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It's been a tough couple of years for Toms River High School East after riding a high wave in 2019 when they finished 9-2 and made a playoff run, but they're now looking to bust through the tide to friendlier waters -- and results.

Over the last couple of seasons, there's been a slip in the standings with the Raiders having a tough time closing out games or navigating through some tough opponents among the Shore Conference elite.

The way back to winning starts with this year's senior group -- particularly up front -- who've seen the successful 2019 season and a couple of losing seasons, as well.

"We've got a lot of seniors on the line, both offensive line and defensive line, and I think that's the strength of the team," seventh-year Toms River East head coach Kyle Sandberg told Shore Sports Network. "That senior leadership on the line is what's going to anchor this team, there's no doubt about it."

There's a little more size on the offensive and defensive lines as well this season which is something the Raiders haven't had as much of in recent seasons as traditionally has been the case in the program.

"We are the biggest we've been in a while, but we're still not big compared to other teams at the Shore," Sandberg said. "When you look at our line this year, both offensively and defensively, we got a few kids that are bigger and (more) physical than we've had in the past but, overall, compared to other schools, we're still one of the smaller ones."

Even with the size, it'll be up to each player at all positions to execute on the field.

"Something we've tried to instill since I've been here, we're small, yes, but we're tough, we're scrappy, we're intense and we're trying to be savages out there and just run around and around, and be playmakers and dogs," Sandberg said.

One of the things Sandberg is telling his players is to go out there and get after it, but in different terms.

"Intensity. I guess it's savages, monsters, and dogs, just flying around to the football, being tough, having grit. The second thing is competitiveness, be competitive," Sandberg said. "If you can be competitive if you can be tough, if you can have some grit, and be intense, a lot can happen."


Left to right: Joe Rome (64), Amari Phillips (10), Joe Scala (4), Ryan Ushock (50)
Left to right: Joe Rome (64), Amari Phillips (10), Joe Scala (4), Ryan Ushock (50)

At A Glance

Projected starters

Offense: 2-Back Pistol

QB: Aidan Zitt, So., Brandon Peins, Sr.

RB: Amari Phillips, Sr.;  Luke Barber, Sr.; Chris Gallo, Sr.; Ryan Richards, Sr.; Terrance Thomas, So.

WR: Nevin Hart, Jr.; Jake Buckman, Jr.; Brian Barnes, Sr.; Andrew Brush, Jr.; Kyle Cocozzo, Sr.; Nate Cummings, So.; Talen Davis, Sr.; Jeremy Kalman, Sr.; Brian Schnur, Sr.

OL: James Lynch, So.; Joe Rome, Sr.; Dougie Spadaro, Jr.;  Derek Weltman, Sr.; Christian Xenakis, Jr.; Aiden Diehl, Sr.; Blake Grandinetti, Sr.; Antonio Hernandez, Jr.; Nick Italiano, Sr.; Nik Longo, Sr.; James Lynch, So.; David Moczydlowski, Sr.;  Eli Scott, Jr.; M.J. Williams, Jr.

Defense: Multiple 

DL: Ryan Ushock, Sr.; Christian Xenakis, Jr.; Aiden Diehl, Sr.; Blake Grandinetti, Sr.; Antonio Hernandez, Jr.; Nick Italiano, Sr.; Nik Longo, Sr.; James Lynch, So.; David Moczydlowski, Sr.;  Eli Scott, Jr.;  M.J. Williams, Jr.

LB: Zander Hall, Jr.; Aidan Zitt, So.; Brian Barnes, Sr.; Andrew Brush, Jr.; Chris Gallo, Sr.; Ryan Richards, Sr.; Terrance Thomas, So.

DB: Colin Cocoilo, Jr.; Avery Phillips, So.; Joe Scala, Sr.; Luke Barber, Sr.; Kyle Cocozzo, Sr.; Nate Cummings, So.; Talen Davis, Sr.; Jeremy Kalman, Sr.;  Brandon Peins, Jr.; Brian Schnur, Sr.

Special Teams

K: Mike Bruno, Sr.

P: Mike Bruno, Sr.



Head Coach: Kyle Sandberg, 7th season

Career Record: 18-38

Team Record Last Five Seasons: 

2021: 1-9

2020: 3-5

2019: 9-2

2018: 3-6

2017: 2-8

Assistant Coaches: Joe Arminio Jr. (LB); Andrew Bilodeau (RB); Dan Cicala (DC); Tony Durkin (OL); Frank Giannetti (DL); Matt Hughes (Head Freshmen Coach); Steve Petrosino (WR); Dylan Rainieri (Assistant Freshman Coach); Kristen Dilloian (Athletic Trainer).


Players to Watch: Joe Rome, Sr., OL; Ryan Ushock, Sr., DL; Derek Weltman, Sr., OL.

These linemen will be the anchors, and catalysts of the Raiders' offensive and defensive lines and will be key players in making things happen for Toms River East this season running the ball and allowing the passing game to open up.

"Joe Rome, first year last year, he's bought in since he's joined. He's outstanding, he's physical," Sandberg said. "I have two other linemen that are going to be three-year letter winners, ideally, in Ryan Ushock and Derek Weltman. They played as sophomores and to see them grow the past couple of years, we're excited."


Player Under the Radar: Joe Scala, Sr., DB

This is a senior you're going to want to keep an eye on due to his rising skill set. His intangibles have also shown that he's resilient and capable of overcoming some odds.

"He's a swiss army knife, he's a jack of all trades in a way. He can do a lot for us but his leadership has evolved," Sandberg said. "He's had a couple of things this year that didn't go his way but he is responding in a positive way. That's something you look for as a coach in a leader, how do you handle adversity."


Impact Newcomer: Nevin Hart, Jr., WR

Sandberg has a lot of seniors on this team but also a good amount of newcomers and underclassmen, especially at the skill positions. One such player you can look at bursting onto the scene at the varsity level this season is Nevin Hart.

"One of the most intelligent football players I've ever met, he's got to find a way to use his knowledge and his abilities to help his team and we're excited about that," Sandberg said.


Top Position Group: Offensive/Defensive Line

"Our line is our anchor, they're the strength," Sandberg said.

The lines on both sides are indeed the top group for East going into the season with some experience to boot. They have more size this season and more reps in the system. If they execute, the Raiders will put up some points.

"If our line can block and make some holes they're (running backs) going to hit it quick. If we can protect our quarterback and give our wide receivers a chance to run their routes and be open, it's going to work," Sandberg said.


Rivalry Game(s): 

When you play high school football in Toms River, there are two big rivalry games you get amped up for and that's when you go head to head with your crosstown rivals no matter the record. For Toms River East, their opener is a rivalry game against Toms River South as is the second to last game of the season against Toms River North. The former provides the Raiders with an opportunity to open up with a big win and the latter could be a critical game for them to determine playoff or consolation game fate.


2022 Season Schedule

Sept. 2 - at Toms River South, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9 -- vs. Manchester, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16 -- vs. Pinelands, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23 -- vs. Barnegat, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30 -- at Point Pleasant Boro, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 -- at Matawan, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14 -- vs. Toms River North, 7 p.m.

Oct. 21 -- at Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.

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