Forecast Friday: Week Nine
Another solid, if unspectacular, week of picking games. I have gone from the basement with the roaches and rats to at least a tidy first-floor room. Still seeking that deee-luxe aparment in the sky with an undefeated week.
There are always some crazy scores on this weekend because teams that seem like heavy underdogs will play out of their minds with a state playoff berth on the line, while non-playoff qualifiers may decide this is the week they are mailing in their season.
There also is the tricky issue of these teams like Brick Memorial, Lacey and Southern that are playing in their ninth games because they don’t have Thanksgiving games. These games have no bearing on their playoff status, while the teams they are playing, other than Howell at Brick Memorial, desperately need wins for their playoff hopes. Do they rest starters? If they are behind in the fourth quarter, do they just pack it up and worry about the playoffs next week? It will be interesting to find out.
Of course, my favorite are the do-or-die, “winner goes to the playoffs, loser buys tickets” games. The two that stick out are Manchester at Point Boro and Neptune at Colts Neck. Those should be a lot of fun in addition to the big showdown of undefeated teams on Saturday when Rumson-Fair Haven heads to Asbury Park.
Last week’s record: 16-3. Season record: 126-42.
Howell (3-4) at Brick Memorial (4-4), 7 p.m.: Brick Memorial will be scoreboard watching while also trying to get this win because this is the Mustangs’ ninth game and doesn’t count toward a potential berth in Central Jersey Group IV. They have said all the right things that they are focusing on beating Howell, but you better believe cell phones will be getting worked on the sidelines by non-players and coaches to get updates from the Southern-Middletown North and North Brunswick-South Plainfield games while their game is going on. It’s an interesting matchup on the field, as run defense is Howell’s Achilles’ heel and usually Brick Memorial would have an arrow ready to shoot at it, but this Memorial team is more of a passing threat than a beastly running squad. Howell, as usual, enters with a dangerous aerial attack led by senior quarterback Ryan Davies and wideout Brandon Yaegel. Howell is out of the playoff picture, so it will look to finish strong and put up some big offensive numbers along the way. I think Brick Memorial is going to get into CJ IV, where it has made the last three finals, so the Mustangs want to be sharp heading into a first-round game next week. This also is the last home game for Memorial’s seniors, so the adrenaline will be flowing. The pick: Brick Memorial.
Raritan (2-5) at Long Branch (2-5), 6 p.m.: This is a game between a pair of 2-5 teams that appear to be headed in opposite directions. Raritan has lost three straight, while Long Branch has won two in a row after an 0-5 start. Raritan has had Long Branch’s number in recent seasons, but I think a player like junior tailback Dwight Clark is the difference in a game like this one. The pick: Long Branch.
Freehold Township (1-6) at No. 6 Jackson Memorial (6-1), 7 p.m.: I’m sure the Jaguars wouldn’t mind a Group IV team with a few more wins to help them move up in seeding in Central Jersey Group IV, but it is what it is. Freehold Township’s offense has sputtered, while Jackson’s defense is one of the Shore’s best. This game has shutout written all over it. The pick: Jackson Memorial.
Freehold (2-5) at Monsignor Donovan (4-3), 6:30 p.m.: Freehold has lost four straight and is more building toward next year with a young team, while Monsignor Donovan wants to build some momentum before heading into the Non-Public Group III playoffs. Should be an interesting game between two triple option teams, but Monsignor Donovan has earned the benefit of the doubt against a Group III school with some good wins this season. Manasquan will have an eye on this game as well, because it is looking for the residual points from a Monsignor Donovan win to help in the race for the top seed in Central Jersey Group II. The pick: Monsignor Donovan.
Barnegat (4-3) at Holmdel (1-6), 7 p.m.: Barnegat has already clinched its state playoff spot, but wants to keep the ball rolling with a win over the young Hornets. The other good news is that starting running back David Smithman is back after missing last week with an injury, and so is starting lineman/defensive end Nick Anderson, who missed three straight games with a concussion from the win over Lacey. Senior quarterback Mark McCoy has hit some big plays in the passing game, and that should continue here. Holmdel has continued to fight hard and has stayed with good teams into the second half, so we’ll see if the Hornets can hang around until late in the game. The pick: Barnegat.
Matawan (5-2) at New Brunswick (0-8), 7 p.m.: It’s kind of crazy to see how much New Brunswick’s program has struggled. It wasn’t too long ago that the Zebras were a regular factor in the state playoffs. This is basically a warm-up for Matawan’s opening-round state playoff game in Central Jersey Group II. Get everyone healthy, get the good vibes going and roll into the playoffs. The pick: Matawan.
Marlboro (0-7) at Perth Amboy (4-3), 7 p.m.: Not a whole lot to discuss here. Some simple math. Freehold Township beat Marlboro, 7-0, and Perth Amboy beat Freehold Township, 31-6. The pick: Perth Amboy.
Central (5-2) at St. John Vianney (2-5), 7 p.m.: This game could get nuts. Central has the Shore Conference’s leading rusher, senior Kalyph Hardy, going against a defense that has been trampled by playoff-caliber teams this year. Hardy ran for over 380 yards against Vianney last year. Meanwhile, St. John Vianney can light up the scoreboard with its passing attack featuring quarterback Anthony Carlucci and wideouts Ishmael Hyman and Anthony Pante, so the over/under in this game might be about 70. Central is trying to lock down a first-round home game in South Jersey Group III with the win, so there is incentive. The pick: Central.
Spotswood (3-5) at Point Beach (5-2), 7 p.m.: I almost hit my Point Beach pick over Dunellen last week, but, as in horseshoes and hand grenades, close doesn’t count. The Garnet Gulls beat the Keyport team that just beat Spotswood 30-8 last week, so that leads me to believe the Garnet Gulls get this one to get back on track heading into the Central Jersey Group I playoffs. The pick: Point Beach.
Metuchen (5-3) at Shore (5-2), 7 p.m.: This is Metuchen’s ninth game, so it has no bearing on the Bulldogs’ state playoff standing in Central Jersey Group I. Shore would like to make a big jump upward in CJ I, where it is the defending champion, and make a run at a top-five seed. The Blue Devils have won three straight, the running game has been working, so the Blue Devils should handle their business at home. The pick: Shore.
Lacey (4-4) at No. 10 Middletown South (5-2), 7 p.m.: Strange game for Lacey. The Lions are most likely in the playoff field in South Jersey Group III already, but could monkey wrench Middletown South’s season with a win. The Eagles, who have made the playoffs every year since 1997, are shockingly in a fight for their playoff lives despite having won five straight. This looks like a low-scoring, physical slugfest. Middletown South was susceptible the run early in the season but has improved there. Still, Lacey and tailback Kyle Spatz have the ability to control the clock and lead Lacey to a win here. I just think Middletown South is on a mission. Missing the playoffs is nothing short of the apocalypse at that program. I just can’t see it happening. The pick: Middletown South.
Toms River North (4-3) at Manalapan (6-1), 7 p.m.: Toms River North has to win to have a chance to make the field in South Jersey Group IV, while Manalapan is pushing for the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey Group IV, which would give the Braves potentially two home games while also helping them avoid a possible first-round matchup with defending champion Sayreville. Toms River North has a dynamic offense behind senior quarterback Scott Buxbaum, so the Mariners definitely have a shot. I think Manalapan’s running game and John Sieczkowski will move the ball enough to help the Braves get it done. Junior quarterback Mike Isabella also showed last week that he can make big plays under pressure if necessary, so the Braves should be balanced enough to get this win. The pick: Manalapan.
Manchester (4-3) at Point Boro (4-3), 7 p.m.: I’ve been going back and forth on this one for a while. A great do-or-die game. If Point Boro wins, it’s in the South Jersey Group II playoffs. If Manchester wins, it could be as high as No. 6 in the South Jersey Group III field. A lot of other teams will have their eye on this game. Again, Manasquan would like this one for residual points from a Point Boro win. But these two teams could care less about that. I’m just wondering who will win the battle of the stars between Manchester senior running back Joe Johnson and Point Boro senior quarterback John Dunbar. Both can take over a game. This may be one of those games where the last team that has the ball will win. Manchester could have been 7-0 right now, but blew a pair of 20-point leads in losses to Central and Brick, and lost 9-7 to Lacey. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That makes me lean toward Manchester a tiny bit. I will put my faith in Joe Johnson and Tim Rogers, and then hold my breath every time Dunbar breaks through the line or throws it deep to Kyle McGarry. The pick: Manchester.
No. 2 Southern (7-1) at Middletown North (4-3), 7 p.m.: I know this is Southern’s ninth game, but knowing head coach Chuck Donohue Sr., they are coming into to win this game regardless. Middletown North will be sky high because it has to win to make the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. I just think Southern’s offensive balance and its line play have been consistent and solid, and I don’t see that changing here. It could certainly be a dogfight, but I think the Rams dash the Lions’ state playoff hopes. The pick: Southern.
Toms River East (1-6) at No. 1 Red Bank Catholic (7-0), 7 p.m.: This is RBC’s tune-up for the Non-Public Group III playoffs, where they hope to exorcise some demons and win their first state playoff game since 1998. I’m sure the Caseys would have liked the Raiders to have a few more wins to get them some more power points, as even though they will be undefeated, they still might only be the No. 5 seed and have to go to Immaculata in the first round. The pick: Red Bank Catholic.
Pinelands (0-7) at Toms River South (1-6), 7 p.m.: The Wildcats have struggled so badly that even though you look at these two records and think it will be a tight game, Toms River South should win this one comfortably. The Indians have progressed offensively from a very slow start, including a 35-point showing in a loss to unbeaten Wall last week. The pick: Toms River South.
No. 3 Rumson-FH (7-0) at No. 9 Asbury Park (7-0), 2 p.m.: This is the marquee game of the weekend and one that has been anticipated since the preseason. Rumson needs this one to make a run at the top seed in Central Jersey Group II, where it is the defending champion, while Asbury Park will lock down the top seed in Central Jersey Group I with a win. This is Asbury Park’s chance to show it can play with anyone and that being a small Group I school doesn’t matter. Asbury Park’s defense has only allowed a Shore Conference-low 35 points all season, while Rumson’s defense has been ferocious as well. I want to see what will happen if Asbury Park has to consistently convert on 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-7 and sophomore quarterback Robert Barksdale has to make plays with people in his face. This game is a referendum on Asbury Park’s line on both sides of the ball. Can the Blue Bishops stand up to Rumson’s physical group? Clearly, Asbury Park has players who can score from anywhere on the field in the Conover twins and Tajh Hammary. Rumson is methodical on offense and executes very well. Its players have seen it all, so they will not be intimidated by the speed of Asbury Park whatsoever. I think Rumson’s defense will create turnovers that will give the Bulldogs short fields, and that will be enough to grind out a 24-16 type of win. My logic is that if Asbury Park’s offense sputtered against Shore Regional in a 14-13 win, it will really be under siege against Rumson. The pick: Rumson.
No. 7 Manasquan (7-0) at Lakewood (2-5), 2 p.m.: Manasquan needs this one for two reasons. 1) To make a run at the top seed in Central Jersey Group II with Rumson. 2) To set up a winner-take-all game for the Class C Central title on Thanksgiving with Wall. The Piners are dangerous with Tyrice Beverette at quarterback, but I don’t see them slowing down Manasquan’s offense. The pick: Manasquan.
Keyport (3-5) at Highland Park (4-4), 2 p.m.: This is the end of Keyport’s regular season, so the Red Raiders want to at least end on a high note with two straight wins before they finish with their NJSIAA consolation game. The Red Raiders are coming off a 30-8 win over Spotswood in the snow. They are facing a Highland Park team with good speed, but I will say that they do enough to finish strong as they build for the future with sophomore quarterback Alex Thomson. The pick: Keyport.
No. 5 Wall (7-0) at Colonia (6-1), 1:30 p.m.: This is a nice test for Wall in preparation for the Central Jersey Group III playoffs, where the Crimson Knights look to grab a top-three seed. Wall’s offense has been lighting people up with Steve Cluley and Jim Guiliano, but the defense has been shaky. Colonia enters averaging 31 points per game, so this one could get wild. Colonia’s only loss is to undefeated Carteret and it has won six straight. That’s not too shabby considering one of its most explosive offensive players, junior wideout Geoff Fairbanks, transferred to Neptune in the offseason. I think Wall gets a good test, gains confidence, and rolls into the postseason unbeaten. The pick: Wall.
Dunellen (7-0) at Mater Dei Prep (0-7), 2 p.m.: The two records pretty much tell the story in this one. Mater Dei will try to finish strong and get in the win column with its NJSIAA consolation game and then a Thanksgiving game against Keansburg. The pick: Dunellen.
Red Bank (4-3) at Monmouth (0-7), 2 p.m.: The Bucs will be sky-high for this one considering if they win, they clinch their first state playoff berth since 2004. Shouldn’t be a whole lot of suspense here. The pick: Red Bank.
Brick (4-4) at JFK-Iselin (2-6), 2 p.m.: Brick just missed out on a state playoff berth but still has a shot at its first winning season in three years, so the Green Dragons will take out their frustrations on JFK. The pick: Brick.
No. 4 Neptune at Colts Neck, 2 p.m.: It’s all or nothing for these teams. Win and go to the playoffs, lose and fughetaboutit. Colts Neck has the talent to pull this upset, and you know the Cougars will be jacked up. I just think that Neptune’s defense will save the day even if the offense sputters. The Scarlet Fliers can’t lose if Colts Neck can’t score on them. Toms River North quarterback Scott Buxbaum also creased Colts Neck running the zone read option out of the shotgun a few weeks back, and Neptune’s Jaheem Woods is even more dangerous in that spot. Neptune just has to take care of the ball offensively and not put it on the ground deep in its own territory to give Colts Neck life. The pick: Neptune.
South River (1-7) at Keansburg (1-6), 2 p.m.: South River is coming off a 44-0 beating at the hands of Asbury Park, while Keansburg had its bye week. The Titans have been playing with plenty of confidence and have improved as the season has progressed. I think they continue to build the momentum toward next season. They have the potential to be on a three-game winning streak when this season ends to give them a sprinboard to 2012. The pick: Keansburg.
|Total # Correct This Season
(as of 11/7/11)