Fresh Faces Make Big Impacts in Week One of Shore Conference Football
Opening weekend of Shore Conference football was all about the next wave of up-and-coming stars making their presence felt with outstanding debuts.
It started on Friday with a host of excellent performances from some new faces, including new St. John Vianney quarterback Billy DeMato.
He did not throw an incompletion in a 40-0 win over Monsignor Donovan on his way to passing for a pair of touchdowns in his first game with the Lancers after transferring from Bishop Ahr.
In Central’s 29-26 thriller over Toms River South that was won on a last-second field goal by senior kicker Austin DeRose, Southern transfer Manny Bowen, a sophomore, returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and the Golden Eagles’ new quarterback, junior Marcus Drumright, tossed two touchdown passes.
Neptune senior quarterback Ajee Patterson, who was the back-up to last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, Jaheem Woods, also was electrifying in his debut.
Patterson ran for three touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass in a 41-7 win over Raritan for the defending Central Jersey Group III champions.
In a thriller in Rumson, new Rumson-Fair Haven kicker Jake D’Amelio hit a 29-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime and then booted a career-long 36-yarder in the extra period to send the Bulldogs to a 13-10 win over rival Shore Regional.
Junior wideout Melquan Reevey also caught his first varsity touchdown pass for Rumson to help power a comeback from a 10-0 deficit going into the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t even have time to be nervous on the first (field goal),’’ D’Amelio said. “I could only just put my head down and kick it.’’
Holmdel opened some eyes with a 21-0 win over Barnegat as senior Robbie Cantelli, a three-year varsity veteran, made his debut at quarterback after moving from a wide receiver/running back spot that he played last year. He ran for one touchdown and threw another one to Mark Scherzer to help power the upset.
A pair of dynamic offensive players for Ocean put on a dazzling showing in a 30-22 win over Manchester. Sophomore Royal Moore caught a touchdown pass and freshman sensation Tyler Thompson ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity game.
“I couldn't have done any of that without my teammates,'' Thompson said. "Our line was great, and they allowed me to have a game like this.''
Sophomore wide receiver Joe Hans caught his first varsity touchdown pass and finished with three catches for 72 yards in Brick Memorial’s 35-13 comeback win over Brick. In the loss for the Green Dragons, sophomore running back/linebacker Ray Fattaruso had an interception return for a touchdown and a 17-yard touchdown run.
The trend continued over the weekend as junior Daquane Bland-Bennett helped ease the fears of the Asbury Park faithful about graduating the Conover twins when he had two 45-yard touchdown catches from returning quarterback Robert Barksdale and ran for a 30-yard score in a 36-7 win over Keyport. Senior Shaheim Tillman, seeing his first significant action on offense, added a 94-yard touchdown run.
Red Bank Catholic had several new players debut at key spots in its 47-0 rout of cross-town rival Red Bank Regional on Saturday.
Junior Pat Toomey threw a pair of touchdown passes and also kicked a 34-yard field goal and five extra points in his first varsity start at quarterback in replacing injured senior Mike Corcione, who tore an ACL in the preseason.
Sophomore running back Mike Cordova rolled up a career-high 103 yards rushing and two touchdowns after starting tailback Larry Redaelli left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. New starting linebacker Ryan Schoer, a junior, spearheaded a ferocious defensive effort with two sacks for a total of minus-25 yards.
New Colts Neck quarterback Mike Campbell, a senior, threw two touchdown passes that were the difference in a 14-7 win over Toms River East, including an 8-yard score to senior Gio Zefferino with 1:26 remaining that won the game. Point Boro is also breaking in a new quarterback, senior Chris Oliphant, and he ran for 72 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-14 win over Monmouth Regional to start the season.
Toms River North capped the weekend with a 35-7 win over Howell on Sunday that featured major contributions from several newcomers. Sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani threw two touchdown passes in his first varsity start, and junior tailback Trevon Bass ran for a pair of scores in his first major action at that spot.
Another theme of opening weekend was veteran players who have overcome adversity being able to make an impact in their first time back on the field in a long time.
Red Bank Catholic senior running back Jesse Flaherty, who missed the past two seasons after undergoing major back surgery as a sophomore, ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the win over Red Bank.
Lakewood junior linebacker Solomon Cobbs, who missed all of last season after he broke an ankle in the preseason, had an outstanding game with double-digit tackles in a 23-13 win over Freehold that gave the Piners their first win in the season opener since 2007. Lacey senior wideout Bill Belford, who missed the past two seasons after injuring his spleen as a sophomore, caught two touchdown passes in a 50-point win over Pinelands.
The established Shore Conference stars also had their moments this past weekend.
Manalapan senior wideout Anthony Firkser had five catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns from veteran quarterback Mike Isabella in a 30-12 win over Jackson Memorial for the Braves’ first win in their season opener in a decade.
Brick Memorial senior quarterback Ryan Cieplinski, a returning starter, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the win over Brick.
Southern star junior Mike Gesicki caught a touchdown pass in a lightning-shortened, 28-0 win over Freehold Township, and St. John Vianney senior Ishmael Hyman hauled in a 50-yard bomb for a score and had over 100 yards receiving in the win over Monsignor Donovan.
Long Branch senior Joscil Jackson, already one of the Shore’s top returning linebackers, showed he could carry the load on offense in the absence of injured star tailback Dwight Clark. Jackson had 170 yards rushing and a touchdown in an 18-13 win over Manasquan.
Keansburg senior quarterback Ryan Kurtz, a three-year starter, ran for three touchdowns in a 27-18 win over Mater Dei Prep that helped the Titans tie their win total from their last two seasons combined.
Jackson Liberty senior quarterback Bob Davies, who started a handful of games last year, threw two touchdown passes in a 21-6 win over Wall. Point Beach veterans Danny Tighe and Kyle Samaritano found the end zone repeatedly in a 48-8 win over Cardinal McCarrick.
And finally, congratulations to new Matawan head coach John Kaye, who replaced Hall of Famer Joe Martucci as the Huskies’ head man and picked up a victory in his first game at the helm when Matawan knocked off Bishop Ahr, 24-6, on Friday night.