24 teams have “qualified “ for the State playoffs this year. In past years that has been the norm for the Shore.  The difference this year was that strength of schedule played a bigger part in the selection process.  I have gone through the criteria a few times in past weeks on the United Power Rankings and the Born Power Index as well as the old power point system.  They were the three components in the selection process this year.  All in all, I think that the State accomplished what they set out to do and that was to get the ‘best’ teams in the playoffs, though it would be difficult explaining that to Pinelands, Lacey, and Freehold Twp.  They all have arguments to be in and are on the outside looking in.  My take on the overall process is mixed.  Should a team with 1 win get in, over a team with 5 wins?  I ’m saying "no", but that argument is for another day.  It is what it is this year.  Maybe after the season the State sits down and tweaks it a little, but I think it’s here to stay.

RBC getting the top seed in Non-Public 3 is huge because Mater Dei Prep must now play DePaul in the semis, assuming they beat Donovan Catholic in the 1st round. RBC gets a bye and then the winner of St John Vianney/Pope John.  The Caseys have already beaten SJV way back in Week 0.  

Long Branch (7-1, CJ Group 4) is the only other #1 seed from the Shore. They open with 1-6 Middletown North.  Seven schools from the Shore are in that eight-team group.  Long Branch, Middletown South, Brick, Freehold, Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, and Middletown North.  Northern Burlington (6-2) is seeded #7, and the only team in the bracket from outside the shore.  The Green Wave are the defending champions having beaten Freehold last year.  #2 seeds are Rumson (Central 3), Middletown South (Central 4) and Manasquan (Central 2), while Red Bank (Central 3) and Brick (Central 4) land third seeds and a home game. Check our Shore Sports Network web site for full brackets.

Some big upsets occurred in Week 8, the last week before the playoffs get underway.  Middletown South’s 14-7 victory over Rumson was perhaps the biggest.  Rumson scored first, but the South defense held up and Eagles QB Trevor Brey scored twice to pull off the upset.  The Bulldogs did play the entire 2nd half without star RB Alex Maldjian. Both teams will be 2 seeds in the playoffs with Rumson in Group 3 and Middletown South in Group 4.

Mater Dei Prep (8-1) lost for the first time to Cheshire Academy in Connecticut. The final score was 34-33 as Cheshire used 4 TD passes to knock off the Seraphs.  MDP has bigger aspirations coming as a possible matchup with RBC is looming.  That’s the game everyone wants to see.  It won’t happen until the finals in Non-Public Group 3 assuming they both win out.  MDP will have to beat DePaul (6-3) in the semis to get a shot at RBC. DePaul’s schedule is one of the best in the State and their losses are to St Joe Montvale, Don Bosco, and Bergen Catholic.  Not easy.

Nice season-ending run by the Toms River South Indians (2-6) as they upset playoff-bound Barnegat (6-2) in OT, 13-7. It was a Sam Conover 1 yd TD run and an inspired defensive stop that won it for the Indians.  With a couple of consolation round games and a matchup with winless Lakewood on Turkey Day, it’s possible for the Indians to win 5 games after an 0-6 start.  Nice job South, now get it done.

In the "I don’t know if this has ever happened before" category, all four Toms River schools won on the same night (Friday).  Toms River North (6-2) beat Southern 31-21, Toms River East (3-5) beat Colts Neck 20-3, Donovan Catholic (5-2) beat Point Boro 28-7 and as previously mentioned Toms River South won.  Of course, most of the time the schools play on different days but it's still interesting and noteworthy.

In the Donovan Catholic victory, which was our Jersey Mike's game of the Week, junior QB Ryan Clark had a big night leading his team in rushing and scoring three touchdowns.  With only three seniors on this year’s team and multiple freshman starting, watch out for the Griffs in 2019.  But they have their eyes set on this year and making a run in Non Public Group 3 playoffs.  I for one would have liked to see Donovan Catholic match up with St John Vianney in the 1st round, but the seeding committee thought otherwise and moved DC to the #6 spot and a matchup with Mater Dei Prep who they just lost to 2 weeks ago.  Pope John at 1-7 was moved to the #5 seed.  Reason? Tough schedule for Pope John.  There’s that criteria again. Tough break for the Griffs.

Shore (6-2) beat Keyport 42-7 and they are ready for their usual run in the playoffs.  However this year they will make that run in Central 2 as usually, they are in Group 1.  A little different scenario, but only the names change for the Blue Devils.  This year it’s QB Gil Goldsmith and Danny Kelly among others leading the Devils. Great program.

Long Branch (7-1) showed why they are the favorite to repeat this year after their championship run last year.  They easily beat Brick Memorial 40-14.  Both teams are in the same bracket of States - Central Group 4.  The Wave is the top seed while Memorial is a 5 seed.

RBC (8-0) had a little scare against Middletown North (1-6), but pulled it out, 38-28.  Middletown North had the lead with 5:22 left at 28-24.  North has had a crazy season.  A preseason favorite in the Colonial Division, they got off to an 0-5 start but because of the strength of schedule they made the playoffs at 1-6 as the #8 seed and will face Long Branch.  The Lions are dangerous, teams must respect them.

Congrats to Pinelands (4-4), Marlboro (3-5), Monmouth (3-5), Manchester (3-4) and Lacey( 4-5) who have all had decent seasons but failed to make the playoffs.  All will play consolation games this Thursday or Saturday as there are no consolation games on Friday.  These games will be assigned by the State, as will another round of consolation games next week for anyone not in playoffs and teams that lose in 1st round of playoffs.  Is that clear?!?!  All teams will play 10 games.

The Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner is on Thursday this week due to Halloween.  We are at the Office Lounge in Toms River from 7-8 p.m. with a loaded show.  We will feature two teams that are playoff bound, Ocean Township and Brick Memorial.  Both have a rich playoff history and will look to continue that tradition.  Ocean has 3 championships and Brick Memorial has 2.  Together they have been in 15 finals and have won 37 games.  This year Brick Memorial comes into Central 4 as a 5 seed and Ocean is a 7 seed in Central 3.  Head Coaches Walt Currie and Don Klein will each be in the house with QB Tyler Sindel, the Stang signal caller, and Ryan Moran who is the captain of the Big Red. It’s all on 105.7 The Hawk and also streamed live on the Shore Sports Network.

Our Jersey Mike’s Game of the Week will be Friday night as Jackson invades Brick.  A Central 4 matchup of the #3 seed Dragons and the 6th seeded Jags. It’s all on 92.7 WOBM and also streamed live on the Shore Sports Network.