Manalapan Stays Focused
What could be a major week of high school football will take place this weekend. The best of them all could be Colts Neck at Manalapan.
Whenever two undefeated teams meet it’s always a big game and this one has the makings of a classic. Manalapan averages 40pts./game, while Colts Neck has only given up 7 points all year. The Braves have been led by Rutgers bound Saeed Blacknall, who is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. Something has to give this week as the Blacknall-led Braves meet a defense that has yielded only 1 TD in 5 games.
The QB spot for Manalapan has seen both Charlie Lombana and Dan Anerella taking snaps with both capable of running the team. The RB spot has been solid with Tyler Leonetti leading a group that keeps defenses honest on the ground. The Brave defense has been solid also and the leader there is All-Shore LB Chris Noesges. They have only given up 35 points and some of them have come against second-teamers. The architect is HC Ed Gurrieri who has gone 53-18 in his 7 seasons as the head man.
The Braves have a big game resume, having been in the CJ Group 5 finals the last 2 years. That elusive first State title is at the finish line in 2013, but they must take care of business in the regular season first. It should be a good one.
The other major game will be in Ocean, as Long Branch makes the short trip to West Park Ave. Ocean is unbeaten at 5-0 while the Green Wave have only one loss and is on a 5 game winning streak. Defense will also determine this one. Both relay on stingy defenses and turnovers will be key. Winner of this one has a foot in the B-North door on their way to a championship.
Rumson (6-0) and Mon Don (3-2) play a non-conference game which has huge power point implications. Its assignment football for the unbeaten Rumson defense, as they face the option attack of the Griffs. The Dog defense has only given up 26 points in their 6 games. Vinny Grasso runs the option attack well for Mon Don and has weapons in Joey Fields, Kyle Carrington, and Trevon Bass.
On the other side- RB Charlie Volker has emerged as a top RB in the Shore Conference. Look for Rumson to try and control the football and keep Mon Don defense on the field.
Congrats go out to Dan Duddy as he picked up the 100th victory of his career. ..quite a milestone for a coach and good guy.
How about Mike Gesicki (Southern’s 3 sport star) who gave a verbal commitment to Penn St. University on Thursday. Gesicki becomes the 3rd SC athlete to go Division 1-Saeed Blacknall(Manalapan/Rutgers) and Quenton Nelson(RBC/Notre Dame) are the other two.
Gesicki’s choice was welcomed with wild fist pumping joy by my partner Kevin Williams. We got the news while we were on the air at the Water Street Grill Thursday during the Investors Bank HS football show. Kevin is a huge fan of the Lions and has a daughter there now and a son who has graduated from Penn St. Both he and Gesicki attended the Penn St/Mich game won by the Lions in 4 OTs last week. Great choice for all 3 stars.
Gesicki, playing with the weight of that college choice off his shoulders, was all over the field on Saturday in Lacey, as the Rams beat the previously unbeaten Lions 21-7. He caught passes on offense, knocked down passes on defense, punted, and I think I saw him driving the team bus back to Manahawkin. Great all-around game for Mike Gesicki.
Congrats to Middletown North who won their first game of the year- a 41-12 victory over Marlboro. It was HC Steve Bush’s first win at Mid North. Also winning for the first time this year was Manchester- 34-17 over Point Boro.
The A-South race is a wild one, with no one unbeaten as Lacey, Brick, and Jackson all lost this week. Brick was stunned by the suddenly offensive minded Toms River East Raiders. The Raiders have scored 141 points(35/game) in their last 4 games after being shutout in their first 2. It’s the defense that needs some work-they have given up 221 points(37/game)-second only to Keansburg’s 235.
Jackson was beaten by a much improved TR South defensive unit on Sat night. The Indians trailed 14-12 at the half, and had been having lots of trouble in the 2nd half of their games. Well two weeks of work(bye last week) solved those problems as they scored 3 second half TDs and breezed to a 33-14 win. Note to watch, RB Otis Kearney was carried off the field in the 2nd half and did not return. The Indians need Kearney on both sides of the ball.
Brick Memorial(4-2) is beginning to open some eyes and have gotten themselves back in the A-South race. The Stangs have been slowed by injuries, but seem to have some major players back in the lineup. One of those players is two-way star Mike Basile. Basile can beat you in many ways and must be defensed by all Memorial opponents.
The Stang offense has also gone back to the flex bone attack after being in the spread all of last year and the beginning of this year. RB Dwayne Gudge, QB Rob Triano, RB Connor Owen and LB Jake Lombardo have been giving the Stangs a much needed shot in the arm. With games against Southern, TR South and Lacey in the next 3 weeks-the season is before them.
How about Mike Creamer of Matawan? The senior kicked 3 field goals in Matawan’s 9-7 win over Wall. A 26 yarder was the game winner late in the game, after he kicked a 33 yarder and a 23 yarder earlier for all of Matawan’s points. Creamer also consistently kept the Knights inside their own 20 yard line with his excellent punts.
TOP TEN WEEK 7
1- Red Bank Catholic (6-0) The Casey’s rolled over another SC team, this time it was Holmdel who took the 62-10 beating. With a bye week coming up, the Casey’s can nurse any injuries they have and get ready for Middletown South in 2 weeks.
2-Manalapan(5-0) The Braves cruised to a 42-7 win over East Brunswick and are set to play their biggest game of the year so far, as unbeaten Colts Neck comes calling Friday night at 7pm.
3- Barnegat(5-0) Some believe that I have the Bengals rated too high, but it’s my poll and I believe the Bengals could play with everyone in the SC, except maybe the #1 team. A hard fought 23-7 win over a tough Central(3-2)team puts them in control of the B-South. It’s theirs to lose now. Winless Point Boro- up next.
4- Ocean(5-0) Another team who was on a bye last week, which gave them 2 weeks to get ready for their toughest opponent to date-Long Branch(5-1).
5- Colts Neck(5-0) The Cougars gave up a TD(1st of year) in their 35-7 win over SJV, so look for major changes in the Cougar “D”. Only kidding Coach LaCava-but you better be ready when you get on the busses to travel to Manalapan Friday night. Mr. offense/defense Anthony Gargiulo leads the Cougars on both sides of the ball. It could be a classic?
6- Rumson(6-0) The “Dogs” just roll along unbeaten, having given up only 26 points in 6 games. Not an easy trip to Toms River, this week, where they will face the option attack of Mon Don (3-2)
7- Lacey(5-1) The big question was how far do you drop the Lions? They have not played great in their last 4 games and it finally caught up with them. Southern dominated the Lions in a 21-7 win on the road. It was so dominating that the Lions had 3 first downs in the game and none in the 2nd half. Wow, that opened my eyes wide, as I was there to see it. No excuses for the Lions, QB Tom Kelly was back at full strength, RB Chris Jensen played the entire game and all but 1 player on “D” was back in the lineup. Credit the Rams and “D” coordinator Matt Abbato for a job well done.
8- Manasquan(5-1) The “Big Blue” had a little letdown after their big win last week over Mid South. They took care of Monmouth, a much improved team, 17-14. They get Holmdel(1-5) this week.
9-Long Branch(5-1) Put up 48 points in win over Freehold Twp(1-4). Now the big one-Ocean on the road.
10-Middletown South(3-2) Thought hard about this last spot and had to drop Shore(4-1) out and put the Eagles in. My reasoning is- if the 2 meet, the Eagles would be favored. Does that make sense? That’s why I’m a retired coach. Coach Cos-you have every right to be mad at me.
Shore(4-1), Beach(5-1), Lakewood(4-1), Southern(3-2) and Brick (4-2)
The Investors Bank High School Football Show on Thursday night from Water Street Grill will have head coach Jim Portella of top ranked Red Bank Catholic in house. He will bring one of his stars with him. It should be an interesting show. Can’t make it down? Listen on WOBM 1160am or 1310am or on the internet ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
Game of the week-takes us to TR South as the hot Raiders of TRE make the trip across town. When TR meets TR- It’s always interesting.