Falcons look to improve after upset in opener



One of the most surprising results involving Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) football teams in the season’s first week was Monroe Township High School’s 29-7 loss to Edison High School.

It was the first game on the sidelines for Dan Lee, who replaced Chris Beagan after he returned to coach his alma mater at Sayreville War Memorial High School. However, this is the first year Monroe (6-4 last year) fields numbers representative of a GMC Red Division team following multiple seasons when the program more resembled the smaller White Division team that won the 2009 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship.

Despite continued growth in the program, Lee issued a warning before the season that despite the infusion of new bodies, lack of experience at multiple positions might cost the Falcons initially. The defeat to the Eagles (4-6 last year) certainly demonstrated that.

“We lost a big senior class with a lot of experience,” Lee said. “The objective now is to get better every day.” On tap is a Sept. 18 visit to Piscataway Township High School (1-0), which has to be considered the top team in the Red Division since preseason favorite South Brunswick High School (0-1) lost to Middletown High School South, 41-21 in each team’s opener.

It’s not that Monroe doesn’t possess potent offensive weapons. Senior Matt van de Sande, who succeeds all-conference Stephen Karoly as quarterback, showed flashes, including a 78-yard touchdown pass to senior Miles Shipp in the second quarter to make the score 15-7. However, that was the last time the Falcons found the end zone, while Edison posted two TDs in the second half.

Van de Sande saw limited action last year after transferring from St. Joseph High School of Metuchen, while Shipp came over from South Brunswick as a sophomore. Senior Chase Santiago is expected to handle the bulk of the running responsibilities.

In addition to a slew of new faces on both sides of the ball, Monroe has added former players to the coaching staff: Jake O’Brian and Dale Degraw.

After Piscataway, the next two opponents are at home, with J.P. Stevens High School (0-1) visiting Sept. 25 and North Brunswick Township High School (0-1) Oct. 2.