RAHWAY, NJ — There are six returning players on the defensive side of the ball, including four seniors.
However, that’s pretty much where the experience and upperclassmen are highlighted on a team that will need some time to find its true identity in 2023.
Under ninth-year head coach Brian Russo, the Indians have usually found a way to play meaningful football in November, or now October, as the regular season begins sooner and then also concludes sooner. Rahway High School has qualified for the state playoffs every year since Russo took over in 2015, which is the last seven seasons there have been playoff games contested.
In 2018, the Indians reached the North 2, Group 3 state championship game. The path toward the program’s first state title since 1984 continues.
“This is a good group here and the kids are very manageable,” Russo said. “We definitely have more returning starters on defense. When healthy, I feel we have a very strong secondary.”
Representing the Indians
• Marquis Diggs, No. 2, senior, WR-DB
• Raymond Giacobbe, No. 51, senior, OL-DL
• Donea “Kai” Fish, No. 21, junior, FB-TE-DL
• Andrew Avent, No. 1, sophomore, RB-LB
The only returning starters on offense include sophomore running back Andrew Avent, junior H-Back Donea “Kai” Fish and senior left tackle Raymond Giacobbe (6-5, 240), a three-year starter at that spot.
“Andrew plays hard, has good hands and also punts for us,” Russo said. “Fish started as a freshman and was there for us all year long last season.
“Ray is the anchor of our line and a very smart kid, with a grade-point average above 4.00.”
At quarterback now is sophomore Ziare Fields (5-9, 150).
“He’s athletic and has a good arm,” Russo said. “Now he needs to mature at the position.”
The defense is a bit more seasoned, with Fish and senior Richard Walker back on the line. Fish is a three-year starter at tackle and Walker (6-5, 290) a returning starter at tackle.
Avent is a returning starter at inside linebacker as is senior Trevor Delapara.
Returning senior cornerbacks include Marquis Diggs and Jalen Rogers, both 6-0, 170.
“We’ll be a bit of a work in progress at certain positions,” Russo said. “The kids are excited and working hard.”
Two years ago, a big 40-21 win at a 6-1 Hillside High School team on a six-game winning streak propelled the Indians into the South Jersey, Group 3 playoffs.
Last year, it was Rahway edging Carteret High School 20-19 at Rahway River Park, when the Ramblers from Middlesex County were 6-1 and on a four-game winning streak. That victory was huge for the Indians, qualifying for the first time in North 2, Group 4.
Rahway is situated in North, Group 4 once again.
“We’re making progress,” Russo said. “The kids have been pretty resilient the last two years, coming back from 0-3 two years ago and everything we went through last year.”
Rahway opened at home on Friday, Aug. 25, against Perth Amboy High School, which was the team the Indians had their game-scrimmage against last year. Perth Amboy last had a winning season in 2011.
Rahway next plays at Linden High School on Friday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m., at Linden’s Cooper Field.
“It’s kind of weird to have two games before school starts,” Russo said. “Summer was short, so this is a new experience.”
The opener against Perth Amboy was one of five home dates at Rahway River Park. Other home games there this year will be against Lincoln High School of Jersey City on Friday, Sept. 8; Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School on Thursday, Sept. 14; Summit High School on Friday, Sept. 22; and St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Edison on Friday, Oct. 6.
2023 Rahway Indians
• Friday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m., Perth Amboy High School
• Friday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m., at Linden High School
• Friday, Sept. 8, at 6 p.m., Lincoln High School
• Thursday. Sept. 14, at 6 p.m., Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School
• Friday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., Summit High School
• Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m., at Cranford High School
• Friday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m., St. Thomas Aquinas High School
• Friday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m., at Carteret High School
• Friday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m., at Colonia High School