Dashon plays huge,” Russo said. “We’re expecting good years from both him and Pendleton running the ball.
“Offensively we’ve been pretty good the last two years. We have to get our young guys to step up, especially at wide receiver.”
Replacing senior wide receivers from last year including Keyshawn Cummings and Jerish Halsey will not be easy. Taking over at that position are senior Andrew Wright, junior Mark Bails and sophomore Nasir Arribas.
One of Rahway’s six returning players on offense is senior placekicker Jonathan Cardoza, one of the best in Union County.
Rahway has five returning starters on defense, including senior Shimei Paige, junior Qualil Lumpkin and Pendleton at linebacker. Joshua Dorisme, a tackle, returns on the line, while Moore returns at safety.
Dwayne Hill is another senior safety. Bails is a cornerback.
“We need Bails and Hill to communicate in order to take their game to the next level,” Russo said.
Players lost to college include lineman Terrell Frazier, now at FDU; and cornerback Patrick Green, now at Montclair State.
Halsey, who represented Rahway in the North-South All-Star Game at Kean, is playing at Wesley, Delaware along with teammates Key’mann Coleman and Dominick Williams.
Playing at Rowan is David Hall. Someone who lettered in football and track at Rahway, Ruben Pierre, transferred to Rowan from Valdosta State.
Rahway gets a huge test right off the bat when the Indians host defending Central Jersey, Group 3 champion Somerville Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. at Rahway River Park.
Rahway was the only team to defeat Somerville last year, which finished 11-1, one year after posting a 10-1 record that saw them lose to Rumson-Fair Haven in the CJ, G3 semifinals.
Somerville was previously 2-8 in 2012, 0-10 in 2013 and 2014 and 2-8 again in 2015.
Rahway won at Somerville 27-6 last year, which snapped a two-game losing streak in Game No. 5.
“We played a real good schedule last year and have another tough one this year,” Russo said.
Rahway’s Middlesex County crossover game is home against Carteret Oct. 5.
For at least this year, Rahway will still play Johnson again on Thanksgiving. This year’s game is at Johnson. Rahway has won the last two.
“I know Thanksgiving is a big issue, but I really don’t want to play on Thanksgiving,” Russo said. “I would rather have more time off in between sports.
“I would still like to play Johnson and keep that rivalry, just play the game earlier.”
LG Jymier Anderson, senior, (5-10, 295)
LT Nick Weakland, senior, (6-3, 330)
C Joshua Barthelus, senior, (6-0, 210)
RT Tahlee Bailey, junior, (6-2, 225)
RG Joshua Dorisme, junior, (6-0, 225)
QB Jakir Robinson, senior, (6-2, 175)
RB Zion Pendleton, senior, (5-9, 165)
RB Dashon Moore, senior, (5-8, 160)
TE Brayden Pierre-Louis, junior, (6-1, 225)
SE Mark Bails, junior, (6-3, 170)
SE Nasir Arribas, sophomore, (5-9, 155)
SE Andrew Wright, senior, (5-8, 145)
HB Samad Anglin, senior, (5-9, 180)
PK Jonathan Cardoza, senior, (5-10, 195)
Returning starters (6): Anderson, Bailey,
Robinson, Pendleton, Moore, Cardoza.
RAHWAY’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Tahlee Bailey, junior, (6-2, 225)
T Jymier Anderson, senior, (5-10, 295)
T Fernando Cardoza, senior, (5-11, 245)
T Joshua Dorisme, junior, (6-0, 225)
E Kevin Martin, junior, (6-2, 200)
E Joshua Barthelus, senior, (6-0, 210)
LB Shimei Paige, senior, (5-11, 220)
LB Qualil Lumpkin, junior, (5-10, 185)
LB Zion Pendleton, senior, (5-9, 165)
LB Brayden Pierre-Louis, junior, (6-1, 225)
CB Mark Bails, junior, (6-3, 170)
CB Brandon Burnett, sophomore, (5-10, 145)
S Dashon Moore, senior, (5-8, 160)
S Dwayne Hill, senior, (6-0, 175)
S Rashon Bradford, sophomore, (5-7, 150)
P Jonathan Cardoza, senior, (5-10, 195)
Returning starters (5): Dorisme, Paige,
Lumpkin, Pendleton, Moore.
RAHWAY INDIANS 2018
Sept. 7 Somerville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 Carteret, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Immaculata, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 North Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 at Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 at Johnson, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Brian Russo,
2017 RAHWAY INDIANS (7-4)
(A) Rahway 35, Hillside 21
(H) Rahway 42, Gov. Livingston 14
(A) Cranford 24, Rahway 14
(H) Voorhees 38, Rahway 21
(A) Rahway 27, Somerville 6
(H) Rahway 64, Scotch Plains 24
(H) Summit 34, Rahway 14
(A) Rahway 35, North Plainfield 12
(A) Rahway 45, Summit 37
(A) West Essex 28, Rahway 14
(H) Rahway 21, Johnson 13
Head coach: Brian Russo,
Section: North 2, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Mountain, 3-2
Points for: 346
Points against: 251
Head coach: Brian Russo, since 2015.
A 1996 Woodbridge graduate.
Fourth season: 17-14 (.548)
Conference: Mid-State 36
Section: North, Group 3
Rahway’s last sectional title: 1984
2017: (7-4 and 3-2, fourth in Mountain Division)
Rahway River Park: Field Turf.
Russo guided Rahway to the Central Jersey, Group 3
playoffs his first two seasons at the helm and the Indians
to the North 2, Group 3 semifinals last season.
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. His 2009 team,
as the eighth seed, won at top-seeded Union 23-14 in
a North 2, Group 4 quarterfinal.