2017 All-Shore Gridiron Classic Preview
What: 40th annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic
When: Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be preceded by the Shore Conference 7-on-7 championship at 6:15 p.m. between Monmouth County winner Long Branch and Ocean County winner Central.
Where: Robert Feeney Field at Shore Regional High School.
Tickets: $10 at the door.
Broadcast information: The game will be broadcast live on 1160/1310 AM with Matt Harmon, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Brad Burascano. The audio will also be streaming live online at ShoreSportsNetwork.com and on the brand new Shore Sports Network app. The broadcast begins at 6:45 p.m.
All-time series: Monmouth leads Ocean, 20-18-1.
Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame inductees: Longtime assistant coaches Butch Britton and Bob Spada will be inducted at halftime.
Rosters, coaches, Hall of Fame bios, game facts and more: Click here to view the official gameday program
Game breakdown: History is a stake in the 40th edition of New Jersey's longest running high-school football all-star game as Ocean County will try to become the first to win four consecutive Gridiron Classics. Ocean won last season's game, 14-7, at Central's Joseph J. Boyd Field and is trying to extend the winning streak under the direction of Lakewood head coach L.J. Clark, several of his assistants and also Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz, Central head coach Justin Fumando and Barnegat defensive coordinator Kevin Smith.
Monmouth County will be led by St. John Vianney head coach Derek Sininsky and his staff, plus Marlboro head coach Jason Dagato.
The on-paper matchup for the Gridiron Classic usually sees to evenly matched teams or one county that has one overpowering unit, just like Ocean County did last year along the defensive line. This year's game looks to fall into the former category with both teams featuring standouts all over the field.
Monmouth County features St. John Vianney's Matt DeGennaro, Shore's Matt Pennell, Raritan's Marc Carnivale and Freehold Township's Charles Sabbagh at quarterback. DeGennaro missed time with an injury last season but was part of a Lancers team that went 10-1, won its third straight Class A Central division title and reached the semifinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III playoffs. Pennell was a multiple-year starter for the Blue Devils and was a part of two Central Jersey Group I championship teams where he also played safety. Carnivale quarterbacked Raritan to the 2015 Central Jersey Group II championship and threw a dramatic game-winning touchdown with just seconds left in the game. Sabbagh was third in the Shore Conference with 2,176 yards passing to help Freehold Township reach the playoffs for the second time in program history.
One position group that is notable right off the bat for Monmouth County is the running backs where four 1,000-yard rushers will look to carve up Ocean County's defense. Marlboro's Cameron Caorsi was 10th in the Shore with 1,382 yards and 16 touchdowns despite missing time with an injury. Raritan's Vito Aleo ran for 1,231 yards and 15 touchdowns and led the Shore with a 9.9 yards per carry average. Asbury Park's Paul Reed had 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns to help the Blue Bishops capture the Central Jersey Group I sectional title and Colts Neck's Carmen Catena finished with 1,080 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Monmouth's quarterbacks have a talented and diverse group of receivers to throw to with Freehold's Ahlonte Hair, Manasquan's Damaso Jaime, Howell's Dan Cacciatore, Neptune's Kahmar Rice, Keyport's Cody Young and Raritan's Rory Sullivan. Wall's R.J. Janeczek and Middletown North's Dwight Wilkerson will primarily play defensive back but could also see time at receiver.
Wall's Gene Scott will be the tight end with Manasquan's Adam Schreck, who will start on defense, also at tight end. Scott was a punishing blocker in Wall's outstanding running game that led the Crimson Knights to the South Jersey Group III state title. Schreck was a Shore Sports Network first-team All-Shore selection along the defensive line and was also a key option in the passing game for a Warriors team that won the Central Jersey Group II championship.
Starting along the offensive line for Monmouth County will be Marlboro's Riley Keating at center, Keyport's Erik Nellis and Shore's Mike Devine at guard and Neptune's Gary Hoover and Keansburg's Richie Squeo at tackle. There's also Raritan's Paul Bavaro and Alex Dalmau and Middletown North's Jake Goldfarb.
The Monmouth County defensive line is led by Schreck, who had 13.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 47 tackles, 3 pass breakups, a forced fumble and 18 quarterback pressures last season en route to a first-team All-Shore selection. The other defensive end is Keyport's Zack Frink with 6-foot-7 Monmouth Regional standout Tyler Rebmann rotating in. Goldfarb and Bavaro are the defensive tackles with Shore's Paul Christopher and Matawan's Andrew Conzo also rotating in.
The back seven for Monmouth County boasts an impressive group of players. Mater Dei Prep's Juwan Mitchell, who helped the Seraphs go 12-0 and win the Non-Public Group II title for the first time in program history, will be the middle linebacker with Wall's Kyle Dallicardillo and Ocean's Anthony Tedesco at outside linebacker. Marlboro's Ryan Cassidy will also play middle linebacker while Holmdel's Tristan Wong and Manalapan's Jon Pimentel will see snaps at outside linebacker.
The Monmouth County secondary has a pair of SSN first-team All-Shore players with Wilkerson at cornerback and Middletown South's Maxx Imsho at safety. Wilkerson was a dynamic weapon for a Middletown North team that reached a sectional final for the first time since 1996. Wilkerson made 74 tackles with four tackles for a loss, two interceptions, four passes defended and two fumble recoveries as a safety. He also ran for 670 yards and six touchdowns on an average of eight yards per carry and added 38 receptions for 544 yard and four touchdowns. A two-time first-team All-Shore pick, Imsho made 78 tackles with 7 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 pass breakups and a defensive touchdown to help the Eagles win the Class B North division title. He was also a key player on Middletown South's 2015 team that finished 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in New Jersey.
Playing opposite Wilkerson at cornerback will be Red Bank Catholic's Max Hazard while Manalapan's Cody Weiner will be the other starting safety. Manalapan's Sean Kinniburgh, Asbury Park's Josmere Taylor and Matawan's Ray Belony will also see time at cornerback while Wall's R.J. Janeczek and Mater Dei's Jon Lubintus will rotate in at safety.
Weiner is the punter while the kicker is Freehold Township's Tyler Schulman, who was a first-team All-Shore selection in his only season playing football.
The name that pops off the list for Ocean County is Central running back Mike Bickford. A two-time SSN first-team All-Shore selection, Bickford is Central's all-time leading rusher and part of a senior class at helped the Golden Eagles to three straight winning seasons for the first time since the late 1990s. Bickford ran for 1,737 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 8.2 yards per carry last season and finished his career with over 5,000 yards rushing.
Bickford will start at running back for Ocean County, which will run Lakewood's hybrid Delaware Wing-T scheme. Lakewood's Honore Richardson will start at slot back. Brick's Rashon McCall also get carries at running back while Brick's Jon Prato will rotate in at slot back.
Brick's Anthony Costanza and Southern's Sam Cammarata are the quarterbacks, and they will have an underrated yet talented group of receivers to throw to. Lakewood's Adi Palmer and Point Boro's Hayden Frey will start, and Prato, Lacey's Chase Stephensen and Southern's Chris Citarella could also see time split out wide or in the slot. Palmer caught 29 passes for 477 yards and four touchdowns while Frey had 21 catches for 386 yards and five touchdowns playing in Point Boro's run-heavy flexbone offense. Stephensen will start on defense since he was a very good safety for Lacey, but he was actually one of the top pass-catchers in the Shore last year with 50 receptions for 618 yards and three touchdowns.
Central's Denis Corbin is the tight end where he is dangerous as both a blocker and catching passes over the middle.
Toms River North center Will Sagarese, a first-team All-Shore selection, anchors the Ocean County offensive line. Sagarese and teammate Matt Melamed, who will start at tackle, helped pave the way for the No. 1 offense in the Shore last season as the Mariners averaged 44.3 points per game and a staggering 470 yards per game. Brick's Liam Poland is the other tackle with Brick teammate Jack Finelli also rotating in. The starting guards are Point Boro's Joe Hynes and Southern's Dylan Smith with Point Boro's Aidan Connolly rotating in.
While Ocean County's defense doesn't have the overwhelming presence like last year, it still has a very good group that has big-time players at every level. Lacey's Matt Milden and Central's Jared Giaimo are the defensive ends and Finelli and Toms River South's Jake Iadevaia are the defensive tackles along with Toms River North's Joe Nardoza and Point Beach's Cade Watkins and Cody Liguori.
Toms River North's Pete LaQuaglia, a first-team All-Shore pick, starts at middle linebacker with Toms River South's Nick Page and Brick's Dean Helstowski flanking him at outside linebacker. LaQuaglia led the Shore in tackles last season with 168 (97 solo) while also recording 11 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Helstowski made 124 tackles with 7 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and a defensive touchdown. Page had 103 tackles and three interceptions and has impressed the Ocean County coaching staff during the week of practice. Lakewood's Jah'sir Cooper will also play middle linebacker and Barnegat's Eric Becker will rotate in at outside linebacker.
In the secondary Central's Anthony Holloway and Manchester's Tariq Ali will start at cornerback with Barnegat's Jake Schmitz rotating in. The safeties are Stephensen and Prato with Citarella and Brick Memorial's Joe Manso also rotating in.
On special teams Palmer is the kicker and Cammarata is the punter. Richardson and Holloway are the kick returners, Richardson will return punts and Helstowski is the long snapper.
Prediction: As I stated last year, picking the winner in these games is always tough, although last year I was somehow pretty accurate in my prediction. That probably means whatever I'm about to write is going to be the opposite of what actually happens in the game. Prediction: Ocean County.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.