St. John Vianney has a new coaching staff and a host of new players, especially at the skill positions. And while the Lancers have yet to strap on the pads and compete in true game settings, they've acquainted themselves quite well so far.

SJV captured the Shore Conference 7-on-7 championship on Thursday night prior to the 41st Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic, besting Donovan Catholic, 20-6. Junior quarterback C.J. Duell tossed touchdown passes to Warren Griffith, Zarrin Stephens and Kavon Chambers while also connecting with tight end Andrew McGimpsey for a 2-point conversion.

"Our biggest concerns this whole summer and preseason are just to get everybody on the same page, terminology-wise, to be able to call a play and just let the kids run it," said St. John Vianney head coach Joe Martucci. "It took us a couple weeks to do that but the last two games - at the Kean University 7-on-7 and then here in the Shore Conference - we were able to do that."

Martucci, a Matawan graduate who was the Huskies' head coach from 1984-2011 where he won five NJSIAA sectional championships, is in his first year as St. John Vianney's head coach following a stint as an assistant at Kean University. Much of his old staff at Matawan has joined him, including longtime assistant Sam Turner as well as Jay Bellamy and Charlie Rogers.

Martucci takes over a program that has a 38-game Shore Conference winning streak but was hit hard by graduation, especially at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Duell, a Toms River resident who transferred from St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, gives the Lancers a 6-foot-2 pro-style quarterback. Kavon Chambers, who played at Central Regional his first two years and was fifth in the Shore with 1,438 yards rushing, looks to take over as the starting tailback. McGimpsey, a 6-foot-6 tight end, Griffith and Stephens were on the team last year and will step into more prominent roles.

That's a lot of moving parts to account for, which is why the summer 7-on-7 tournaments have been great for the Lancers.

"It's about getting better with everybody and forming those connections," Duell said. "Everyone is new to this so we're just trying to get on the same page, and once we do I think we'll be set to go."

"It's been a lot of fun," Martucci said. "The kids have been working hard and that's what's important. They bought into what we've been asking of them and it's worked out so far."

***

One embodies the grit of Sam Mills, the other bares a striking resemblance to the iconic Long Branch legend.

Now, Zack Bair of Red Bank Catholic and Willie Garner of Brick Memorial have even deeper ties to the five-time Pro Bowler. Each was the proud recipient of the Sam Mills Award on Thursday night at the 41st Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic, selected by their respective coaching staffs for their exemplary character, hustle and representation of what the ideal teammate is supposed to represent.

Bair, a Dartmouth commit who rushed for 1,087 yards and 15 touchdowns in just seven games, rebounded from an ankle injury that cut his senior season for the Caseys short to retake the field and was a prominent figure within a dynamic Monmouth County offense that fueled a 28-14 victory over Ocean County.

Garner, a tireless two-way force along the line of scrimmage for Brick Memorial at guard and across the defensive line, abided to the same work ethic throughout practices and during the contest for Ocean County.

***

Quite the evening for Dan George. The Long Branch head coach not only piloted Monmouth County to a 28-14 victory, raising its advantage in the overall series to 22-18-1, but, at halftime, was one of three inductees into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation's Hall of Fame. This past fall, George steered the Green Wave to a 9-3 record stamped by a 43-42 overtime victory against Freehold Boro in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 championship. In 21 seasons at the helm for Long Branch, his alma mater, George has fashioned a 143-82-1 mark, collecting two sectional crowns and four Shore Conference division titles, not to mention is illustrious career overseeing the Green Wave wrestling program, where he's pocketed over 400 wins and three state titles.

"For me, the Hall of Fame is a lifetime achievement on the backs of a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches," George said. "I’ve been fortunate to have a phenomenal family who allows me to coach. It’s a lot of hours, it’s a lot of time away from your family and without that, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do that. The players put me in (the Hall of Fame) because they played so well through the years, so that’s awesome. "

Joining George in the induction class of '18 were brothers Joseph and Hugh Boyd. Joe made New Jersey history in 1956 when he celebrated his hire as both the athletic director and head coach by pointing Central Regional in its first year of establishment to a Central Jersey Group 1 championship. Hugh, his younger brother, was among the most esteemed referees of his time within the Shore Conference, headlining the first crew to officiate an All-Shore Classic in 1978.

***

No team or individual records were set this time around, but each team came close. Monmouth County achieved 19 first downs, two short of the record of 21 set by Monmouth County in 1994. Monmouth County also has the game record with 250 rushing yards in 1994. Ocean County was one big run away from approaching that mark, finishing with 225 yards on 37 carries.

***

The event wasn't just reserved to showcase the Shore's elite talent inside the lines. The All-Shore Gridiron Classic introduced All-Star cheerleading squads from both Monmouth and Ocean counties for the first time, adding some rousing spirit in support of their respective teams.

***

With its victory last night, Monmouth increased its edge in the 41-year history of the All-Shore Gridiron Classic to 22-18-1 and picked up its second straight win in the series. In the process, Monmouth scored the most points in the game since its 30-13 victory in 2009.

***

Brick Memorial became the 13th site to host the All-Shore Gridiron Classic and it didn't disappoint. The field was in immaculate condition and served as a gracious entertainer for a robust crowd estimated in the range of 3,500 to 4,000. That number puts it in the top-10 most attended Gridiron Classic games of all time.

 

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