With only one week to go before the state playoff brackets are finalized, teams were battling to keep their seasons alive and fighting against Mother Nature to highlight Week Eight in Shore Conference football action.

The Week Eight slate isn’t even fully concluded, as there are three games scheduled for Monday that were postponed from Saturday because of the inclement weather. One game in particular, Neptune at Lacey, has critical state playoff implications for both teams.

As for the games that were played, the drama could not have gotten much more intense than in Manalapan’s 23-21 comeback win over Brick Memorial in a nondivisional game with key Central Jersey Group IV impact on Friday night. Brick Memorial rallied from a 20-7 deficit to grab a 21-20 lead on a 43-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ryan Cieplinski to senior wideout Ray Contrucci with just 1:46 left in regulation. However, Manalapan drove down into field goal range and freshman Mike Caggiano booted a 37-yarder with two seconds left in the game to give the Braves their sixth straight victory and put them in position to secure a home game in CJ IV with a win over Toms River North this week.

“When we got the ball on their side of the field I knew it was going to come down to me,” Caggiano said. “The snap and the hold were perfect. It feels great to help the team get a big win.”

“We want to wear these red uniforms the rest of the year,” Manalapan head coach Ed Gurrieri said. “We want to try to win every game, that's how we approach it. We know all these teams are playing their best, and we're giving them our best.”

The defeat means that Brick Memorial (4-4) may have to hold its breath before securing a spot in the field in CJ IV, where it has reached the finals in each of the last three seasons. The Mustangs have to hope that Neptune does not lose to Colts Neck and that Southern does not fall to Middletown North this week or there is a possibility they will finish ninth in the power-point standings, one spot out of the playoffs. Brick Memorial plays Howell this week, but the game does not count toward the playoffs for the Mustangs because it is their ninth game, and only the first eight games count toward the power points.

Monday RewindAnother important Friday night contest was Middletown South’s 17-14 victory over Brick in a nondivisional game. Senior fullback Tim McArdle had 111 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion run as the Eagles (5-2) rallied from a 7-6 halftime deficit to pick up a crucial victory. Middletown South now has to beat Lacey this week and then most likely has to have Hamilton West lose to Rancocas Valley to ensure that it will make the state playoffs in Central Jersey Group III.

Middletown South has not missed the state playoffs since 1996 and has reached a sectional final in nine of the last 10 seasons, so it would be a rare event if the Eagles, who have won five in a row, don’t make it. The win over Brick not only kept their hopes alive, it also eliminated Brick from contention for a spot in CJ III.

"We came out of the locker room at halftime, and our coach told us we have to refuse to lose and do whatever it takes,'' McArdle said. "It wasn't the prettiest game, but the team stuck in there.''

Barnegat made school history and cemented a playoff spot in the South Jersey Group II field with a 20-17 nondivisional win over Red Bank, another team in the state playoff mix, on Friday night. It marked the first time in the Bengals’ six-year program history that they have made consecutive state playoff appearances after winning the program’s first state playoff game last year. Senior quarterback Mark McCoy threw a pair of touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Jordan Salt, and junior Pat Moran booted a pair of field goals that proved to be crucial in the victory, which denied Red Bank the chance to earn its first state playoff berth since 2004.

Red Bank now faces winless Monmouth Regional this week in a bid to secure its place in the Central Jersey Group II field, where it’s possible the Bucs could have a first-round match-up with undefeated Manasquan depending on how the seedings shake out.

Central earned its first state playoff berth since 2001 with a 28-22 nondivisional win over Lakewood in which senior Kalyph Hardy, the Shore Conference’s leading rusher, erupted for 313 yards and four touchdowns to power the win. Middletown North stayed in the hunt in Central Jersey Group IV with a hard-fought, 14-10 nondivisional win over Toms River East thanks to touchdowns by senior running back Joey Racioppi and junior quarterback Cody Thompson.

Southern locked up its first home state playoff game in program history with a 28-0 victory over Freehold Township that featured a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Dan Higgins to sophomore wideout Mike Gesicki. Now comes an interesting week for the Rams, as they travel to Middletown North for a nondivisional game. It’s Southern’s ninth game, so it has no bearing on the Rams’ seeding in South Jersey Group IV, but it’s a huge game for Middletown North, which has to win to earn a berth in CJ IV.

Point Boro is still in the mix for a spot in South Jersey Group II thanks to a 35-17 nondivisional win over Raritan in which senior quarterback John Dunbar scored twice and Chris Oliphant had a 102-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Panthers now have a huge nondivisional game against another team fighting for a playoff spot, Manchester, at Al Saner Field on Friday night.

Colts Neck picked up an important 21-7 win in Class B North over Freehold on Sunday in a game that was postponed from Saturday because of the weather. Senior Victor Scalici ran for a pair of touchdowns to keep the Cougars’ state playoff hopes afloat. They now have to beat Neptune this week in order to break into the field in Central Jersey Group IV and earn their first playoff berth since 2008.

Point Beach nearly upended unbeaten Dunellen in a nonconference game with Central Jersey Group I seeding implications in a 24-22 loss for the Garnet Gulls. Regardless, Point Beach will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Another win of note was Red Bank Catholic’s 49-14 victory over Ocean, which clinched the outright Class B North title for the unbeaten Caseys. Senior tailback John DiStefano ran for 185 yards and a career-high five touchdowns to help RBC win its second straight B North title, first outright title since 2008, and fourth division title in the last five seasons.

Also, St. John Vianney defeated Marlboro, 40-22, in a nondivisional game in the first night game in Marlboro history, as the Mustangs brought out the portable lights. Senior quarterback Anthony Carlucci ran for two touchdowns and threw for a pair of scores in the win.