Monday Rewind: TR North Takes Top Spot, Pt. Boro Clinches Title, Howell Picks up Big Win
Toms River North leaving no doubt about being the No. 1 team in the Shore, Point Boro becoming the latest team to grab a division title, Manasquan stating its case as a Top 10 team and Howell handing previously undefeated Freehold Township its first loss highlighted Week Seven's action in the Shore Conference.
The clear headliner was Toms River North, which beat Middletown South 41-21 in a highly-anticipated showdown between the top two teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
The Mariners' high-octane offense showed its array of weapons, led by senior wide receiver Bryce Watts, who had 182 yards receiving and three touchdowns on only four catches. Watts showed his straight line speed on a 71-yard bomb and his elusiveness and acceleration on a pair of screen passes he took to the house for touchdowns of 40-plus yards.
Toms River North head coach Dave Oizerowitz said Watts ran a blazing 4.35 40-yard dash, hand-timed, at Rutgers, his future home, this summer. It showed on Friday night, and that is the kind of speed that is so hard to prepare for because you can't simulate it in practice. He had two scores in the first quarter for a quick 21-0 lead that put the Mariners in control for the rest of the way.
Senior Mike Husni continued on what may end up as the greatest statistical season by a Shore Conference quarterback in history. He threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns on only nine completions while also running for 72 yards and a touchdown. He has now accounted for 29 touchdowns between rushing and passing in seven games, putting him in striking distance of the Shore Conference record of 44 set by Mater Dei's Christian Palmer two years ago.
The Toms River North defense also stepped up in a major way with its best performance of the year, as Middletown South's last two touchdowns came after the game was all but decided. The most impressive performer might have been junior Ian Briggs, a back-up who had to start at linebacker in the biggest game of the season after Erik Kelly suffered the bizarre injury of the year when he hurt himself in the pregame celebration.
All Briggs did was come up with a key sack that forced a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game and then recover a fumble in the second half that led to a touchdown drive. It was one of three turnovers forced by the Mariners along with interceptions by Watts and linebacker Mickey Maldonado.
Toms River North also had some big names wishing them well. It turns out that the father of senior running back Parker Day, who runs a helicopter business in New York used by celebrities, has some friends in high places, no pun intended. The Mariners got pregame well wishes from NFL Hall of Famer and Giants legend Michael Strahan.
Then after the game, one of the greatest linebackers of all time gave a shoutout to the Mariners' defense.
That's definitely a night to remember for the Mariners. Now the question is whether they can wrap up the Class A South title, win a second straight South Jersey Group V crown and go down as one of the all-time offenses in Shore Conference history.
As for Middletown South, its brutal schedule continues. The Eagles have undefeated St. John Vianney this week in another huge match-up. The biggest bright spot in the loss was senior safety/linebacker Maxx Imsho, who had a forced fumble, two tackles for a loss, and two sacks of the elusive Husni. Wide receiver Jeremy Joyce also had 8 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Howell halted the best start in Freehold Township history by showing the versatility of its offense and a strong defense against the Patriots' spread attack in a 22-13 victory.
While the passing game and quarterback Eddie Morales had been the engine of the Rebels' offense so far this season, it was the running game and Nick Chambers that helped hand Freehold Township its first loss. Chambers ran for a career-high 122 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
The victory was especially huge for Howell's playoff seeding, as the Rebels vaulted to the third seed in South Jersey Group V. If Howell can maintain that position, the Rebels get a first-round home game and most likely avoid defending champion Toms River North until the final.
Morgan Leads the Warriors
Manasquan kept itself in the thick of the Class B North race and pushed itself into a top four seed in Central Jersey Group II with a 31-21 win over No. 7 Middletown North on the road.
Junior Connor Morgan continued his breakout season with 205 yards rushing and three touchdowns. After two straight 3-7 seasons, the Warriors look like a team that has the ability to achieve the yearly goal at Manasquan - play 12 games.
They have to be considered a prime contender in CJ II, where Raritan is the defending champion and unbeaten Point Boro and Roselle are also lurking. The last title for the Warriors, whose 11 NJSIAA sectional crowns are the most in Shore Conference history, came in 2008.
Worthy of Attention
Freehold junior Ashante Worthy has packed a season's worth of stats into three games after another huge performance in a 48-32 win over Marlboro for the Colonials' third straight victory.
For the second time in three weeks, he accounted for seven touchdowns in a game. He rolled up a career-high 315 yards rushing and six touchdowns and also threw for 86 yards and a touchdown in the win. In three games, he has 17 touchdowns between rushing and passing.
His performance has put the Colonials (3-4) right back in the playoff hunt, as they currently sit in fifth in power points in Central Jersey Group IV.
---Unbeaten Pt. Boro clinched at least a tie for its second straight Class B South title with a 27-0 victory over Jackson Liberty in which quarterback James Fara ran for 107 yards and running back Tanner Gordon scored three times. This year has shown the Panthers have built a foundation for a solid program as they graduated a large senior class and have a new head coach in Matt Cilento, but the wins have kept on coming.
---While Mike Husni has rightfully dominated much of the headlines, Manalapan junior quarterback Luke Corcione is also putting together a spectacular season. He threw for 240 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in a 55-21 win over Neptune. He now has 22 touchdown passes and only one interception for the unbeaten Braves. Manalapan's biggest challenge of the season is coming up this week in a huge nonconference game against Piscataway up at Rutgers that will have major seeding implications in Central Jersey Group V. The Chiefs are a team the Braves could end up seeing again in the playoffs, potentially in the finals.
---Rumson's defense did not allow a touchdown for the fourth time in six games this season after a 24-7 win over Red Bank in "The Battle of Ridge Road." Red Bank's score came on a kickoff return touchdown.
---This week in Mike Gawlik Digest, the Jackson Memorial senior running back went over 4,000 yards rushing for his career with a 233-yard night in a 41-7 win over Toms River East. He now has 1,292 for the season and 4,019 for his career. He is 393 yards away from Jackson's single-season school rushing record of 1,685 set by Will Clayton in 2003, according to Jackson historian Jim Colbert. Also, his 17 touchdowns this season are five away from the single-season Jaguars record of 22 set by Nick Castellano.
---Shore Regional's 21-7 win over Point Beach behind a pair of touchdowns by Josh Campi was a huge one, playoff-wise. It put the defending Central Jersey Group I champions in the top spot in power points as they gun for their third straight sectional crown. They also have now beaten Point Beach three straight times since losing to the Garnet Gulls in the 2013 CJ Group I final. This year's CJ Group I race looks like it will just be Class B Central battling it out all over again, as Shore, Asbury Park, Keyport and Point Beach occupy the top four spots in power points right now.
---Pinelands (3-3) has registered their most wins in six years after improving to 3-3 with a 20-15 victory over Manchester. And talk about finishing strong, the Wildcats' offensive line led a 16-play scoring drive that took 9:28 off the clock to end the game and seal the win.
---I don't think I've ever seen a team suffer a rash of injuries at quarterback like Red Bank Catholic has had this season. The Caseys lost Stephen Lubischer and Tommy Lang within the first three games, leading to all-around athlete Nick Brusca moving under center as their best option. He then suffered an injury that required him to be removed by ambulance in their loss to St. John Vianney on Friday night, making junior Logan Whelan the next man up and the fourth quarterback of the season for the Caseys. Sophomore Anthony Romano also threw a touchdown pass in place of Whelan late in the game. Whelan ran for 99 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
---Speaking of filling in for injured standouts, Wall's Brady McNally scored three touchdowns as the feature back in place of injured star Sean Larkin in a 35-14 win over Matawan that helped the Crimson Knights bounce back from their first loss.
---Yet another great job in filling in for an injured starter was turned in by Brick's do-it-all athlete John Prato. He stepped in for injured quarterback Anthony Costanza and ran for three touchdowns in an impressive 46-6 win over Lakewood by the Green Dragons.
---Asbury Park's Paul Reed had 212 yards rushing and Keyport had a 37-point win as the Shore Conference rolled over two more Greater Middlesex Conference opponents in Dunellen and Metuchen, respectively. Keansburg also picked up its second straight win by knocking off South River behind 207 yards rushing by Liam Riecks as the Shore continues to have the upper hand. The GMC-Shore Conference crossover schedule, which has helped the Group I teams fill out their schedules with similar-sized schools, may be in jeopardy. It will continue through next season but after that, it's continuation is uncertain because the GMC is mulling over a merger with the Mid-State 38 that would create a super conference and end the agreement with the Shore.