RAHWAY – Moving one step closer to their ultimate goal of winning a state championship last season, this year’s Indians have a blend of returning top-notch talent and youthful exuberance primed to blossom.
Key players back include highly-regarded returning starters such Mark Bails at wide receiver, Brayden Pierre-Louis at tight end, linemen Tahlee Bailey and Joshua Darisme and middle linebacker Qualil Lumpkin – all seniors.
Players expected to succeed the likes of graduated standouts Jakir Robinson, Zion Pendleton, Dashon Moore and Shimei Page are senior quarterback Nasir Arribas, senior running back Rashon Bradford, sophomore linebacker Ashon Harris and senior strong safety Mekhi McFadden.
Gone by way of transfer is junior lineman Tyler Phillips (6-6, 360), who is now playing in Bergen County at St. Joseph’s, Montvale.
“Expectations are still high, although this is definitely a different team,” said head coach Brian Russo, who is now in his fifth season at the helm of the Indians. “We lost Zion Pendleton and Dashon Moore and Jakir Robinson and three linemen, so we have our work cut out for us, with our skill guys needing some experience.”
Rahway reached the North 2, Group 3 final last year for the first time since 2008. The Indians are still seeking to win the section for the first time since 1984.
“It’s always a matter of executing and a little bit of luck,” Russo said. “We need to improve our overall team discipline and learn to take advantage of the little things. The kids have to really listen.”
Arribas takes over the controls at quarterback after Robinson – now at Wesley – helped lead Rahway to 24 wins the past three seasons.
“Nasir is a young kid with a live arm who is still learning the offense and the right reads,” Russo said. “We’ve been impressed so far. He has the ability to throw the ball and can stretch the field.”
After not playing as a sophomore, Bails had a fine junior season and is considered one of the top wide receivers in Union County.
“He’s maturing a lot and is a heck of an athlete,” Russo said. ‘He’s long, strong and fast and is having a good camp.”
Another big, proven target Arribas has to throw the ball to is Pierre-Louis.
“Brayden is big, physical, very smooth and has good hands,” Russo said. “His attitude and condition will determine what kind of player he will be. He has tremendous potential.”
Lumpkin and Page were a force in the middle on defense last year. Now Lumpkin is the middle linebacker.
Bailey and Darisme are the leaders on both lines.
“We expect Qualil to be very active,” Russo said. “He really worked hard in the off season. Bailey and Darisme just go hard every day in practice and are invaluable to this team.”
Rahway came close to winning a state title last year, going one step further than the year before. Can the Indians go that next step this season?
“The kids had the feeling of winning and some (those returning) were there and competed at that level,” Russo said. “We have some seasoned kids and at the same time we have others playing varsity for the first time.
“We expect our kids to be tough all the time, while are goals are always to get into the tournament and see what happens from there.”
Rahway’s game-scrimmage will be at home vs. Westfield at Rahway River Park on Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.
The Indians will remain at home for their first two games of the year, back-to-back Friday night contests vs. Voorhees on Sept. 13 and Gov. Livingston on Sept. 20.
“At Rahway one thing is that we get tough kids who love to compete,” Russo said. “Those are big qualities in any football player – kids who want to work and are willing to learn.
“We instill the culture of a physical brand of football. Every year is different. Our kids realize how hard it is to win one game. We try to build momentum – like last year – for our kids to make their mark.”
NOTES: The Mid-State’s Mountain Division was realigned, with Cranford leaving and Summit and Warren Hills coming over from the Raritan Division.
So the seven-school Mountain Division this year consists of North Plainfield, Somerville, Gov. Livingston, Rahway, Summit, Voorhees and Warren Hills.
RAHWAY’S MULTIPLE-I OFFENSE:
T Tahlee Bailey, senior, (6-2, 245)
T Syhir McCook, junior, (6-1, 325)
C Brandan Glikin, junior, (6-0, 230)
G Joshua Darisme, senior, (6-0, 250)
G Dante Puma, senior, (5-9, 245)
TE Brayden Pierre-Louis, senior, (6-0, 240)
WR Mark Bails, senior, (6-3, 180)
WR Brandon Burnett, junior, (5-11, 175)
WR De’Zhon Kane, senior, (6-0, 185)
WR Brian Streat, senior, (5-8, 160)
WR Amajuiwon Murray, junior, (5-7, 130)
QB Nasir Arribas, senior, (5-10, 165)
QB Jeff Rodriguez, sophomore, (6-0, 160)
RB Emari Guillette, senior, (5-7, 160)
RB Ashon Harris, sophomore, (5-8, 170)
RB Rashon Bradford, senior, (5-9, 170)
FB Kevin Martin, senior, (6-2, 210)
FB Isaiah Bouie, senior, (5-10, 210)
FB Reggie Howard, junior, (6-0, 220)
PK Chris Sola, senior, (6-1, 285)
Returning starters (4): Bailey, Darisme,
RAHWAY’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Tahlee Bailey, senior, (6-2, 245)
E Brayden Pierre-Louis, senior, (6-0, 240)
T Joshua Darisme, senior, (6-0, 250)
T Dante Puma, senior, (5-9, 245)
T Reggie Howard, junior, (6-0, 220)
OLB De’Zhon Kane, senior, (6-0, 185)
OLB Brandon Middleton, junior (5-10, 205)
OLB Isaiah Bouie, senior, (5-10, 210)
OLB Navin Quinones, junior, (5-8, 175)
OLB Donnell Doster, sophomore, (5-8, 175)
MLB Qualil Lumpkin, senior, (6-0, 200)
OLB Ashon Harris, sophomore, (5-8, 170)
OLB Emari Guillette, senior, (5-7, 160)
OLB Amajuwon Murray, junior, (5-7, 130)
SS-OLB Mekhi McFadden, junior, (6-1, 160)
CB Mark Bails, senior, (6-3, 180)
CB Brandon Burnett, junior, (5-11, 175)
CB Brian Streat, senior, (5-8, 160)
CB Khalid Murray, senior, (5-9, 160)
CB Malachi Archibald, sophomore
S Rashon Bradford, junior, (5-9, 170)
S Christian Rogers, junior, (5-9, 160)
Long snapper: Jeremy Myles, junior
P Pierre-Louis and Bails
Returning starters (7): Bailey, Pierre-Louis,
Darisme, Lumpkin, Bails, Burnett, Bradford.
RAHWAY INDIANS 2019
Sept. 13 Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Gov. Livingston, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Summit, 1 p.m.
Oct. 4 North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 Cranford, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Somerville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Warren Hills, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 at St. Joseph’s, Metuchen, 2 p.m.
Nov. 28 Johnson, 10 a.m.
Head coach: Brian Russo,
2018 RAHWAY INDIANS (10-2)
(H) Somerville 42, Rahway 31
(A) Rahway 35, Voorhees 7
(A) Rahway 22, Cranford 0
(A) Rahway 52, North Plainfield 12
(H) Rahway 61, Carteret 15
(H) Rahway 21, Immaculata 0
(H) Rahway 35, North Hunterdon 9
(A) Rahway 49, Gov. Livingston 0
(H) Rahway 48, Parsippany Hills 21
(H) Rahway 28, South Plainfield 7
(A) Summit 36, Rahway 14
(A) Rahway 34, Johnson 13
Head coach: Brian Russo,
Section: North, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Mountain, 4-1
Points for: 430
Points against: 162
Head coach: Brian Russo, since 2015.
A 1996 Woodbridge graduate.
Fifth season: 27-16 (.628)
Conference: Mid-State 37
Section: North, Group 3
Rahway’s last sectional title: 1984
2018: (10-1 and 4-1, second in Mountain Division)
Rahway River Park: Turf.
Russo guided Rahway to its first state championship
game (the North 2, Group 3 final) in 10 years last season
following a nine-game winning streak. Russo also led
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 two years ago.
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.