After taking the 2018 season off, the New Jersey Rams are eager to get back on the grass and hope to pick up where they left off in 2017, when the East Coast Football Association kicks off on March 30.
“The guys are getting very anxious,” Rams owner Charles Hook told Developmental Football USA. “We’ve got a lot of young talent, plus the leadership of Vincent DiGiacomo, Jordan Tabb and Sean Fleet.”
In 2017, the Rams surpassed expectations by making a run at the Xtreme East Football League Championship in their inaugural season, before falling short, 6-0, to the Camden County Street Starz in the title game. During the regular season, they suffered just one more loss in another nailbiter, 24-22, at the hands of the South Jersey Thunder.
“We had a young, talented team,” Hook said. “We had a running back, Dashon Burdett, break off a career high and a league record 995 yards (through nine games) with a very young line, powered by Denzial Davis, Rasheem Lambert, and Sean Fleet, and a great wide receiver corps in Brandon Tabb, Caleb Brown and Delaney McGinnion.”
The Rams have added offensive coach Hector Ortiz, who will begin his coaching career this season. Ortiz is a former running back with the Garden State Gladiators and Team Canada.
“Coach Ortiz brings youth and the IQ to the young and talented offense,” Hook said. “We look to be a smash mouth and explosive team.”
This season will be different for the Rams for multiple reasons. A year absence typically means a more significant change in personnel, so not only will the Rams take some time to mesh together, they’ll have to grow quickly in the ECFA, which will be no cakewalk.
“We play a lot of southern teams from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina,” Hook said. “Very structured teams. Football is life in the south.”
The DMV Knights have won the league the previous three years, while the DMV Jaguars have also been a consistently strong contender.
“What makes them good are their numbers, their coaching and their commitment from players,” Hook said.
Hook will look for that same commitment from his players and will rely on his defense early while the offense opens up.
“Our defense held down most of the XEFL and only had 70 points scored against us,” Hook said. “We were led by young middle linebacker Jonathon Inge.”
Inge returns in 2019, along with fellow 2017 leaders in Davis, Burdett, and Fleet, as well as defensive back Andre Johnson and running back Dave Collins.
The Rams defense is led by defensive coordinator Billy Daughtry. Daughtry’s last playing days were with the South Jersey Giants. He has since coached at Oakcrest High School and Atlantic City High School, plus a youth team in Mays Landing.
“We’ve regrouped by adding more experienced coaches,” Hook said. “We want to capitalize on the success we had in our fall ‘ship run.”
While only one team can fulfill their goal of winning the championship this season, other goals can be fulfilled along the way that define the “why” for most organizations at this level.
“Our goal has always been to get our players to whatever level they choose,” Hook said. “With that, we mentor these men and make them better guys in the community. We are busy every day in our community, as I personally coach the Buena Braves little guys, and I help out with the high school also. We walk in the town’s holiday parada, and also help with school functions.”