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Randolph's Nahan Prepares Players for the Robeson Classic

By Joe Hofmann, 06/07/22, 12:15PM EDT

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Will Nahan is entering his fifth year as the coach of the Randolph High School football program, for many years, one of Morris County's most prosperous.

The Rams coach has been handed the reins of the West team, which will face the East in the Robeson Football Classic in East Orange on Thursday.

The game hasn't been played the last two summers due to COVID, but the talent has made it worth the wait.

Nahan has never been dealt a hand quite like this one.

Speed ... quickness ... agility ... power ... depth.

Everywhere he turns, there is an immense level of talent.

Randolph has had some athletic ability over the years but nothing like this.

The West completed three practices last week, but it didn't take long for Nahan to see what he and his staff had to work with -- on and off the field.

"The kids are awesome," he said. "They not only are good football players, but they love football. That's why play they chose to play one more game before college. They all love it. That is what they have in common, the coaching staff as well. Coaching-wise, this is great."

It isn't easy building football cohesiveness in a limited time of practice, but Nahan has the pieces to put things together. He coached in the game in 2016 when former Randolph coach Tarig Holman guided the West team.

Now, the West team is under Nahan's watch. His assistants include Randolph's Joe Scali (O-Line), Benjy Eaton (Offensive coordinator), Mike Lyons (special teams coordinator) Ryan Gresik (receivers coach) and Russ Hert (running backs).

Newton coach, Matt Parzero, is the defensive coordinator and is joined on defense by Paterson Eastside's James Magazine, Eastside's Mikal Gamble and Newton's Scott Zymet (defensive backs).

The West team consists of players from Morris, Sussex, and Passaic counties. The East is made up of Essex and Hudson counties.

"The kids are coming together," Nahan said. "It is difficult building the team in a short period of time. It's very difficult. The kids have been great, but installing an offense, defense and special teams in a limited time isn't easy because of senior events like the senior prom and graduation. But with the personnel we have, we'll put in things that are effective because they are tremendous athletes."

The West is loaded with talent in the backfield led by running back Amir Smith (Eastside), who is "extremely fast, big, and tough and has looked great," according to Nahan. "Smith's speed is game changing. If he gets into the open field, not many people can catch him."

Others in the backfield will include Wayne Hills' Ben Contella and Morristown-Beard's Xavion Crosby, who will also see time at fullback and on special teams.

Strong-armed Joe Rina (Wayne Hills) will direct the attack and will throw to talented receivers such as

Ladorien Ladsen (Paterson Kennedy), Jair Stewart (Paterson Eastside) and Isaiah Brown (Passaic Tech). Other receivers include Ashin Jacobs (Eastside) and Jeremiah Carfello (Vernon).

"It's a good problem to have when you a ton of talent," Nahan said. "We'll put kids in certain spots and highlight their strengths. We have a solid group of six wide receivers, so we'll go with four-wide receiver sets. We want to put points up. We have talented wide receivers and Joe has a big arm, so we want to highlight his talent."

"The talent is amazing," said Morris Knolls' defensive back Pat Blum, who will play at The College of New Jersey in the fall.  "It's really cool competing against talent like this, it's something I didn't see much of (at Knolls). Jair Stewart of Eastside and I have been working one on one and it's great to see that speed and explosiveness every time to see how I stack up against it. We have our battles. He catches some, I deflect some, but it is always a battle. It's a great opportunity for me. I know my level of skill and I'm as good as they are."

"The competition is one step above Knolls," Joey Dellemonache, Blum's Knolls teammate, added. "There are a lot of great kids and athletes. You could see the pace of practice is one step ahead. It's great playing with kids like that. I enjoy seeing how they play and how they compete."

The West O-Line is solid and meshing well, according to Nahan. They include Kyle Shermerhorn (Morris Catholic), Donato Cilenti (Randolph), Vaughn Burnell (High Point), and Melvin Rodriguez (Mt. Olive), among others.

"Shermerhorn is big and physical and pass blocks," Nahan said. "He loves to run block and loves the offensive line. He'll be a great asset in this game. Some kids in a game like this want to play just defense. He showed up and wants to just play offensive line."

As is often the case, the O-Line has helped to bring the team together in the brief time the group has been together.

"I always think the O-Line group is the funniest and this bunch is no exception," Nahan said. "They crack jokes and get guys together. The banter of the O-Line and D-Line makes it competitive. They want to represent the West. The game wasn't played the last two years, so they want to make a name for themselves."

All-star games usually employ rules such as a 4-3 defense and no blitzing, so Nahan is hoping the defense can perform well using a straight-up defense.

The leaders up front will be Mel Aboud (Newton), who will walk on at Delaware, and Marquay Cobb of Eastside.

"Aboud and Cobb can control the game and can play anywhere on the line," Nahan said. 

Another one to watch up front is Chris Tortola of Butler.

The linebacking unit will have a distinct Morris County look with the likes of Randolph's tandem of Jordan Cross and Ryan Swayze and Dellemonache.

Blum is one of the key defensive backs and will be joined by Darrell Mims (Newton), Jason Roskam (Randolph) and Sammy Rivera (Eastside).

"Coach Parzero simplified things on defense, so they can go play fast," Nahan said. "They all tackle and hit, but Parzero and Magazine have done a great job with the defense."

East Roster

Uniform Firstname Lastname Position High School
1 Alfonso Lombardi QB Cedar Grove
2 Devion Sheppard QB West Side
3 Kayee Williams RB Dickinson
4 Damon Phillips RB East Orange
5 Gavin Rembert LB West Orange
6 Pat Capazzoli RB Caldwell
7 Emmanuel Olivares WR Dickinson
8 Hazekiah Daise-Adams WR Snyder
9 Edwin Thomas WR East Orange
10 Chris Bennett LB West Side
11 Diakite Mohammed DB Irvington
12 Trent Jones WR Irvington
14 Al Horne WR Belleville
15 Brian Dessources DB Belleville
17 Salif Nikiema DL Shabazz
18 Geraldo Gibson K/P East Orange
19 Manfing Kamara DL Newark Central
20 Andrew Alford DB Shabazz
21 Xavian Nunez DB Barringer
21 Christian Ashe DB Bayonne
22 Elijah Halley DL Montclair
24 James Haveron DB Verona
28 Cris Vitale DB Belleville
30 Ryan O’Neil LB Glen Ridge
32 Chase Anderson LB Montclair Immaculate
34 Patch McCarthy LB Cedar Grove
34 Marlon Gomez LB Orange
40 Moungue Nyame DL East Orange
50 John King OL Caldwell
52 Wali Nickerson OL Shabazz
54 Jordan Augustin OL Weequahic
55 Diandre Smith OL Lincoln
57 Quincey Scott-McKoy DL Lincoln
58 Sekou Kromah OL East Orange
60 Yabsria Yemane OL Montclair
61 Jimmy Rodriguez OL Bloomfield
66 Nick Christiano OL Cedar Grove
71 Dylan Dalambert DL Columbia
72 Prince Guaitan OL Union City
90 Kalron Grady DL Newark East Side

West Roster

Uniform Firstname Lastname Position High School
2 Carson Hecht K Randolph
3 Darrell Mims DB Newton
4 Ben Contella RB Wayne Hills
5 Jamir Diaz ATH Passaic
6 Isaaiah Brown WR Passaic Tech
9 Ryan Swayze WR Randolph
10 Joe Rina QB Wayne Hills
11 Ladorion Ladson WR Paterson Kennedy
17 Jorsan Cross LB Randolph
18 Ashin Jacobs WR Paterson Eastside
20 Amir Smith RB Paterson Eastside
21 Jason Raskin DB Randolph
22 Patrick Blum DB Morris Knolls
24 Jonathan Lucero LB Passaic
28 Sammy Viera LB Paterson Eastside
30 Joey DelleMonacce LB Morris Knolls
32 Xavion Crosby RB Morristown-Beard
34 Jaylen Pow LB Paterson Kennedy
40 Jair Stewart TE Paterson Eastside
50 Juan Hughes LB High Point
52 Chris Tortola OL Butler
54 Brandon Parra OL Passaic Tech
55 Miekart Abou-Jaoude DL Newton
57 Ramir Frye LB Paterson Kennedy
58 Melvin Rodriguez OL Mount Olive
61 Donato Cilenti OL Randolph
63 Albert Vargas OL Passaic
66 Akil Moody DL Passaic Tech
68 Matt Latesta OL Newton
70 Alex Diaz OL Dover
71 Logan Yanoff OL High Point
72 Vaughn Burnell DL High Point
73 Marquay Cobb DL Paterson Eastside
75 Kyle Shermerhorn OL Morris Catholic
78 Frankie Gonzalez OL Passaic
88 Jeremiah Carfello WR Vernon