Division Titles, State Playoff Races and a Statement by RBC Highlight Week Eight
Playoff berths being clinched, two division titles being decided and a loud statement from the Shore Conference’s No. 1 team defined Week Eight in Shore Conference football.
In one of the more anticipated regular-season games in the Shore Conference this fall, top-ranked Red Bank Catholic delivered the message that there are the Caseys and then everyone else when it rolled over No. 5 Middletown South 34-7 in a nondivisional game. It was RBC’s 21st straight win against Shore Conference competition and Middletown South’s worst home loss in 12 years. A large and physical offensive line paved the way for 232 yards rushing, including 117 yards and two touchdowns by junior tailback Larry Redaelli. The defense registered five sacks, including two by junior Shawn McCord, and bottled up Middletown South’s running game.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the Shore, and we’re ready for any challenge,” said junior two-way lineman Quenton Nelson.
While RBC killed any suspense early on in its victory, which most likely secured the Caseys a Non-Public Group III playoff game at home in the first round, the most exciting finish belonged to Lacey. The undefeated Lions clinched the outright Class A South title and most likely guaranteed at least two home playoff games in South Jersey Group IV by scoring on the final play of regulation with no time remaining to beat Brick, 6-3.
The Green Dragons led 3-0 from the first half on a 33-yard field goal by senior Anthony Starego before the Lions won in incredible fashion when senior wideout Bill Belford took a pass over the middle from sophomore quarterback Conor Davies and raced 58 yards to the end zone for a walk-off victory that touched off a wild celebration.
Another last-second thriller was in Long Branch, where the host Green Wave pulled out a huge 24-21 victory over Matawan to keep themselves on track for at least a share of the Class B North title and vault them to a possible first-round home game in Central Jersey Group III. Sophomore placekicker Vicente Mota, a first-year starter, booted a career-long 34-yard field goal with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to give Long Branch the victory. Junior running back Deon Williams had an 8-yard touchdown run and an 82-yard touchdown catch in the win, while Matawan junior quarterback Kashaun Barnes threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the loss.
Yet another game that went down to the wire in thrilling fashion was Jackson Liberty’s 38-31 win over Point Boro in double overtime in Class B South. Sophomore quarterback Matt Castronuova ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and also threw for 68 yards and the game-winning touchdown on a 23-yard pass to Nate Matos in the second overtime. Bruce Almodovar added 148 yards rushing on 25 carries to help the Lions clinch a spot in Central Jersey Group IV for their first state playoff berth in the program’s six-year history.
An exciting game that ended with no one winning was Ocean and Wall’s 29-29 tie after three overtimes in Class B North. Ocean senior quarterback Andrew Mehr threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to junior Dan Loizos and then scored on a keeper on a two-point conversion in the third overtime to help the Spartans tie the Crimson Knights. By NJSIAA rule, if a game is still tied after three overtimes, it ends in a tie. Wall had the ball first in the third overtime, scoring on a 14-yard run by Cadell Kennedy and then converting the mandatory two-point conversion on a keeper by quarterback Jack Gifford for a 29-21 lead.
Mehr threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Royal Moore in the second overtime to give Ocean a 21-14 lead, but Wall tied it on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Gifford to Chris Quinlan. Wall had taken a 14-7 lead on a 30-yard touchdown strike from Gifford to Kyle McDonough with 2:19 left in regulation, but Ocean answered right back with a 55-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Tyler Thompson to send the game into overtime tied at 14.
Like Red Bank Catholic, two other teams that asserted their ongoing dominance this past weekend were a pair of fellow unbeaten teams, Manalapan and Point Beach. Manalapan rolled to a 42-7 win over Toms River North to put itself in position to secure the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group V. Senior wideout Anthony Firkser was electrifying with a pair of 65-yard punt returns for touchdowns and a 52-yard touchdown catch, and junior tailback Tyler Leonetti added a pair of touchdown runs.
Point Beach tied the school record for wins when it improved to 8-0 for the first time ever with a 42-14 win over a Keyport team that had won six straight. The Garnet Gulls rolled up 359 yards rushing, including 176 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries by the Shore Conference’s leading rusher, senior Danny Tighe. The defense also recorded five first-half sacks, including three by defensive lineman Timmy Morris. The Garnet Gulls guaranteed themselves at least one home playoff game in Central Jersey Group I as they make a push toward their first state title in program history since the creation of the state playoffs in 1974. They now have a bye week to get prepared for their state playoff run after reaching the semifinals last season and winning their first state playoff game since 1982.
Point Beach appears to be on a collision course for division and Central Jersey Group I supremacy with Shore Regional, which ripped off its sixth straight win by beating Keansburg, 35-18, in Class B Central. Senior fullback Jack Kelly ran for 115 yards and a touchdown and senior Mark Costantino had a 75-yard kickoff return for a score to power the win. A team that will not be looking to hand over that Central Jersey Group I title is defending champion Asbury Park, which clinched a playoff berth with a 33-6 win over Middlesex in which junior Daquane Bland-Bennett scored three touchdowns and sophomore Tyquis Davis added two.
In addition to Lacey, one other team can call itself a division champion after Week Eight. Monsignor Donovan beat Central 36-0, clinching no worse than a tie for the Class B South title thanks to losses by Lakewood and Point Boro. It’s the Griffins’ first division title since 1993 and only the second in school history. Senior fullback Grant Klimek ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries to lead the way, and Kevin Ortiz added a 72-yard punt return for a score.
A program that continues to be on the rise is Toms River South, which went a combined 3-17 the last two years yet has won three straight after an eye-opening, 41-20 victory over Brick Memorial. The Indians’ rushing attack continues to be explosive, as Darrius Hart and Otis Kearney each ran for scores and standout sophomore quarterback Tymere Berry ran for one touchdown and threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Robert Hailey. Even junior Russell Messler broke off a 59-yard touchdown run on his first varsity carry in the victory to put the Indians in contention to secure their first state playoff berth since 2006.
Marlboro is in the running for its first state playoff berth since 1999 and only the third postseason berth in school history after a 21-7 victory over Perth Amboy put the Mustangs at 3-4. Dustin Jensen ran for a 10-yard score, sophomore Dewann McCallister added a 2-yard touchdown and Brian Prestigiacomo scored on a 50-yard run to help the Mustangs stay in contention for a spot in Central Jersey Group V.
Colts Neck locked up its first state playoff berth since 2008 and bounced back from its first loss with a 34-0 victory over Freehold Township in Class A North. Senior wideout Tim Vangelas and senior fullback Gio Zefferino each had a pair of touchdowns in the win. St. John Vianney stayed in contention for its first state playoff berth in six years with a 21-6 win over Holmdel in which junior quarterback Billy DeMato tossed three touchdown passes. Southern also looks to have secured a spot in South Jersey Group V with a 20-7 win over Jackson Memorial in which senior running back Abe Gonzalez ran for a career-high 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Barnegat, which has reached a sectional semifinal in the last two seasons, put itself in a position to possibly get a first-round home game in South Jersey Group III with a pivotal 24-13 win over a Lakewood team that had won four straight. Sophomore quarterback Cinjun Erskine ran for three touchdowns to power the victory.
Rumson-Fair Haven, which has reached the last two Central Jersey Group II finals, continued its push for a top-three seed with a 31-14 win over Monmouth Regional. Senior quarterback Danny Roberto threw four touchdown passes, including two to senior wideout John Ryan, and now has a Shore Conference-high 16 for the season.
Two teams that appear to be out of the playoff picture but looking to finish strong are Middletown North and Red Bank, which each picked up wins. Middletown North topped Howell, 13-7, thanks to a 24-yard touchdown run by Jared Mosier and a 61-yard touchdown pass from Cody Thompson to Jake Betkowski. Red Bank blanked Freehold, 21-0, as quarterback Ross Gisondi threw for one score and ran for another.
Finally, two teams broke into the win column for the first time this season in Week Eight. Manchester rolled 56-15 over Pinelands in a game between two teams seeking their first victory, as quarterback Devin Tomei had a career day with four touchdown passes and a touchdown run. Mater Dei Prep picked up a 32-7 nonconference win over Metuchen thanks to two touchdowns apiece by Sam Miles and Christian Palmer.