Football – Countdown to 40th Annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic Begins
WEST LONG BRANCH — Participation in the All-Shore Gridiron Classic is reserved for the top seniors in the Shore Conference, but when he was just a sophomore Shore Regional’s Matt Pennell got a glimpse of what the game was like and what it meant for the players involved.
“Our coaches coached the game that year and coach Cos (Shore head coach Mark Costantino) brought me in as the camp arm,” said Pennell, who played quarterback for two years and was a three-year starter in the secondary for the Blue Devils. “It was cool to be a part of that, and I’ve been to these past two games to watch. Looking at all of Monmouth County’s best players, it’s going to be awesome to be a part of it.”
Pennell was one of dozens of players in attendance when the Shore Football Coaches Foundation held its media day inside Shore Regional High School. Players from Ocean and Monmouth counties met their respective coaching staffs and teammates as the clock started for the countdown to the 40th edition of New Jersey’s oldest high school football all-star game.
The 2017 All-Shore Gridiron Classic will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday June 29 at Shore Regional’s Feeney Field. The game will be preceded by the Shore Conference 7-on-7 championship game and the game itself will feature the newest class of the SFCF Hall of Fame being inducted at halftime. Ocean County won last season’s game, 14-7, and has now won three straight Gridiron Classic games. Monmouth County still leads the all-time series, 20-18-1.
From superstar individuals getting one more chance to shine in front of a packed crowd to teammates who helped their programs win championships in 2016 getting one more game together, there are plenty of storylines surrounding this year’s contest.
Fitting into the latter category are Manasquan’s Adam Schreck and Damaso Jaime. The two were key contributors to the Warriors’ amazing bounce-back season that saw them go 10-2 and win the Central Jersey Group II title for their Shore Conference-leading 12th NJSIAA state sectional championship.
Schreck was an SSN first-team All-Shore selection as a defensive end where he made 47 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and 18 quarterback pressures. As a tight end he caught 14 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns. He was also Manasquan’s kicker where he connected on 34 of 40 extra points and hit three field goals with a long of 37 yards. Jaime was a dangerous playmaker on offense, defense and special teams for the Warriors, making 44 tackles with two for a loss and intercepting five passes. He also had six pass breakups and returned an interception for a touchdown. As a wide receiver he caught 18 passes for 438 yards and seven touchdowns and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Together they will represent one of the Shore Conference most storied programs and the Shore’s winningest program in terms of state championships. Manasquan had consecutive losing seasons before returning to glory by claiming its first sectional crown since 2008.
“To represent Monmouth County and to put on the Manasquan helmet one more time to represent my high school, my coaches and my program is an honor,” said Schreck, who will play both football at baseball at Westchester University.
Jaime’s father, who also played at Manasquan, was selected to play in the game as a senior, as well, so it made for some fun back and forth when the rosters were being picked.
“It’s been a running joke with my dad because he was in the game like 30 years ago and he wanted to see if I would get selected,” Jaime said. “He said it’s a great time, and that I’ll meet a lot of people and make some memories.”
Jaime will continue his football career at the United States Coast Guard Academy.
From winning a state title in one of the most difficult sections in the state in 2015 to finishing No. 1 in the Shore last season, Toms River North did plenty of winning over the last two years. While the Mariners offense got much of the attention, Pete LaQuaglia was front and center on the defensive side as one of the Shore Conference’s best linebackers. He was an SSN first-team All-Shore pick last season when he led the conference in tackles with 168 (97 solo) while also recording 11 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
“It’s definitely an honor to get picked for the game,” LaQuaglia said. “Ocean County is the defending champion so it would be good to get it again.”
LaQuaglia will continue his career at McDaniel College in Maryland.
Standouts on the preliminary Monmouth County roster include SSN first-team All-Shore wide receiver Brendan Kube from Middletown North. Kube is believed to be the first player in Shore Conference history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Teammate Dwight Wilkerson, an All-Shore defensive back, who also played running back and wide receiver for the Lions, joins him in the receiving corps. Middletown South defensive back Maxx Imsho was a two-time SSN first-team All-Shore pick and leads the Monmouth County secondary. Manasquan offensive lineman Dylan Pacetti and Freehold Township kicker Tyler Schulman were also first-team All-Shore selections.
Central Regional running back Mike Bickford headlines the cast of players for Ocean County after a record-setting career for the Golden Eagles. Bickford ran for 1,737 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 8.2 yards per carry in just nine games last season. He had an incredible game in a win over Brick Memorial with 433 total yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for 363 yards and six touchdowns on 21 carries and also catching a 70-yard touchdown. A two-time first-team All-Shore selection, Bickford is Central’s career rushing leader with over 5,000 yards.
LaQuaglia is one of six Toms River North players scheduled to play in the game, including first-team All-Shore offensive lineman Will Sagarese.
John Prato, Dean Helstowski and Jack Finelli lead a Brick group that helped the Dragons to a state sectional title in 2014 and an appearance in a sectional final last season.
Monmouth County will be coached by St. John Vianney head coach Derek Sininsky along with several of the Lancers assistants and other Monmouth County coaches. Lakewood head coach L.J. Clark will lead Ocean County with a staff comprised of some of his assistants as well as other Ocean County coaches, including Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz and Central head coach Justin Fumando.
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