The Shore Conference football season kicks off today with 14 games, ten new head coaches, three prized recruits and more questions than answers.

Southern's special 9/11 helmet decal (Townsquare Media NJ)

The unusual Thursday start is due to Yom Kippur and Red Bank Catholic begins the season as the shore’s top team, a position they have held at the end of the last two years and there is no reason to expect anything different. RBC has won 24 straight games against shore schools and they open the season at home tonight against cross-town rival Red Bank.

The biggest threat to the Caseys #1 status would appear to be Manalapan, who has lost in state sectional finals in the last two years and they certainly appear poised to be back in that same position this December. The Braves will host Jackson Memorial tonight. Besides potential championship seasons both the Caseys and Braves feature prized recruits. RBC’s Quenton Nelson just might be the best offensive lineman to ever play at the shore and he could go to any college in the country but ended his recruitment early by choosing Notre Dame.

Manalapan receiver Saeed Blacknall simply can’t be covered by one person and what he does after catching the football is scary. Among the schools seeking his talents were LSU and Alabama but Blacknall is staying close to home and heading to Rutgers. The third jewel in that group is Southern tight end Mike Gesicki who might be among the best overall athletes the shore has ever produced as he’s a standout basketball and volleyball player as well. Gesicki is mulling over football offers from the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.

The general consensus is after RBC and Manalapan the next group of elite teams is headed up by Lacey and Middletown South and then it becomes a real crap shoot among the likes of Rumson, Ocean, Neptune, Southern, Brick Memorial and Barnegat. Two teams that had losing records a year ago but could make big leaps this fall are Toms River South and Brick, programs with great tradition and heritage.

Southern Regional head football coach Chuck Donohue (left) with former Rams coach Ron Emmert who will have the field dedicated in his name tonight (Townsquare Media NJ)

10 of the 43 Shore Conference schools have new coaches, among them Willie Jacobs at Central, Jim Sharples at Jackson Liberty, Brian Wilkinson at Pinelands and Dave Oizerowitz at Toms River North.

In a classy move Southern Regional high school will name its field after former head coach Ron Emmert tonight during its game against Freehold Township. Emmert was head coach from 1971-86 and later returned as an assistant and even in retirement has been a loyal fan and supporter of the Rams.