Cruise ‘Ship: Shore Routs South Hunterdon to Claim Central Jersey Group I Title
UNION — For the last two seasons Shore Regional has had to dust itself off after a crushing state finals defeat to begin the long road back to another championship game. This year it was the Blue Devils that did the crushing.
With a dominant rushing attack and a physical, run-stuffing defense, Shore blasted South Hunterdon, 42-12, to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship on Saturday morning at Kean University. The Blue Devils rolled up 344 rushing yards on 56 carries while holding South Hunterdon under two yards per carry to win the sixth sectional title in program history and first since 2010.
“It feels great and it still hasn’t set in yet,” said senior linebacker James Bedell. “Being state champs is unbelievable.”
Junior fullback Doug Goldsmith led the rushing barrage with a game-high 139 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, and senior Kyle Masica added 75 yards and two touchdowns with junior Tyreek McCain running for 66 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Senior quarterback Ryan Campi had a short touchdown run and also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to senior Mike Moore.
Defensively, the Blue Devils capped a remarkable season by forcing four turnovers and completely shutting down South Hunterdon’s running game. The Eagles managed just 54 yards on 28 carries, an average of 1.9 yards per attempt. It all added up to produce the program’s sixth sectional championship and helped erase the sting of losing the championship game in each of the past two seasons. Shore finished the season 11-1 while allowing a Shore Conference-low 61 points.
“We knew there’s no guarantee of how many games and how many chances you have left,” Goldsmith said. “I know that just from injuries. We knew we had to keep playing like every game was our last and go out there trying to play the game of our lives every week.”
“We graduated a bunch of great players the past two years, but we just reloaded and came back,” said Blue Devils head coach Mark Costantino. “It’s what we do. Our coaching staff is phenomenal; they could all be head coaches. It’s just a matter of doing what we do best.”
In terms of playing the style Shore aims to play with week after week, Saturday’s championship game performance was nearly flawless. The Blue Devils’ running game averaged over six yards per carry and scored five touchdowns, its defense completely nullified the oppositions rushing attack and it won the turnover and field position battles. Outside of a pair of big plays in the passing game, South Hunterdon couldn’t get anything going. Campi came into the game with just one touchdown pass all season, but was able to hit a big play on his scoring strike to Moore.
“When they got the ball it was all about finding a way to get it back, and we did,” Bedell said. “And we punched it into the end zone so many times today. It’s a surreal feeling.”
Shore seized the momentum early and never looked back on its way to a second state title in the last five seasons and third under Costantino. South Hunterdon received to start the game, and on the second play Moore stepped in front of an Eagles receiver for an interception that gave Shore the ball at the South Hunterdon 41-yard line. Runs of 12 and 14 yards by McCain on back-to-back plays moved the ball down to the one-yard line, and Campi plunged in for the touchdown on first and goal for a 7-0 lead just 2:59 into the game.
“We just had to get up on them and put a little doubt in their heads,” Goldsmith said. “Then we kept grinding on them.”
South Hunterdon (9-3) would answer quickly with a six-play, 70-yard drive highlighted by a 51-yard catch and run by senior wide receiver Jeffrey Brown III. That play brought the ball down to the Shore 18-yard line, and three plays later senior fullback Shane Carey scored on a five-yard run to put the Eagles in position to tie the score. The extra point was no good, however, so Shore still led, 7-6. That was as close as South Hunterdon would get to taking the lead.
The teams alternated punts on the next four possessions, and Shore was unable to add to its lead when senior Jake Monteiro missed wide right on a 26-yard field goal attempt. But the Blue Devils got the opening they needed to take control on the next possession when South Hunterdon curiously went for it on fourth-and-two from its own 28-yard line. It appeared the Eagles were only trying to draw Shore offsides, but the ball was snapped anyway to an unsuspecting Tyler Frazee, who was stuffed after a short gain. Shore took advantage with a quick scoring drive, taking a 14-6 lead on McCain’s 19-yard touchdown run and Monteiro’s extra point.
“They just lined up in their running set and we all knew the quarterback sneak was coming,” Goldsmith said. “Our defensive tackles ate them up.”
Shore pushed its lead to 21-7 on its second drive of the third quarter, a four-play, 30-yard march that ended with Campi hitting Moore on a deep seam route for a 28-yard touchdown. Shore had fumbled on the opening possession of the second half after driving to the South Hunterdon 24, but got the ball right back two plays later when Goldsmith recovered a Frazee fumble at the 30.
“I was so surprised when we called the play,” Goldsmith said of the rare passing play. “It was “13 streak” and I was like, ‘what?’ I thought he said screen at first. It was a great throw by Ryan Campi and a great catch by Mike Moore.”
Down 15, South Hunterdon responded on the following possession with its best drive of the game. Frazee hit Josh Phillips with a pair of passes to help bring the ball down to the Shore 23-yard line, but a fumble on a botched handoff was recovered by Bedell at the 20, killing the drive and any momentum the Eagles were starting to take back.
Shore then blew the game open with 21 points in the fourth quarter. Moore broke a 30-yard run on the final play of the third quarter before Masica capped the 80-yard drive off the turnover with a 23-yard touchdown run.
Masica then intercepted Frazee and returned it 35 yards to the South Hunterdon 19 to set up Goldsmith’s 4-yard touchdown run that pushed Shore’s lead to 35-6 with 8:34 left in the game.
South Hunterdon found the end zone for the second time when Brennan Carey made a great catch before tightrope walking the sideline on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Frazee. The two-point conversion run failed, making it 35-12.
Masica polished off Shore’s dominating performance with a 15-yard touchdown run on a nine-play, 54-yard drive with 1:45 left.
After losing to Florence 23-17 in double overtime in the 2012 sectional final and falling to Point Beach 12-7 in last year’s championship game, Costantino’s message to his team was simple.
“Find six more points,”Costantino said. “We lost two close ones the last two years, but the key players bought into it and worked hard at it all year.”
“Coming into the season we knew the defense was going to carry us,” Bedell said. “We had a lot of offensive struggles in the beginning and we really relied on our defense. But as the season went on we got Doug back from injuries and Tyreek got going. Once that happened we knew we were on our way.”
Shore will have plenty of weapons back next year to make a run at another title, but for seniors like Bedell, Campi, Moore and Masica this was their last chance to avenge championship defeats and end their careers in style. And in the biggest moment of their careers, they existed the field having left no doubt.
Shore 42, South Hunterdon 12
South Hunterdon (9-3) 6 0 0 6 – 12
Shore Regional (11-1) 7 7 7 21 – 42
SR – Ryan Campi 1-yard run (Jake Monteiro kick)
SH – Shane Carey 5-yard run (kick failed)
SR – Tyreek McCain 19-yard run (Jake Monteiro kick)
SR – Ryan Campi 28-yard pass to Mike Moore (Jake Monteiro kick)
SR – Kyle Masica 23-yard run (Jake Monteiro kick)
SR – Doug Goldsmith 4-yard run (Jake Monteiro kick)
SH – Tyler Frazee 68-yard pass to Brennan Carey (run failed)
SR – Kyle Masica 15-yard run (Jake Monteiro kick)
Rushing – SH: Tyler Frazee 13-36, Shane Carey 9-19, Myles Johnson 5-11, Jeffrey Brown III 1-(-12); SR: Doug Goldsmith 28-139, Kyle Masica 9-75, Tyreek McCain 12-66, Mike Moore 5-52, Ryan Campi 2-12.
Passing – SH: Tyler Frazee 7-13-2 195; SR: Ryan Campi 2-5-0 26.
Receiving – SH: Brennan Carey 3-98, Jeffrey Brown III 1-51, Josh Phillips 2-37, D'andre Acosta 1-9; SR: Mike Moore 1-28, Doug Goldsmith 1-(-2).
Interceptions – SR: Mike Moore 1-0, Kyle Masica 1-35.