Red Bank Catholic teammates rush to congratulate sophomore quarterback Frankie Williams after a touchdown during the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City Aug. 27 against St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. Twitter video screenshot
Red Bank Catholic teammates rush to congratulate sophomore quarterback Frankie Williams after a touchdown during the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City Aug. 27 against St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. Twitter video screenshot

When sophomore quarterback Frankie Williams found Robert Stolfa with a 74-yard touchdown pass to open the game against St. John Vianney, the huge exhale you may have heard did not come from his Red Bank Catholic teammates, but from the RBC section of the bleachers at Ocean City High School.

“Honestly I expected it from the kid because I’ve known him for a little while now,” running back/safety Sabino Portella said. “It wasn’t so much a shock to me but I’m sure it was a big relief to a lot of RBC fans. We all believe in each other and especially him, because he’s gonna be a big part of this year.”

The pressure on Williams in the Aug. 27 Battle at the Beach season opener was what you might call … immense. It was his first varsity start for the defending state champion being played on a huge stage at the South Jersey Shore. He was replacing Alex Brown, who had a storybook senior year after the passing of his mother.

And he responded in sparkling fashion, completing eight of 10 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Williams also rushed for 34 yards and a TD in RBC’s 33-7 victory over the Holmdel-based Lancers. In fact, he directed the Caseys to touchdowns on their first three possessions as RBC built a 33-0 lead.

“He’s a super confident quarterback for being so young,” said Portella, who rushed for 25 yards and a touchdown and made six tackles. “He was in a hard quarterback competition at the beginning of the year and obviously he won it, so with the last week of practice and the focus being on him knowing he would start, he just progressively got so much better.”

Caseys coach Mike Lange said while the coaching staff wanted to go easy with Williams initially, they were still not going to change the offense to make things simpler. The QB’s first play from scrimmage was a play action that allowed Stolfa to get behind the defense. Williams made the right read and hit him in stride for the score.

“What we run is what we run,” Lange said. “It’s the same stuff we did the last few years. Going in it was kind of ‘Let’s get him some confidence boosters early,’ but I didn’t anticipate that. It was part of the plan to kind of ease him into it a little bit but obviously we made some big plays early that kind of helped everything.”

The coach feels that aside from his physical talents, Williams also possesses a good mind for the position.

“He’s just very coachable,” Lange said. “He brings a lot to the table, and he’s got good leadership qualities. A lot of intangible stuff you can’t coach. Obviously, you want to get confidence for a kid. The next thing you know his first pass is a 70-yard touchdown, so that kind of helped him out.”

By night’s end, Stolfa (2 catches for 91 yards), Najih Raman (3 for 27) and Emmanuel Ross (2 for 69) each caught touchdown passes while Torin Harmon rushed seven times for 45 yards. Defensively, Davin Brewton led the way with nine tackles while playing just one half.

“Brewton is a dude, there’s no doubt about it,” Lange said. “He’s definitely matured a lot too.”

Portella added that “Davin is a feared man, I’m glad he’s on my team.” The senior captain also lauded the Caseys depth on the defensive line and the way the linebackers played.

Overall the Caseys looked like a team anxious to win another state title.

“Things change, people graduate; we’re a whole different team than last year,” Portella said. “We haven’t won anything yet, now we’re 1-0. We can’t act like we’re state champs anymore because we’re not. It’s a new year.”

It’s also a new year for the Lancers, who have high hopes of reversing last season’s losing record. They got 63 rushing yards from Christian Buchanan and a touchdown pass from Michael Foley to Thomas Cleary.

“They were every bit as big as I thought, they had a couple good skill kids,” Lange said. “The important part is we got off to a good start, kind of had them reeling a little bit. They’re gonna win some games, they have some talent. I just think those first couple drives helped us get our feet going.”

And helped allow a sophomore quarterback feel right at home on the big stage.