The 2015 playoffs began with 27 Shore teams having a chance to compete for a sectional State championship. That number is now 15. Middletown South (10-0), St. John Vianney (10-0), Red Bank (9-0) and Shore (9-0) lead the contingent into the semi-finals. All are undefeated and will play home games Friday night. The first round results, as predicted, have produced some very interesting match ups in the semis.

Middletown South will play back to back games with crosstown rival Middletown North (7-2). The first in the semis, on Friday night, and the second 6 days later on Thanksgiving morning for the A-North championship. Both games are at Middletown South.
Ocean (8-1) gets another chance at Red Bank with a spot in the finals of CJ Group 3 on the line. The 2 met on Sept. 25th at Ocean with RBR winning 16-6. Ocean again will be the home team on Friday night for this rematch. In that first game RBR kicker Jack O'Connor continually kept Ocean in their own territory with outstanding punting. The kicking game is very important in a game which is so close. RBR also held Ocean's RB Tyler Thompson to 75 yards.

SJV puts its unbeaten record on the line as they entertain RBC (8-2) in a much anticipated game. The Caseys have been the best Catholic school in our area for quite some time.  This year, the Lancers look to take over that assumption. Two of the top QBs in the state will be on display as Anthony Brown (SJV) and Eddie Hahn (RBC) lead their teams.
Shore (9-0) is a heavy favorite to get to their 12th finals and win their 7th title. They face a Florence (6-3) team that is also a perinial playoff team, having won 6 championships. These two have met in previous years and this is not an easy out for Shore. They do get the home field advantage on Friday night.

Those are 7 of our 15 that are still alive. There will be one other head to head Shore game. Matawan(7-3) has won 7 straight games and will take that streak to Rumson(8-1) in the other CJ Group 3 contest. QB George Pearson leads the Huskies as they try to win back to back championships and their 8th overall, while Rumson looks for their 3rd championship in a row and 4th overall. Rumson's lone loss came in week 3 to SJV(13-6). Matawan's 3 losses, to start the season, came with Pearson on the sidelines nursing a hip injury. By the way, Rumson will play Shore on Thanksgiving morning in the best Turkey Day game. Both would like to know that they will be playing another game after that Turkey Day game.

So with 4 head to head Shore games, we are guaranteed 4 finalist. The other favorites to get to the finals are Brick Memorial (8-2) and Jackson (6-4) in CJ Group 4, and TR North (9-1) in SJ 5. Brick Memorial and Jackson have played some memorable football games in their history. Another game would be a highlight of championship weekend. TR North, although on the road to #1 seed Lenape, is the favorite in my book. North is rolling now and the ammo has been ordered for the cannon they fire after each score.

Keyport (6-4), Manalapan (6-4) and Raritan (4-5) are all underdogs in their games and must travel to Palmyra (8-1), South Brunswick (8-1) and Delaware Valley (8-1) respectfully.
Congrats to Toms River East (1-9) and Manchester (1-8) for winning for the first time this year. East beat Marlboro 21-7 and the Hawks beat Pleasantville 20-0 in what the state is now calling crossover games. They used to be consolation games, but someone didn't like that term, so the change comes. Those victories mean there will be no winless teams in Shore this year. That's a good thing.

Although they lost to Jackson, I must congratulate the Dragons of Brick as they conclude the season 8-2 with a piece of the A-South championship. For the graduating seniors, that's 3 championships (2 A-South titles and a State championship). A job well done. With coaches Rob Dahl in 2013 and 2014 and 1st year HC Len Zdanowitz this year, the Brick tradition lives on. In that Brick loss (21-7), Jackson's Junior RB Mike Gawlik had perhaps the best game a RB has had in the Shore this season. He carried the ball 36 times for 212 yards and scored twice - this against a Brick defense that has been tough all year.  Jackson ran 47 plays in the hard fought win and Gawlik was in all but 11 of them. He also plays defense, and he plays it well. He was of course, our player of game as the Jags won their biggest game of year and move one step closer to another final. They have won 4 championships.

Other teams losing in first round and completed outstanding seasons were Freehold Boro (6-4), Point Pleasant Boro (8-2 and piece of B-South championship) and Central(6-4).

High powered offense is a trademark of our top teams in Shore. Middletown South (#1) averages 42 pts/game, SJV (#2) scores at 45pts/game, TR North (#4) 37pts/game, Shore (#8) 36pts/game and Brick Memorial 32pts/game. These offenses all will be challenged in their semi-final games.

They say offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. Let's look at the tops there. Shore (5 1/2 pts/game), Mid South (5.7 pts/game), Rumson (6 1/2 pts/game) and SJV (8 pts/game). Stingy defenses for all of these teams.

Brick Memorial's Sophomore RB Tony Thorpe went over 1,000 yds rushing in Memorial's 38-6 victory over Jackson Liberty. That gives Brick Memorial 2 backs over 1,000 on the season, as QB Tim Santiago is over 1400 yards on the year - the flexbone at its best. The 'Stang's play Allentown in the semi-finals. The Redbirds beat Freehold Boro 10-7 as Allentown's lefty QB Jordan Winston is on his way to Oklahoma State to play baseball. He's an excellent athlete. They also got a good game from RB Joe Mannino who ran for 139 yards.

Keyport's last win in the playoffs before Friday's 21-18 victory over Asbury Park was in 2010, when they beat Palmyra, who they play this week in the semis. Palmyra's best player is wide receiver Kelvin Harmon, who is on his way to South Carolina to play.

Middletown South has beaten Middletown North 12 straight times on Thanksgiving.

Steinert (7-2) who face Jackson in semi's has a QB in 6'4" Kyle Muller who is on his way to Rutgers to play baseball. He's a pitcher who throws in 90s. Steinert beat Burlington Twp 16-7, to get the matchup with Jackson. Buckle it up and get ready for Mike Gawlik and the Jags.

Join us Thursday night at the Water Street Grill in Toms River where we talk high school football with area coaches and players from the Shore. 7-8:30pm on 1160am or 1310am.

Our game of week is Red Bank at Ocean-7pm on 1160 or 1310am. Friday night at 7pm.