Brick-Brick Memorial Rivalry Set to Kickoff Shore Sports Network Schedule in Style
The Shore Sports Network kicks off its 2012 broadcast schedule with a fierce cross-town rivalry game between Brick and Brick Memorial on Friday night.
The 7 p.m. game at Brick Memorial, which will be live on 105.7 The Hawk, has extra meaning this season because Brick has been moved into Class A South from Class B South in the latest Shore Conference realignment. That means this is now a divisional game that will serve as an early dividing line between contender and pretender, so it raises the stakes of an already fiery rivalry.
Since the game has moved from Thanksgiving to the season opener in 2010, Brick Memorial has won both meetings over the Green Dragons. Brick leads the all-time series, 19-10-1, but Brick Memorial has won four out of the last six meetings.
Here is a look at some of the questions facing each team heading into the game and some match-ups to watch.
How will Brick Memorial be affected by Anthony Miller’s season-ending knee injury?
The Mustangs lost one of their top returners when senior Anthony Miller went down with a torn ACL in a preseason scrimmage. A fullback on offense, he was also slated to play a hybrid outside linebacker/safety spot on defense. Miller is a three-year varsity player, so those are never easy to replace. His absence may be felt most acutely on defense with his versatility as a run stopper and the ability to play safety in coverage. Offensively, the Mustangs still have plenty of weapons with quarterback Ryan Cieplinski, potential breakout running back Mike Basile and a corps of wideouts with good size.
Will Ryan Cieplinski make the leap in 2012?
Cieplinski had an up-and-down season in his first year as the starter last year, but showed flashes of brilliance, particularly in the passing game, later in the season. The last two quarterbacks under coach Walt Currie, Brian Staub and Mike DiGuilmi, were more productive in their second season of running the triple option. Both of them led the Mustangs to state sectional finals, and Cieplinski has the same type of potential with better ability as a passer than the previous two quarterbacks. He has a solid backfield led by Basile and three receivers who are 6-foot-2 or taller, so the weapons are there to boost a unit that averaged 19 points per game last year.
Can Brick’s Dan Watson be even better this year?
Watson quietly had 14 sacks last season, using his burst off the line at defensive end to routinely hound opposing quarterbacks. With stud linebacker Tom Winters having moved on to Monmouth University, Watson will receive more attention from opposing offenses and will have to deal with more double teams. His presence will create opportunities for some other newcomers in the front four. He could end up being more effective this year even if his stats don’t reflect it. Playing in a more high-profile division in Class A South, if he puts up similar or better numbers than last year, that would have to put him in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion.
Can Brick’s youth brigade help this season?
Talking to coaches in Ocean County, they have marked this sophomore class at Brick as one to watch in the coming years and a group capable of returning the Green Dragons to the lofty perch they once regularly occupied. Many of them will see time this season, including Joe Phillips, who is stepping in as the starting quarterback, and Ray Fattaruso, a promising linebacker and wide receiver. The common wisdom is that this team is a year away from potentially being like Southern’s team last year, a junior-laden group that helped the Rams win the Class A South title. However, this year’s team does have standout seniors like Watson and running back/linebacker Doug Cuccinello, so if the sophomores get acclimated quickly, the Green Dragons could surprise some people.
Game breakdown: Brick gave Brick Memorial a hard-fought battle last year in a 17-10 win by the Mustangs, and this season should again be a slugfest. An interesting factor will be how Brick’s young players at key positions, particularly Phillips, do under the bright lights in a fierce rivalry game for their first taste of varsity action. I could see Brick relying heavily on a veteran like Cuccinello to carry the offense with the running game early on to get Phillips settled in.
This will also be the first extended action in the backfield for Basile, who has drawn high praise from the Brick Memorial coaching staff. This also will be a chance to see if Cieplinski’s passing ability can be a game-changing factor if Brick does a good job of playing assignment football to contain the triple option running game.
A win by the Green Dragons would be symbolic of an ongoing resurgence under second-year coach Rob Dahl, while Brick Memorial wants to send a reminder of which team has ruled the town for the last decade.