Shore Conference Rewind: Week 9
Headline of the Week: Showtime!
Let the playoffs begin. Here are the official NJSIAA brackets involving the 26 teams from the Shore Conference who qualified for the post season and some instant analysis on what to watch for.
- 8-Perth Amboy (3-5) at 1-Manalapan (9-0), Friday, 7
- 5-North Brunswick (6-2) at 4-Freehold Twp. (7-2), Friday, 7
- 6-Trenton (6-3) at 3-Old Bridge (6-2), Friday, 7
- 7-Hillsborough (6-3) at 2-South Brunswick (7-1), Friday, 7
The favorite: Manalapan. Went with the Braves back in August as my annual "Bald" prediction in our pre-season show and they've done absolutely nothing to make me think the least bit otherwise. Senior RB Naim Mayfield (left) has been absolutely breathtaking and has the astronomical numbers to back that (150 carries for 2,114 yards, 36 TDs), WR/DB Symir Blacknal has put together a stellar senior campaign and the Braves' defense, with Tommy Pearce, Sal Tardogno, Dale Sieczkowski, Antonio Deieso and Da-Shon Taylor boasts a combination of speed, intellect and physicality. There is incentive for Manalapan: a year ago, they carried an 11-0 mark into Rutgers and bowed to Piscataway. The senior nucleus intends to author a different ending.
Biggest Non-Shore threat: South Brunswick. The Vikings are no joke, folks. Senior WR Justin Shorter, a Penn State commit, is a must-see guy with reliable hands (34 receptions for 487, 7 TDs) and slick feet (21 carries for 215, 2 TD). Point of reference: South Brunswick's only loss came in Week 3 when it bowed to Piscataway, 28-14. Manalapan defeated Piscataway, 28-0, in Week 8.
Sleeper: Old Bridge. Caught the Knights against Manalapan in Week 3. While the Braves prevailed, 34-13, this game was far closer than the score indicates. Old Bridge is effective running the veer, led by senior QB Anthony Imbimbo and have piled up over 2.000 yards on the ground.
Hands full: Freehold Twp. will host a dangerous North Brunswick outfit that will ride in on the crest of a six-game winning streak. The Patriots have to regroup and shake off Friday night's 48-7 loss to Manalapan. Junior QB Nick Reardon has bloomed at the position for Township (115 for 218 passing for 1,475 yards, 18 TDs) and senior DE Damian Rybaltowski (10 sacks) works the edge with intensity.
- 8-Freehold Boro (6-3) at 1-Nottingham (8-1), Saturday, 1
- 5-Brick at 4-Allentown (6-3), Friday, 5
- 6-Middletown South (4-4) at 3-Long Branch (6-2), Friday, 7
- 7-Jackson Memorial (5-4) at 2-Brick Memorial (7-2), Friday, 7
The favorite: Going out on a bit of a limb...Freehold Boro. Say what, you retort? The eighth seed? The Colonials went on the road Friday night and outlasted Long Branch - the third seed in this field - 27-20 for their fifth consecutive victory. They also have senior Ashante Worthy (left), a playmaker in every sense of the word. This guy operates like nothing is unachievable. In one year, he's matured from a running back filling in at quarterback to a signal caller making reads and comfortable with the mechanics of his position. Worthy has passed for 1,632 yards and rushed for 2,039. But, make no mistake, Boro is far from a one-man show. Junior Matt Krauss and senior Matt DaSilva are impact guys on both sides of the ball, senior Qua'jon Everett wreaks havoc on the defensive line and senior Yahson Calhoun is underrated at linebacker.
Rematch: Brick heads to Allentown Friday night in a rematch of last year's sectional final, one the Redbirds claimed with an emphatic 41-6 victory. The Green Dragons would love nothing more than to exact some payback, but injuries have really taken a toll. Junior Cole Groschel has been admirable making the move from wide receiver to quarterback while junior LB Richie Talmadge and junior DE Cory Englehardt are active and reliable on defense. After dropping three straight, Brick got back on track Friday night, topping Toms River East, 20-10, and hopes that mojo transcends to the playoffs.
The sleeper: Middletown South. The Eagles got into the field courtesy of a 34-14 win Friday night over Wall, securing their 20th straight playoff appearance. In order to make some noise here, they'll have to overcome a talented Long Branch cast, which blanked the Eagles, 21-0, in Week 5. Middletown South is a different team since the first encounter. They are implementing senior Jake Krellin, a top-shelf linebacker, into the running game and senior QB Ben Kinsella has vastly improved over the course of the season. South has won two of its last three with the interruption a gritty 21-14 loss to St. John Vianney.
Immediate rematch: A week after convene at Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial and the Mustangs will meet again in the first round. On Friday night, Brick Memorial built a 21-0 cushion and need it to stave off the Jaguars, 27-21.
Biggest Non-Shore threats: Allentown and Nottingham. The Redbirds are not only the defending champion, they boast a 34-7 victory over top-seeded Nottingham in Week 1. All the Northstars have done since that loss is rattle off eight straight wins.
- 8-Lawrence (5-4) at 1-Rumson-Fair Haven (7-1), Friday, 7
- 5-Wall (4-4) at 4-Steinert (5-3), Saturday, 1
- 6-Carteret (4-4) at 3-Monmouth (6-3), Saturday, 1
- 7-Ewing (4-5) at 2-Somerville (8-1), Friday, 7
The favorite: Rumson-Fair Haven. A. The Bulldogs are the defending champion. B. The Bulldogs are seeking to join Manasquan as the only Shore Conference team to win five straight sectional crowns. And, C. The Bulldogs pack a viscious bite. The formula for their rate of success is simple: control the clock with a punishing ground game keyed by senior RB Peter Lucas (left) and clamp down on defense. Lucas has rumbled for 1,689 yards and 24 TDs, complemented by Alex Maldjian (60 carries for 526 yards, seven TDs), and drawn defenders into the box to clear passing lanes for QB Dan Harby (51 of 85 for 771 yards, seven TDs). On the defensive side, good luck containing this group. Linebackers Keegan Woods and Christian Lanzalotto are relentless pursuers while senior DE Elijah McAllister brings the heat off the edge.
The sleeper: Monmouth. The Falcons are loaded with playmaking athletes, notably Ian Fitzgerald and Dayshawn Porter. Each can turn something that looks pedestrian into a moment that's memorable. And, the defense is quick and unyielding. Monmouth concedes 20.2 points per game, a number that went up after yielding 48 points to both Rumson and St. John Vianney in consecutive losses to end the regular season. However, playing those two leading into the post season were invaluable primers that could have the Falcons honed for a deep run.
Don't overlook...Wall: The Crimson Knights entered the season with only four players with extensive experience - QB Eddie Scott, RB Brady McNally, WR/CB Chevesse Covin and LB Tim McKernan. Yet, the senior nucleus brings more than just talent to the table. They have championship experience, each playing a role in last year's run to the South Jersey, Group 3 title. Banging pads in the B North against the likes of Red Bank Catholic, Middletown South, Long Branch and Middletown North - Manasquan will have to wait until Thanksgiving - is exactly the kind of schedule that prepares teams for the playoffs. Beware of the Crimson Knights.
Biggest Non-Shore threat: Somerville. The Pioneers can hang some points, averaging 41.4 per game. They were similar in that regard a year ago and reached the semifinal before falling to Rumson-Fair Haven, 21-13.
- 8-Raritan (4-4) at 1-Point Boro (9-0), Friday, 7
- 5-Manasquan (5-3) at 4-Roselle (6-2), Friday 7
- 6-Holmdel (5-3) at 3-Johnson (7-1), Friday, 7
- 7-Hillside (6-3) at 2-South River (9-0), Saturday, 1
The favorite: Point Boro. The Panthers feature two ingredients that tend to be rather useful at this time of year. Their veer, with hinges on the magician-like deception of senior QB James Fara (158 carries for 1,255 yards, 19 TDs), eats both the clock and hash marks on its course to the end zone. It's got plenty of dangerous accessories in RBs Tanner Gordon, Brandon Cipriano and Nate Chiarello and its constant presence makes the occasional pass become an element of surprise. Oh, yeah, they all run behind a cohesive offensive line. Boro also boasts a rugged, unyielding defense, anchored by Garrett Romer, Tyler Sanchez, Trent Livolsi, Anthony Bonavito, Connor Landis, Ronnie Leyda, Trevor McNamara and Chiarello.
Sleeper: Manasquan. Hard to label the Warriors a sleeper at this time of the year, but will take the stretch based solely on seeding. All Manasquan has ever done is collect a Shore Conference-record 12 sectional titles, including this one last year.
Deep sleeper: Raritan. The eighth-seeded Rockets have built up some momentum, picking up three successive wins. QB Dan Vanmeerbeke, WRs Nick Kenneally and Vinnie DeCarlo and RB PJ Buccine give the offense a dangerous balance for a defense to contend against.
Dream semifinal: They surf a lot of the same breaks in the summer and share an an inlet yet Manasquan and Point Boro haven't squared off on the gridiron since 2011. If each can pick up a win in the first round, that seven-year will finally be scratched and a packed house can be expected in Point Pleasant Boro.
Welcome back: Holmdel returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Hornets have a staunch defense, embodied by senior LB Johnny O'Beirne and surrendered 15.6 points per game, a number pared to 7.8 when you take losses to Rumson and St. John Vianney out of the equation.
- 8-Asbury Park (5-4) at 1-Burlington City (7-1), Friday, 7
- 5-Shore (4-4) at 4-Middlesex (7-1), Friday, 7
- 6-Florence (4-4) at 3-Bound Brook (7-2), Friday, 7
- 7-Point Beach at 2-Manville (7-1), Friday, 7
The favorite: Burlington City. The Blue Devils have been an offensive juggernaut, averaging 39.2 points per contest. But, we're going to put Burlington City on upset alert because the sleeper is...
Sleeper: Asbury Park. The Blue Bishops are the defending champion and needed a 26-12 win over Keansburg Friday night to secure their place as the eighth seed. There are a lot of returning pieces from last year's crew, notably do-it-all senior WR/DB Donte Abrams, QB Ja'King Agostini and two-way lineman Kyrie Moore. Asbury Park has the one thing that could potentially slow Burling City's roll - defense. It surrenders a mere 11.1 points an outing.
Did you know?: This section has been dominated by the Shore Conference for the last four years. Point Beach won the crown in '13, Shore claimed back-to-back titles in '14 and '15 and Asbury Park won it all a year ago when five of the eight teams came from the always-competitive B Central.
- 8-Vineland (7-1) at 1-Lenape (7-1), Friday, 7
- 5-Cherokee (6-2) at 4-Howell, Friday 7
- 6-Williamstown (4-4) at 3-Millville (8-0), Friday, 7
- 7-Eastern (5-4) at 2-Rancocas Valley (7-1), Friday, 7
The favorite: Millville. The Thunderbolts back their high-powered offense (37.5 ppg.) with a fierce defense (13.6 ppg.).
The sleeper: Howell. The Rebels got people's attention by making some noise in this field a year ago, going on the road as the fifth seed and toppling fourth-seeded Vineland, 29-27, in the opening round. This crew is a year wiser and extremely polished. Senior QB Eddie Morales runs the spread like he was born for it and gets WRs Nasiem Brantley, Ryan Mazik, Patrick Handy and Brandon Wilson involved early and often. How effective the passing game related to the hard running on Nick Chambers and Gerard Urso. The Rebels can also unleash quite a pass rush with Wendell Wright, Scott Prendergast and Matt Mazauskas up front, backed by hard-nosed Braedon Baldwin at linebacker and Mazik, Brantley, Handy and Morales ball hawking in the secondary.
Group of Death: Pardon the soccer reference, but this section is annually one of the toughest to emerge from with the title in hand. Millville, Vineland, Lenape and Rancocas Valley are among the best teams in the state and Howell is without question in that mix.
- 8-Pennsauken (3-5) at 1-Moorestown (8-1), Friday, 7
- 5-Absegami (4-4) at 4-Shawnee (5-3), Friday, 7
- 6-Hammonton (3-6) at 3-Central (7-2), Friday, 7
- 7-Highland (4-4) at 2-Burlington Twp. (6-2), Friday, 7
The favorite: Shawnee. Leaning toward the fourth-seeded Renegades. Shawnee plays a daunting schedule with losses to Cherokee (42-41 in OT), Camden Catholic (25-21) and Williamstown (27-22) - all playoff qualifiers - by a combined 15 points.
The sleeper: Central. The Golden Eagles earned a share of the A South title and were strong in doing so. They'll put a four-game win streak on the line Friday night when they host Hammonton and feature sophomomore RB Kavon Chambers, who's fashioned a breakout season. And, if any game comes down to a field goal, Central has one of the most reliable kickers in Shane Black. Adding to their cause. Central also brings a pretty stout defense to the table. Neil Harrington, Ryan Emmets, Jonathan Banks, Jonathan Gonzalez and Lino Delguidice fly to the ball.
- 8-Seneca (3-5) at 1-Timber Creek (8-0), Friday, 7
- 5-Ocean City (6-2) at 4-Delsea (6-3), Friday, 7
- 6-Lakewood (4-4) at 3-Lacey (7-2), Saturday, 1
- 7-Deptford (3-5) at 2-Camden Wilson (6-2), Saturday, 1
The favorite: Timber Creek. The Chargers are a force and widely-regarded among the upper echelon of teams in New Jersey this fall. Senior QB Devin Leary (109 for 179 passing for 2,052 yards, 23 yards) is a North Carolina State commit.
Something's gotta give: When last they met, Lacey rallied from a 27-13 deficit in the third quarter to edge Lakewood, 34-33, in Week 5. The win was the launch point for the Lions' current five-game win streak, one in which the Lions have struck some offensive balance between the passing game engineered by senior QB Coleton Klaus (106 for 169 passing for 1,319 yards, 10 TDs) and the bruising style of senior RB Jason Giresi (193 carries for 1,183 yards, 16 TDs.)
Lakewood has turned things around since the loss. The Piners have pocketed three straight wins, getting major contributions from senior QB Zyheir Jones, his twin brother Jyheir at wide receiver and senior LB Josh Lezin. While all three draw major attention, what makes Lakewood imposing is those who surround them have risen to the late-season occasion. Junior FB/DL Dante Morris is a player to watch and senior defensive backs Rashaun Reeves and Myles Jackson support the run and cover adhesively.
- 1-DePaul (6-3), bye
- 5-Camden Catholic (7-1) at 4-St. John Vianney (9-0), Friday, 7
- 6-Red Bank Catholic (8-1) at 3-St. Joseph Regional (6-3), Saturday, 1
- 7-Donovan Catholic (3-5) at 2-Pope John (5-3), Saturday, 1
The favorite: St. Joseph Regional. The Green Knights made their case by downing DePaul, 28-21, on Saturday.
The sleeper: St. John Vianney. The one thing the Lancers needed to compete with the likes of St. Joseph, DePaul and Pope John is the ability to hold their own in the trenches. Vianney has made significant strides in that direction building a formidable offensive line comprised of CJ Hanson (6-5, 293), Dom Spano (6-3, 260), Donovan Reiser (6-5, 295), Alec Larsen (5-11, 260), Paul Liseno (6-2, 275) and TE Andrew McGimpsey (6-5, 215). Between the holes they can open for the bruising backfield of seniors Johnny Buchanan (103 carries for 1,012 yards, 14 TDs) and Josiah Walker (39 carries for 276 yards, four TDs) to plow through and the protection they offer senior QB Haaziq Daniels, the Lancers offer a lot of the demands needed to tangle with the squads from up north. They also have speed and reliabity along the perimeter in the form of slot Zyaire Sterling (51 carries for 516 yards, 7 TDs and 10 receptions for 214 yards, five TDs) and wide receivers Sam East (20 receptions for 318 yards, six TDs) and Nick DeGennaro (13 receptions for 187 yards, one TD). Defensively, Buchanan (101 tackles) and Walker (78 tackles) work on concert as the inside linebackers behind a defensive front that unleashes seniors Nick Densieski (10 sacks), Spano (five sacks) and Hanson (four sacks).
Don't overlook: Red Bank Catholic. The Caseys head to Montvale to meet St. Joe's for the first time since they defeated the Green Knights, 44-14, en route to the state title in 2014. RBC has adapted in the past two weeks since losing senior RB Zack Bair to a foot injury. Junior QB Steve Lubischer has been razor sharp, getting senior Brandon Lombana, junior Jaden Key and sophomore TE Kevin Bauman and Charlie Gordinier touches while sophomore Billy Guidetti has stepped up to fill Bair's void as the feature back. The Caseys are hurting for size along the line of scrimmage, leaning on Tom Smith (6-2, 270), Rich Christie (6-3, 285), Mike Griggs (6-3, 280), Brandon Dente (6-2, 245) and Conor Smith (6-5, 270) to set the physical parameters. Defensively, Virginia-bound senior DE Emmett McNamara (6-6, 250) is a a chore to conttain and senior safety Matt Ansell is a quick, forceful closer.
- 8-St. Mary (Ruth.) (5-4) at 1-St. Joseph (Hamm.) (9-0), Saturday, 1
- 5-Immaculata (5-4) at 4-Hudson Catholic (4-5), Friday, 7
- 6-Holy Cross (5-4) at 3-Mater Dei (6-1), Saturday, 1
- 7-Gloucester Catholic (5-3) at 2-Holy Spirit (7-1), Friday, 7
The favorite: St. Joseph's. The Hammonton crew woon the West Jersey Football League Independence Division title. Good luck trying to stop the this running game. The Wildcats have run for 2,724 yards, driven by senior Qwahsin Townsel (161 carries for 1,043 yards, 22 TDs) and sophomore Jada Byers (88 carries for 965 yards, 14 TDs).
The sleeper: Mater Dei. You didn't forget the Seraphs are the defending champion, did you? Mater Dei is under the guidance of senior QB George Pearson, a Western Michigan recruit and a cool customer in the pocket. Pearson can dissect a defense with his patience and accuracy. Running backs Isaiah Noguera and Malik Ingram as slick and elusive, wide receiver Kyle Devaney runs crisp, fruitful routes and the defense gets plenty of energy from junior LB Russell Ferrisi and senior defensive end Tom Olausen.
NJSIAA Crossover Games
Thursday, Nov. 9
Red Bank at Neptune, 6
Colts Neck at Northern Burlington, 6
Marlboro at Franklin, 7
Haddon Twp. at Matawan, 7
Southern at Atlantic City, 6
Kingsway at Toms River North, 6
Toms River South at Bridgeton, 7
Hightstown at Middletown North, 6
Ocean at Hopewell Valley, 7
Jackson Liberty at Triton, 7
Oakcrest at Pinelands, 7
Saturday, Nov. 11
Toms River East at Winslow, 1
New Egypt at Keansburg, 1
Maple Share at Keyport, 1
Barnegat at Overbrook, 1
Manchester at Pemberton, 1
Game of the Week: Freehold Boro 27, Long Branch 20
Senior QB Ashante Worthy stamped a 16-for-26 passing performance that reaped 242 yards with a 20-yard TD pass to junior WR Matt Krauss with 1:42 left in regulation to snap a 20-20 deadlock in favor of Freehold Boro (6-3). Jake Hurler, who booted field goals of 22 and 34 in the first half, tacked on the PAT.
Long Branch (6-2) maneuvered to within striking distance of a potential game-tying score. Senior QB Juwan Wilkins, who finished 20 of 34 through the air for 312 yards, backed a 25-yard completion to junior WR Matt Clarke with a 22-yard strike to senior TE Kaymar Mimes that got the Green Wave to the Freehold Boro 7-yard line. However, junior DL Qua'Jon Everett came up with a critical sack, Krauss broke up a pass across the middle and made the game-ending tackle on a completion at the Colonials' 6.
Senior linebacker Yahson Calhoun had two sacks and fumble recovery for Freehold Boro.
Player of the Week: QB Ja’King Agostini, Asbury Park
Asbury Park had its back against the wall Friday night, needing a win to get into the Central Jersey, Group 1 playoffs and the right to defend its title. The senior quarterback responded to the circumstances like a seasoned veteran, accurately connecting on 8 of 10 passes for 166 yards and touchdown strikes to Donte Abrams and Javon Higgs to complement 50 yards on the ground, including a 20-yard scoring dash in a 26-12 victory over visiting Keansburg.
Defensive Players of the Week: DL Nicko Cofone and LB Connor Robbins, Middletown North
The pair were central figures within a harassing pass rush that reaped 11 sacks – don’t rub your eyes, you read that right – during a 34-7 win against Ocean. Cofone accounted for a whopping four and Robbins registered three for the Lions.
Two-way Player of the Week: Matt Krauss, Freehold Boro
The junior backed his go-ahead 20-yard TD reception with 1:42 left to play with two big defenses hits in the closing seconds that stalled a Long Branch rebuttal and preserved a 27-20 victory. He made a hit over the middle to force an incompletion and raced to the sideline in the next play to make a tackle the Boro six-yard line as the clock expired. Krauss finished with four receptions for 42 yards and 11 tackles.
Offensive line of the Week: Manalapan
Somebody gotta be moving bodies out of the way to allow senior RB Naim Mayfield to do what he’s been accomplishing all season long. Joe Ciraola (Sr. 5-9, 235), Juan Torres (Sr. 6-0, 235), Trevor Radosevich (Sr. 6-3, 270), Nick Valallaro (So. 5-11, 280), Matt Mazza (Sr. 6-4, 270), Matt Kovacs (So. 5-11, 220), Dale Sieczkowski (Jr. 6-2, 200) and Alex Claro (Jr. 6-0, 205) cleared ample room for Mayfield to race for 197 yards and four TDs on eight carries and the Braves to accumulate 291 rushing yards and 375 overall in a 48-7 triumph at Freehold Twp. that locked up the A North crown.
Win of the Week: Shore 28, Keyport 14
Running back Jack McCrae punched in a pair of short TD runs en route to finishing with 164 yards on 19 carries as the Blue Devils rallied from a 7-6 halftime deficit to pick up the road win, one that pushed them into the Central Jersey, Group 1 playoff picture as the fifth-seeded. Gil Goldsmith added 124 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 20 hauls and John Salerno chipped with a six-yard scoring jaunt.