Monday Rewind: 11/7/11
The NJSIAA playoffs are upon us, as 20 Shore Conference teams clinched state playoff berths in an exciting Week Nine of action.
Things were so close that the official brackets were not even set until early Monday morning, when Rumson-Fair Haven won a coin flip against fellow undefeated squad Manasquan to receive the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II because the teams tied in power points and on criteria like strength of schedule and winning percentage. Rumson is the defending champion, and made a strong statement that it will be tough to unseat when it dismantled another potential state champion, Asbury Park, in a 28-6 victory over the Blue Bishops in a match-up of undefeated teams on Saturday.
"For two weeks, the coaches and the seniors have been saying that this is a playoff game for us,'' said senior defensive tackle Jack Eisenstadt. "We were out to prove something. We want to be the best team to ever come through our program.''
Rumson’s defense limited Asbury Park’s explosive offense to 76 total yards and two first downs, including 7 total yards and zero first downs in the second half. Wide receiver Blake Potter was the offensive catalyst with 157 yards receiving and a touchdown on eight catches, and junior quarterback Danny Roberto threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the loss, Asbury Park still secured the top seed in Central Jersey Group I, where it is the favorite to win its fourth sectional title in the last five seasons. Defending champion Shore Regional hopes to prevent that, as the Blue Devils earned the No. 6 seed in CJ I after a 35-21 comeback victory over Metuchen fueled by senior quarterback/defensive back Brendan Dula. Point Beach routed Spotswood, 38-7, to grab the No. 5 seed in CJ I and will try to win its first state playoff game since 1982 and just its second in school history when it travels to New Egypt for a first-round game. This is Point Beach’s first state playoff appearance in 10 years.
Manasquan will be the No. 2 seed in CJ II and will host No. 7 Red Bank Regional, which earned its first state playoff berth since 2004 with a 37-7 win over winless Monmouth Regional thanks to three touchdown passes by senior quarterback Terence Scanlon. Matawan, which routed winless New Brunswick 56-0 to improve to 6-2, is the No. 6 seed in CJ II and will travel to undefeated Carteret in the first round as it seeks its third straight CJ II final appearance.
Three teams facing must-win situations in order to reach the playoffs got it done, as Middletown South rolled 35-7 over Lacey to grab a spot in Central Jersey Group III, Neptune beat Colts Neck 26-21 to also make the CJ III field, and Point Boro routed Manchester 36-0 to grab the No. 6 seed in South Jersey Group II.
Middletown South has now won six straight after an 0-2 start, and the Eagles continued their streak of having made the playoffs every year since 1997. They have reached a sectional final in nine of the last 10 years and hope to make a return this season.
"The coaches prepared us well, and it was the last night for (the seniors) under these lights," Middletown South senior linebacker Joe Simone said. "It was either the playoffs or not, and we came together tonight and put on a show."
Neptune is seeking its first state title since 1998, and will start out on the road against an underdog Allentown team playing in its first state playoff game in school history. The Scarlet Fliers’ win over Colts Neck was fueled by 202 yards rushing and four touchdowns by senior quarterback Jaheem Woods, and it also denied the Cougars a berth in Central Jersey Group IV.
“It was a grind and when you sit back there and rank the teams, evidently (the media) thinks we're a pretty good football team,” Neptune coach Mark Ciccotelli said. “So to be here with our backs against the wall I'm proud of these guys for playing the way they did.”
Wall earned the No. 2 seed in CJ III despite suffering its first loss, a 33-21 setback to Colonia and running back Greg Jones, who erupted for a school-record 450 yards and five touchdowns to defeat the Crimson Knights.
Point Boro senior quarterback John Dunbar rushed for 169 yards and four touchdowns to power the Panthers’ victory that also eliminated Manchester from playoff contention. Point Boro, which has now made the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, heads to third-seeded Barnegat for a first-round game in SJ II.
"We had some tough times to start up the season,'' said senior center Andrew Matter. "This is how we expected to be. It's about time our offense started clicking on all cylinders, and we're playing as a team. Coach told us in pregame that we had made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, so we didn't want to be the team to not make it.''
Barnegat will be hosting its first home playoff game in program history, and the Class B South champions have won five out of six after a 27-6 victory over Holmdel.
Lacey and Central both made the field in South Jersey Group III, although both are coming off losses, as Lacey fell 35-7 to Middletown South and Central was upset, 34-26, by a sub-.500 St. John Vianney team. Lacey will travel to top-seeded Timber Creek, while Central heads to Woodrow Wilson for its first state playoff game since 2001.
Just like Lacey, Brick Memorial is coming off a loss and is now 4-5, but earned a spot in the postseason. The Mustangs fell 23-7 to non-playoff qualifier Howell, but will try to regroup for a rematch against second-seeded Manalapan in the first round in Central Jersey Group IV. The Braves beat Toms River North, 35-30, thanks to five touchdowns by senior tailback John Sieczkowski to also eliminate the Mariners from state playoff contention.
Jackson Memorial rolled 37-0 over Freehold Township to get the No. 4 seed in CJ IV, where it will welcome defending sectional champion Sayreville in the first round. The Jaguars are searching for their first state title since going undefeated in 2005.
Class A South champion Southern won its eighth straight game, 28-0 over Middletown North, and will now host its first home playoff game in school history when it welcomes fifth-seeded Triton in South Jersey Group IV. Southern’s win on Friday night also eliminated Middletown North from a playoff berth.
The No. 1 team in the Shore Conference, undefeated Red Bank Catholic, earned the No. 3 seed in Non-Public Group III after a 49-0 win over Toms River East. The Caseys will host Pope John XXIII from Sparta in the first round in search of their first state playoff win since 1998. Monsignor Donovan nabbed the No. 7 seed thanks to an 8-6 win over Freehold and will travel to No. 2 Delbarton for its first state playoff game since 2004.