The Hoboken High School football team enjoyed great success last season, posting an 8-2 record. The Red Wings lost the opener to Memorial, then won eight straight, before falling to Weequahic in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs.
Veteran head coach Lou Taglieri, who enters his eighth season leading the Red Wings, believes that his team has an even better chance to succeed this season, especially since they have a veteran roster.
“We lost only two starters from last year,” Taglieri said. “We expect them to be better. Last year, we had no reference point to go from. We just went from week-to-week. Now, they have the experience.”
With that in mind, one might figure the Red Wings to be a well-oiled machine by now, but that’s not the case. For some reason, the Red Wings have sputtered through the preseason and Taglieri is searching for reasons why.
“They are going to be okay, but they just need to learn better,” Taglieri said. “They’re slow learners for some reason this year. It’s a work in progress. They have to pick things up quicker. We’re not where we need to be. It’s actually a little frustrating with all the experienced players we have. They’re going to get it, because we’re an offense of repetition. We’ll just keep going over it, over and over.”
The Red Wings do have a newcomer at quarterback, namely junior Dante Bass (5-9, 170), who replaces three-year starter Spencer Perez. Bass doesn’t have the size that Perez was blessed with, but he does have all the tools to be a good Delaware Wing-T quarterback.
“He has a strong arm and can run the team,” Taglieri said. “He’s just green. He doesn’t have much experience. But he’s getting better and showing more improvement.”
There are no concerns about the backfield, where the Red Wings are once again loaded, like they have been during many of their state championship runs of the past.
Leading the way is senior Donte Carter (5-11, 190), who exploded onto the scene last year, rushing for 1,400 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns.
“He does it all,” Taglieri said. “He runs well. He catches passes out of the backfield. He returns punts and kicks. He’s all over. He’s going to do a lot of what [former Hoboken great and Michigan State player] Tyrell [Dortch] did for us, but he’s not as good as Tyrell. But we should be able to run the ball well with him and our other backs.”
The halfback is senior Rahmein Herron (6-0, 180), who is an excellent complement to Carter.
“He’s a strong runner with terrific vision,” Taglieri said. “They are a lethal combination. I hope we can have a balanced attack.”
The wing backs are seniors Daquan Peterson (5-10, 180) and Jamal Wilks (5-9, 180), both of whom are also quality runners.
The wide receivers are seniors Kane Dunham (6-0, 175) and Nate Mack (6-2, 190). Mack is a transfer from Hudson Catholic.
The offensive line has some good size and talent, led by sophomore tackle Daniel Clifford (6-3, 280), who has the makings of being a top-flight college prospect.
“He definitely has a very bright future,” said Taglieri of Clifford, who started both ways as a freshman last year.
The other tackle is senior Justin Moreau (6-1, 220).
The guards are returning starters Monaque Younger (6-0, 235), a junior, and sophomore Preston Mars (5-11, 225). Both were key contributors last year. Senior Noel Gonzalez (6-1, 220) is the center and impressive junior Dashawn Reed (6-1, 220) is the tight end.
“They’re an athletic group,” Taglieri said of his offensive line. “That’s what you need in our offense.”
Defensively, the Red Wings welcome back Reed at defensive end, where he was an outright terror last year.
“He had a great year last year and has only gotten better,” Taglieri said of Reed.
The other defensive end is sophomore Eric Benekin (6-1, 215). Younger, Clifford, and Mars are all defensive tackles who rotate.
The linebackers are Moreau and senior Jeffrey Herron (5-8, 205 and no relation to Rahmein).
The corners are Rahmein Herron, Wilks and junior Terry Perry (5-9, 170), with Carter, Dunham and Mack at safeties.
The Red Wings open with Memorial on Friday night, Sept. 7, at JFK Stadium in Hoboken, looking to inflict a little revenge. The Tigers upset the Red Wings last year.
“I feel good about this team,” Taglieri said. “They’re learning slowly, but they’re playing with emotion. At least they have that down.”
Count on the Red Wings to be playing meaningful football games come the second week of November. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.