By Jim Hintelmann |
RED BANK – A streak of 11 straight winning seasons for Red Bank Catholic’s football teams ended two years ago when RBC finished 5-5.
That was just a blip, however, since the Caseys rebounded with an 8-2 record last season, including a Shore Conference “B” Division North championship; one of the reasons was the performance of senior safety Matt Ansell.
“We were pretty confident coming into the season,” said Ansell, who will be playing football at Wagner in Staten Island this fall. “We had a lot of injuries last year with our top three quarterbacks missing some time. We were down to our No. 4 quarterback in a couple of games and he had to play the Wildcat position.”
“This year we had a lot of players coming back from a young team, a good offensive line and Zach Bair, who was a great running back for us,” he said.
It was Ansell who basically set the tone of the season for RBC in an season opener 47-10 rout of Middletown South when he made a jolting tackle on South’s Robbie Zega off the opening kickoff.
“That was my best game of the season,” said Ansell, who had 15 tackles in the contest. “We worked very hard over the summer to get ready for the opening kickoff.”
“Matt is a natural athlete and a great instinctive player,” said RBC football coach Frank Edgerly. “He is a very physical player and on the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff he made another great tackle.”
RBC followed that game with a wild 60-41 win over Middletown North as Ansell had a couple of interceptions.
The two teams were tied, 34-34, at half-time, but RBC broke open the contest in the second half.
“We just made a couple of adjustments at halftime and we completely dominated the second half,” said Ansell, who had five interceptions last season.
RBC won four more games before losing a tough 35-17 decision to St. John Vianney in a battle of unbeatens as Bair, who had 13 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards rushing at the time, was injured and missed the rest of the season. He was averaging a stunning 13.8 yards per carry.
“We really needed him,” said Ansell. “He was one of the best running backs in the Shore.”
Fortunately for RBC, SJV was not a division game since the Lancers competed in the “A” Central Division.
RBC recovered with big “B” North wins over Long Branch (42-28) at Rutgers, and Manasquan (41-19) in the final regular season game.
“Manasquan was our biggest win of the season because we clinched the division,” said Ansell. “It was a Saturday afternoon game and was played at Manasquan. They are a hard team to beat on their home field.”
Ansell, a 5-foot-11-inch point guard, also played basketball and led RBC with 3.8 assists per game as the Caseys finished 18-11, including a major 59-54 upset win over Christian Brothers Academy in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non Public “A” semifinals.
It was RBC’s first win over CBA in basketball since 1989, although the two teams played in different divisions and rarely met in the regular season.
“That was a big win for us,” said Ansell, “because they had beaten us by 25 points two weeks earlier in the Shore Conference Tournament. It was also special because we beat them on their home court in front of their fans. They were shocked that we beat them.”
Ansell closed out his high school career July 12 when he played for Monmouth County in the 2018 Gridiron Classic at Brick Memorial High School. He will leave for Wagner on Aug. 1.
“They have a good Division I-AA team,” said Ansell, who is also a fine student. “They had several players that went in the NFL Draft. I’ll play safety and maybe some at linebacker.”
Wagner plays a strong schedule that includes Syracuse and Boston College.
“I’m not sure about my major, but I’ll make that decision soon,” he said. “I’m not sure what I will do after college, but I hope to remain in sports and maybe do some coaching.”
This article first appeared in the July 12 – 19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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