Edison will be the second Middlesex County football program to open its season in The Battle at the Beach the last weekend of August in Ocean City. Last year, Woodbridge beat the highly rated Winslow Township 26-14.
Now, Edison meets Cedar Creek on Aug. 28 at 5 p.m., the 11-game finale during the three-day event that features some of New Jersey’s top programs presented by the West Jersey Football Coaches Association.
Cedar Creek won South Jersey’s 2021 Group 3 Regional Championship in a 13-0 campaign and some media outlets selected the Pirates as the state’s No. 2 ranked public school.
Eagles head coach Matt Fulham relishes the challenge his team will face.
“I want our guys out of the gates fast this year,” he said. “We have started the season slowly in recent years. We’ve grown every season with this group and we’re looking forward to that playoff-like atmosphere that we’ll experience the last weekend in August.
The Edison faithful must be happy with their chances as they return several three- and four-year-old starters to face a schedule that may well be the toughest they have faced in some time. Seven of their eight opponents have made the playoffs in 2021.
Two-time all-zone senior quarterback Matt Yascko Jr. returns as a four-year starter after rushing for 2,240 yards and 20 touchdowns last season while guiding Edison to a 7- 4 and the semi-finals of the South Group 5 qualifiers.
Yascko’s career stats are equally impressive as he recorded nearly 4,800 total rushing yards while rushing or passing for 40 scores.
Wide receiver Malcolm Stansbury is another one of those four-year-old starters who has steadily improved as a receiver and defensive back, picking up multiple offers from FCS programs like Maine, Monmouth and New Hampshire.
The nifty, sure-handed All-Area receiver caught 46 passes for 576 yards and seven touchdowns last year and should be an added threat to run the ball in the Eagles’ spread offense.
Michael Strachan (Sr.), who returns as a free safety, will join Stansbury and a host of receivers who will give the Eagles offense plenty of reliable weapons. They include Jon Baio (Sr.), Kevin Smith Jr. (Sr.), Ricky Harvey (Jr.), Torr’ahn Rattray (Jr.) and Aidan Woomer (Jr).
Sophomore Nyekir Eato, who was on the varsity roster as a rookie last season, will return to the multi-spread offense. Seniors Selbin Sabio, Jameel Parrott and David Boyd will all compete for the races with Eato.
Edison’s offensive line has a pair of senior three-year starters Israel Rodriguez at left tackle and Matt Bueno at right guard. When you add two-time All-Area defensive end Adekunle Shittu to the mix as an H-back or TE, it will bring an extra dimension to the offense.
Center back Matt Pazmino (Sr.) and fellow seniors Anthony Payano, Gael Luna Saaveda will compete with juniors Justin Reed, Sebastion Reid and second Gavin Bailey for the remaining guard and tackle positions. Jaeden Edwards (Jr.) will also play tight end.
Fulham believe there is enough talent on the attacking and defensive lines for the players to play on one side of the ball. However, it would be difficult to keep Shittu, one of Middlesex County’s best defensive ends over the past two years with 12 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss, on the sidelines.
Defensively, the Eagles will use Shittu, Payano, Rodriguez and Joshua Wright (Sr.) at defensive ends. Vera, Reid, Saidu Conteh (Sr.) and No. 2 Jumel Koonce will all be battling for defensive tackle time.
Senior Selbin Sabio returns as inside linebacker and will be joined by schoolmate Anthony Egnozzi, as well as juniors Jose Barreto Martinez and Ah’mer Gibbs, who will all compete for the two remaining linebacker spots.
Starchan returns to free safety after recording nearly five tackles per game last season. Senior Isaiah Rago and newcomer Rattray will battle for the remaining safety position.
With the talented Stansbury in a corner, Edison has seniors Parrott and David Boyd to battle Woomer for the remaining locking corner position.
Sabio will handle the punt and field goal duties. His 25-yard overtime field goal upset seventh-seeded Edison against second-seeded Manalapan in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Sophomore Nyekir Eato will be the backup punter.
The 18-year-old Eagles veteran mentor thinks it’s time to take the next step with this senior class.
“Two years ago we won our last game 50-49 against Hillsborough and then they come out the following year and finish 13-0 to win it all in 2021,” Fulham said. “Last year we won a playoff game against a very good Manalapan team on their home ground and then we go to Toms River North and don’t play very well in the second half.
“It’s time for us to take the next step as a program, to get in the conversation to bring a championship back to Edison. Why can’t we make a deeper run in the playoffs?”
Stay tuned, the Eagles clock is ticking.
Coach: Matt Fulham, eighteenth season (71-96-1)
Deputies: Matthew Yascko Sr. (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks); Jim Cooper (defensive coordinator, linebackers); Mike Ryan (defensive line, special teams coordinator); Bob Herre (defensive backs); Dan Long (offensive line); Dan Boslet (offensive line; Brian Calantoni (receivers); Bob Molarz (backs); Ross Faranda (freshmen); Michael Yascko (freshmen).
Stadium: Matthew Drawl Stadium (artificial grass)
Colors: Red and gold
Offensive formation: Spread
defensive formation: 4-3
Aug. 28 Cedar Creek, 5 p.m.
September 2 JP Stevens, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 North Brunswick, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 in Sayreville, 7 p.m.
September 23 Franklin, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 in New Brunswick, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Saint-Joseph Metuchen, 1 p.m.
October 14 South Brunswick, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Saint-Thomas d’Aquin, 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 at JP Stevens 37-0 (W)
September 10 at Colonia 38-7 (L)
Sept. 18 at St. Joseph Metuchen 28-20 (W)
September 24 Sayreville 17-7 (L)
Oct. 1 in New Brunswick 21-7 (W)
October 8 North Brunswick 21-0 (L)
October 15 Piscataway 31-15 (W)
October 22 at Hunterdon Central 42-7 (W)
October 27 Watchung Hills 21-7 (W)
November 5 Manalapan 23-20 (OT) (W)
Nov. 12 at Toms River North 48-7 (L)