RAHWAY, NJ — Prepare to learn a lot about the Rahway Indians on a week-to-week basis. A wealth of experience will not be realized until much later in the season.
There are only three returning starters, and one of them, Zaon Laney, is one of just nine seniors on the team. The other two returning starters are junior tight end and linebacker Kyle Hall and junior defensive tackle Jalen Barnes.
This is about as fresh a group as head coach Brian Russo has had since he took over in 2015.
“This is one of those years where we’re very young,” said Russo, who guided Rahway to a 5-1 mark last year, including a perfect 3-0 road record. “We had a lot of seniors last year.”
Hall is back at tight end and, on defense, Barnes and Hall return up front and in the middle of Rahway’s 4-3 scheme.
“Hall and Barnes are both very good players and leaders as well,” Russo said. “Barnes on the offensive line is very good on his feet.”
Hall and Laney were named captains for the 2021 season.
“Hall also has excellent grades and Laney goes about doing things the right way and also runs track,” Russo said.
Competing for playing time at quarterback are juniors Amir Robinson and Amir Wilks.
Other seniors include guard Jaylin Dort, lineman Bryan Fish, fullbacks Matt Guinta and Dan Blake, wide receiver Savion Gallemore, placekicker-punter Roberto Jimenez, and linebackers Clive Campbell and Sydney Duverneau.
“Like I said, this is a young group, but they’re working very hard and gaining experience, and it’s showing,” Russo said.
Rahway will open at home against Group 5 foe New Brunswick on Sept. 3 at Rahway River Park. New Brunswick went 2-5 in the seven games it played last year and has not produced a winning season since 2015.
All Rahway home games this year have 6 p.m. starting times. Rahway is home for four of its first five games and will then be on the road for its final three regular-season contests.
In 2019 Rahway had a nine-game schedule that included what appears to be the final Thanksgiving Day game played between the Indians and the Johnson Crusaders. Rahway is not playing Johnson at all this season.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association also moved Rahway over to South Group 3 for the 2021 campaign. Rahway had been in North Group 3 since 2017.
Rahway is scheduled to play at Hillside on Oct. 30 in the final regular-season game for both teams. The NJSIAA playoffs will commence the first weekend in November.
The last time Rahway and Hillside clashed at Hillside’s John Zappulla Field was the 2017 season opener for both, on Sept. 9 that year. Rahway came out on top 35-21, eventually reaching the North 2, Group 3, semifinals that season, while Hillside went on to win Central Jersey, Group 2, for the first time, en route to the program’s first state championship since 1985.
The team that Rahway closed its season against last year, St. Joseph’s of Metuchen, is the same team it game-scrimmaged against this season. Rahway hosted the Middlesex County parochial school on Aug. 26.
RAHWAY INDIANS 2021
Sept. 3 vs. New Brunswick, 6 p.m.
Sept. 10 vs. Summit, 6 p.m.
Sept. 17 vs. Somerville, 6 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Carteret, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 vs. Warren Hills, 6 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 at South Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 at Hillside, 1 p.m.
Head coach: Brian Russo, seventh season
RAHWAY’S MULTIPLE-I OFFENSE:
G Jaylin Dort, senior (5-9, 250)
LG Rahkiem Sheppard, sophomore (5-11, 2010)
C Eric Vazquez, junior (5-9, 275)
LT Jalen Barnes, junior (6-3, 255)
T Raymond Giacobbe, sophomore (6-5, 230)
RT Marc Osias, junior (6-2, 385)
L Bryan Fish, senior (5-10, 230)
TE-T Austin Tilton, junior (6-3, 200)
TE Kyle Hall, junior (6-0, 180)
QB Amir Robinson, junior (6-0, 170)
QB Amir Wilks, junior (5-9, 145)
FB Matt Guinta, senior (5-9, 185)
FB Dan Blake, senior (5-10, 175)
FB Messiah McGatt, sophomore (5-9, 240)
RB Zaon Laney, senior (5-8, 170)
RB Jakaii Wilson, sophomore (5-9, 140)
WR Savion Gallemore, senior (5-9, 150)
WR Khadir Love, junior (5-9, 160)
WR Jonathan Melo, junior (5-11, 150)
PK Roberto Jimenez, senior (6-2, 215)
Returning starters (1): Hall.
RAHWAY’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Austin Tilton, junior (6-3, 200)
T Jalen Barnes, junior (6-3, 255)
T Jaylin Dort, senior (5-9, 250)
E Rahkiem Sheppard, sophomore (5-11, 2010)
L Messiah McGatt, sophomore (5-9, 240)
L Marc Osias, junior (6-2, 385)
E Dan Blake, senior (5-10, 175)
ILB Josh Tilton, junior (6-0, 170)
LB Kyle Hall, junior (6-0, 180)
LB Clive Campbell, senior (5-11, 175)
LB Sydney Duverneau, senior (5-10, 170)
LB Destin Vincent, junior, (5-7, 160)
CB Khadir Love, junior, (5-9, 160)
CB Zaon Laney, senior, (5-8, 170)
CB Jakaii Wilson, sophomore, (5-9, 140)
S Amir Wilks, junior, (5-9, 145)
S Savion Gallemore, senior, (5-9, 150)
S Jonathan Melo, junior, (5-11, 150)
P Roberto Jimenez, senior, (6-2, 215)
Returning starters (3): Hall, Barnes and Laney.
2020 RAHWAY INDIANS (5-1)
Oct. 3 (A): Rahway 40, Summit 14
Oct. 10 (H): Somerville 46, Rahway 12
Oct. 17 (A): Rahway 34, Plainfield 7
Oct. 23 (H): Rahway 34, Sayreville 10
Oct. 31 (A): Rahway 34, Watchung Hills 27
Nov. 25 (H): Rahway 21, St. Joe’s Metuchen 14
Head coach: Brian Russo, sixth season
Section: North Group 3
Conference: Big Central
Points for: 175
Points against: 118