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Point Beach-South River Playoff Showdown will be live on the Shore Sports Network

The last time Point Beach took the field, it was Oct. 27 and the storyline to its outstanding season was the re-writing of the school record book.

Point Beach is ready to begin its quest for the first state title in school history when it hosts South River in the Central Jersey Group I playoffs Friday night. (Photo credit: Cliff Lavelle).

Nearly three weeks later, the Garnet Gulls are trying to get locked back into that groove as they emerge from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which left some of them without homes or living in temporary situations because of extensive damage. They spent their free time working to help the local community rebuild, but now it’s time to get back to the business of making school history.

 

The Garnet Gulls are gunning for their first state sectional title since the inception of the state playoffs in 1974. The last time they won a Central Jersey Group I title was in 1949, when the NJSIAA used to award titles before the playoffs were created. Point Beach (8-0) is the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey Group I and will host seventh-seeded South River (6-3) on Friday at 7 p.m., and the Shore Sports Network will bring you the action live on 105.7 The Hawk and streamed online at 1057thehawk.com.

Point Beach will be making an announcement pregame on Friday night, addressing everything that has happened since the hurricane, which also caused damage in the South River area.

“We just want to let everybody know that we feel what everybody’s going through,’’ Point Beach head coach John Wagner said. “We just wish everybody well, and we’ll get through this together. It’s Friday at 7 o’clock, so let’s have fun for a couple hours together after everything that has gone on.’’

Point Beach, ranked No. 6 in the All Shore Media Top 10, has already tied the school single-season record for wins that it also tied last year, so it can make history by beating South River for a ninth victory. Less than a week later, the Garnet Gulls will play for their first division title since winning Class C North in 1997 when they host Shore Regional on Thanksgiving Day with the Class B Central championship hanging in the balance.

The Garnet Gulls have been dominant this season, scoring 40 or more points in every game and winning every game by at least 28 points. They have one of the most ferocious running attacks in the Shore Conference with the trio of seniors Danny Tighe, Kyle Samaritano and Andre Cochran in the Wing-T behind an offensive line the size of one at a Group IV school.

The main question heading into the South River game is whether the long and emotional layoff will slow down their momentum.

“If I could answer that, I would be very happy,’’ Wagner said. “That’s my concern, but we’ve had a great week of practice. There were 10-12 days there that you don’t even remember because it was such a blur with everything that was going on. It’s just been really good coming back, but the pain and the anguish (from the storm) is still there. We’ve still got people going home to temporary housing, so we had to make sure everybody had a place to live, make sure everybody was eating and make sure everybody had clothing first before we could get back to football.”

In Point Beach’s previous game, it rolled to a 42-14 win over Keyport, a team that beat South River 42-28. Unlike last season, when the Garnet Gulls made a Cinderella run to the semifinals and won their first state playoff game since reaching the final in 1982, this time they are expected to be playing in the championship game.

“As far as overconfidence, with the situation we just went through, I think we’re just excited to play a game at this point,’’ Wagner said. “We just look at film. We don’t talk about scores against common opponents or anything like that.’’

This has a chance to be a dream season for Point Beach, and it most likely will take two wins over rival Shore Regional to complete it. Shore is the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group I and is aiming for its second title in three seasons. If Point Beach takes care of business against South River, it will most likely host a semifinal against third-seeded Florence, a dangerous team with a chip on its shoulder from all the Shore-Point Beach talk. The Flashes reached last year’s championship game before bowing to Asbury Park.

Wagner knows all about taking a team on the journey to the finish line, as he led Roselle Park to consecutive North Jersey II, Group I titles in 1992-93, going undefeated in both seasons.

“You can wish and hope to get places, but you have to go out and make it happen,’’ Wagner said. “This is something you dream about back in Pop Warner, but now you have to work hard and go out and do it.’’

 

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