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Took a trip out west to Manalapan today to catch the Braves after their intrasquad game, and this team has the highest preseason expectations of any Braves team since the days of Cory Brooks at the turn of the millennium. Manalapan has never won a state sectional title, with its only appearance in a final coming when it lost to Brick Memorial in the Central Jersey Group IV championship in 2003. This is one of its better chances to change that history in recent memory.
The Braves return 18 starters, including Rutgers-bound senior quarterback Mike Bimonte, 1,000-yard rusher Josh Firkser, and four out of five starters on the offensive line. Senior Reggie Hodge-Grant is also a three-year starter who should be one of Bimonte’s primary targets at wideout. Essentially, this is a senior class that has mostly been on varsity since sophomore year, so this is the season it has been building up to.
As for Bimonte, I will have a separate feature on his rapid and tremendous improvement in such a short time, which resulted in the scholarship to Rutgers that he verbally accepted on July 30, so stay tuned for that in the next day or so.
The main news recently is that now-former head coach Tom Gallahue resigned the position because he was approved by the Board of Education for an assistant principal job at Manalapan in late July and he can’t be an administrator and a paid coach. That means that on Aug. 30, hopefully, either assistant Dom Lepore, the former head coach at Freehold Township, or assistant Eddie Gurrieri, who was the head coach at Manalapan before Gallahue, will most likely be approved as the new head coach. However, if they can’t get it done by Aug. 30, the next meeting isn’t until Sept. 27, so they would technically go the first three games or so without actually having a head coach. Gallahue will still be around the team, as he was on Saturday, so it’s kind of a murky area right now.