Monday Rewind: TRN, Central, Manalapan and More Headline Week Three
A host of explosive individual performances, impressive statements by Toms River North and Manalapan, a stunner from Central and a barn-burner involving No. 1 Middletown South highlighted a thrilling Week Three in Shore Conference football.
In the Top 10 clash that capped the week on Saturday night, No. 2 Toms River North and its nuclear offense stated a case to jump to No. 1 in the rankings with a 62-34 win over No. 5 Brick in Class A South. The Mariners rolled up 472 yards of total offense against a Brick team that had allowed a total of 20 points in its previous two games.
Senior quarterback Mike Husni continues to make the spectacular look routine, as he ran for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns and threw for 95 yards and another score. He is like a souped-up version of former Raritan star and All-State selection Andrew Mandeville, able to take advantage of whatever the defense gives him with his arm or his legs.
The weapons for the Mariners are seemingly endless. Senior Parker Day ran for 142 yards and 4 touchdowns, senior Darrion Carrington caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a score, Rutgers recruit Bryce Watts had 85 total yards and set up multiple touchdowns, and junior Daryn Blackwell got in on the action with a rushing touchdown.
Toms River North's performance, coupled with Middletown South's scare in a 21-14 win over unranked Manasquan, certainly has grown the chorus that the Mariners should leapfrog the Eagles as the No. 1 team in the Shore.
The good news is that it will get settled on the field, as the teams play each other at the "The Swamp" in Middletown on Oct. 21. However, the Eagles will have some heavy lifting to do this week first when they face a very talented Rumson-Fair Haven team on their home field, so there's no time to look ahead to the Mariners.
Meanwhile, Toms River North has games against Howell (2-1), Toms River East (0-3) and Jackson Memorial (1-2) leading up to the Middletown South showdown. While their offense looks unstoppable, the defense does have some kinks to work out as Brick quarterback Anthony Costanza threw for 208 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score in the loss. John Prato and Cole Groschel both had more than 100 yards from scrimmage as well.
Unfortunately for Brick, the losses by Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial this week took some luster off the Green Dragons' first two wins. The good news is they have a chance to make a statement to remain in the upper echelon of the Top 10 this week when they face unbeaten St. John Vianney in a nondivisional game.
It was a week the Antonucci family is glad to have in the books, as Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci and his Eagles had a nail-biter against Manasquan, where his son, junior Tommy Antonucci, is a wide receiver and defensive back.
The top-ranked Eagles needed a goal-line stand with 32 seconds left to get out of Vic Kubu Warrior Field unscathed with a 21-14 win in Class B North.
“It was really awkward,” Steve Antonucci told SSN's Bob Badders. “We didn’t really talk until Thursday and it got pretty emotional. It was a hard experience. I’m proud of him, though. I had a front row seat to watch my son, which was awesome. It was a very proud moment.”
“It was very awkward in the house,” Tommy Antonucci said. “We talked about that the other night. He came in my room and asked how I was doing, and I said ‘I hate this. I want to tell you so many things but I can’t because it’s you versus me.' It was an emotional week, it was rough. Pregame was emotional. There were tears in my eyes during the national anthem. But we did it and it’s over, thank God.”
There is no time for Middletown South to catch its breath, either, as the Eagles welcome three-time defending state champion Rumson-Fair Haven on Friday. The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 90-0 in their first two games, but this will be by far Rumson's biggest test yet, whereas Middletown South has been in two dogfights and found a way to close out the game in its 3-0 start.
In a game that on paper appeared to be between two of the top contenders for this year's Central Jersey Group V crown, Manalapan routed Old Bridge 41-0 to make people take notice across the state.
Old Bridge beat reigning CJ V champion and perennial Manalapan nemesis South Brunswick, 31-28, in the season opener after losing to the Vikings in last year's state final. That marked the Knights as a prime contender until Manalapan made it very clear that the Braves will be a major hurdle to anyone trying to claim the crown. The Braves have now outscored their opponents 131-12 in their first three games, with two straight shutouts.
Junior quarterback Luke Corcione threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns and tailback Naim Mayfield went off for 190 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns on only 13 carries. Perhaps more impressively, the defense shut out an Old Bridge offense led by junior quarterback Artur Sitkowski, who has 15 FBS offers, including Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, Miami, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Iowa.
The Braves' unit held Sitkowski to 38 yards on 4-for-14 passing and also registered an interception by Manalapan senior linebacker Jon Pimentel. Sophomore linebacker Tommy Pearce also helped lead the way with a team-high 10 tackles.
The other primary contender lurking out there in CJ V is perennial power Piscataway. Manalapan will square off with the Chiefs on the road on Oct. 29 in a bid to cement itself as the favorite to win a second state title in three seasons.
A score that particularly raised eyebrows across the Shore on Friday night was Central's 14-13 takedown of Jackson Memorial in Class A South.
The Golden Eagles were coming off a 41-6 loss to Wall in the week they found out they were ineligible for the NJSIAA playoffs due to a brawl with Toms River East in which three players were ejected.
With their full team back on the field after those players served one-game suspensions against Wall, Central went from a team that looked dead in the water to one that dominated Jackson on the ground to power the win. Senior Mike Bickford erupted for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns for all the offense Central would need.
That victory certainly shows a lot of heart by a Central team that moved up from B South to A South this year to rumble with the big boys and has shown it can hold its own with three divisional wins already.
As for Jackson, it's back to the drawing board as the Jaguars dropped their second straight game. The one bright spot was senior Mike Gawlik, who ran for 212 yards in the loss to cross the 3,000-yard mark for his career and pass early-2000s star Nick Castellano as the program's all-time leading rusher.
It was a memorable week for individual performances, particularly among running backs. There were 10 players who ran for at least 175 yards, including seven who went over the 200-yard mark.
Leading the way was Matawan senior running back Derrick Wiley, who had one of the best statistical games in the Huskies' proud history. He exploded for a career-high 373 yards rushing and three touchdowns on a whopping 40 carries to help Matawan get its first win by beating Monmouth 23-21 in Class A Central.
Just for perspective, the Shore Conference single-game record is 425 by former Manalapan star John Sieczkowski in 2011, so Wiley was one long run away from making history.
In addition to the aforementioned 200-yard games by Husni, Gawlik and Bickford, Marlboro's Cameron Caorsi continued his rampage with 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a wild 42-36 loss to Freehold Township.
Caorsi has now run for a combined 547 yards in two games after a 306-yard explosion in a win over Pinelands. He even has a 154-yard game under his belt against undefeated Manalapan.
When was the last time a running back from Marlboro was at or near the top of the Shore in rushing? Maybe the early 1990s, if I had to guess. It's a credit to Caorsi's talent. He's the best back in the Shore that no one knows about, but if he keeps turning in performances like that, it won't be long.
Filling in for injured starter Connor Welsh, Middletown North's Dwight Wilkerson blew up for a career-high 280 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-7 win over Howell. The Lions turned in a dominant all-around performance, with a defense led by senior linebacker Nick Kish stifling a Rebels' team that entered averaging 38 points per game.
Just like Wiley's big day helped Matawan get into the win column, Long Branch senior Keith Cooper piled up 201 yards on 19 carries and scored twice in a 21-7 win over Colts Neck for the Green Wave's first victory.
In addition to Mayfield's 190 yards for Manalapan, Red Bank Catholic's Zach Bair had 175 and a touchdown to lead the Caseys in a win over Ocean, and Asbury Park's Paul Reed helped the Blue Bishops bounce back from a loss with a career-high 179 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Point Beach.
Finding a Way
A young Red Bank Catholic squad persevered through its latest adversity on Friday when it lost its second quarterback to injury in two weeks and still pulled out a 20-7 win over Ocean.
Junior quarterback Tom Lang broke his collarbone after landing hard on a sack in the second quarter. Making it doubly frustrating for the Caseys is that Lang started the game on fire, going 9-for-12 for 128 yards passing and a touchdown and also running for a touchdown up to that point.
Coupled with an injury to sophomore Steve Lubischer in the season opener against Middletown South, the Caseys are now down to third-string quarterback Nick Brusca, a junior who is a converted running back. Brusca is also a starting linebacker and kick returner, so he is a good all-around athlete willing to take any role the team needs him for.
Brusca ran the offense efficiently and didn't make a single miscue against Ocean, much to his credit considering he was put in a difficult spot. The biggest question mark going forward will be RBC's passing game. The Caseys did not attempt a pass in the second half, with Brusca running zone read and wildcat-style plays while sharing carries with junior Zach Bair, who had 175 yards and a touchdown.
With a tough schedule ahead that includes Top 10 teams Wall and St. John Vianney, the Caseys' offensive line will be under the gun to clear running lanes even when teams stack the box.
One thing that is for sure is that the future looks bright for RBC. Almost their entire starting lineup will return next season, and they have a very talented freshman class. One of those talents, tight end Kevin Bauman, is already up on varsity. Bauman, who is already 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, caught a pass in the win over Ocean. Sophomore Gino Tartamella also had a sack, so there are already multiple young guys making an impact.
---Mater Dei Prep is looking like the team to beat in Class B Central after a 35-7 win over Keyport. Check out the highlights and read about it here. The Seraphs have one of the best groups of skill position players in the Shore between quarterback George Pearson, running back Marvin Pierre, and wideouts Eddie Lewis, Russell Ferrisi and Kyle Devaney.
---Freehold Township is believed to be off to its first 3-0 start in program history after a 42-36 shootout against Marlboro in which quarterback Charles Sabbagh was 13-for-14 for 244 yards and ran for a touchdown. (Update: Freehold Township started 4-0 in 1980, according to former coach Bob Grace, who is now a Wall assistant. The Patriots finished 6-3 and ranked No. 10 in the Shore by The Asbury Park Press.)
Max Nowak and Adrian Rybaltowski each found the end zone twice. If the Patriots can get by Neptune this week, there's a good chance they could be 6-0 heading into their game against Howell on Oct. 21 after playing Perth Amboy and Jackson Liberty, who are currently a combined 0-6.
---Two quarterbacks threw four touchdown passes in wins this week: Barnegat's Connor Lustenberger and Neptune's Chase Fairbanks. The St. John Vianney tandem of Matt DeGennaro and Haazig Daniels also combined for four in a win over Red Bank.
---Southern picked up its first win with a 41-0 rout of Toms River East behind junior Matt Barnett, who had 7 tackles on defense and ran for a pair of touchdowns on offense.
Follow Scott Stump on Twitter @Scott_Stump