The semi-final round of the N.J. State playoff system was a very successful one for the Shore Conference. Five teams have advanced for a shot at a Championship. Friday night Neptune, Rumson and Manalapan all won, while Asbury Park and Matawan won on Sat. afternoon to move to the Championship round. Friday night was especially a good one for the Braves of Manalapan. Trying to win their first ever State Football Championship, they moved one step closer, with a thrilling 2 OT win over West Windsor South. The final was 21-20, but that doesn't begin to tell the whole story. It was the way they got there that made this one a classic. After going scoreless for much of the game, the Pirates scored the games first TD at the 6:11 mark of the 4th quarter, only to miss the PAT. Manalapan came back to tie it with 57 seconds left, but the point was blocked sending this one into OT. The Braves scored first and led 13-6 only to see WW South score to tie it at 13. The Pirates scored in the 2nd OT and kicked the point, 20-13, South. Manalapan, on a 21 TD run by John Sieczkowski, made it 20-19. That's when this one got interesting. Manalapan used a time out and decided to line up for 2 point play and try to draw WW South off sides. If it worked we go for the 2 and the win, if not, we call another time out and kick it, and send it into the 3rd OT. Well, sure enough WW South jumped off sides and the Braves were going for the win. Sieczkowski on his favorite play, 46 power, scored and the home fans erupted with bedlam. A hard fought 21-20 victory and a place in the finals. Half-way through Head Coach Ed Gurrieri's post game speech, the PA blared the final score of Sayreville/South Brunswick game. A roar went up as Sayreville was announced the winner, and the team Manalapan wanted to play, Sayreville, will be waiting at Rutgers. Last year Sayreville beat the Braves 32-20 in the semi-final round. Sieczkowski finished with 168 yds. and the game winning TD and 2-point conversion. A great win for a team on a mission.

Neptune(9-1) was firing on all fronts Friday night. They put up 60 big ones in a State semi-final game against a team that was 8-1 coming in and top seeded in the CJ-3 bracket. This was a statement game for the Fliers. They ran for nearly 500 yds. and 2 ball-carriers(David Gutzmore-180 and Jaheem Woods-106) had over a hundred rushing and a third(Jazmar Clax) had 90. An offensive explosion just when it was needed. Scoring in double digits in every quarter the Fliers were unstoppable and are now set up in the finals against up-start Steinert(a 32-27 winner over Woodbridge). Before this years 2 wins, Steinert had never even won a playoff game before, they were 0-6. Before the finals, Neptune has another big one with unbeaten Asbury Park on Thanksgiving. Should be a great one.

Rumson(10-0) gets more impressive each week I see them. Playing against Delaware Valley, the Bulldogs used many players on their way to a 35-7 win over the single wing orientated offense of Del Val. This is an offense you don't see very often, if ever, and Jerry Shulte and his defensive staff had it figured out early and put the Terriers to bed early. Using a Connor Riley TD run(26 yds.) and a Riley punt return(85 yds.) in the first quarter, the Bulldogs never looked back and led it 28-0 at the half. Defensively Jack Eisenstadt leads a unit that has yielded only 59 points all year(that's 5.9/game). With names like Mike Alonzo, Jake Clapp, Brian Truex, Travis Clark and Jack Miles, this unit is tough and aggressive. They are playing at a very high level at the right time of the year. They get Matawan on Dec 3rd at Rutgers, as the Huskies upset previously unbeaten Manasquan on Sat afternoon 24-14. The Huskies are on a roll and move into the State finals for the 3rd straight year. Larry Alston ran for 238 yds. and 2 TDs and also caught a TD pass from KaShaun Barnes. Alston played this game at a very high level and it was one of the better performances I have seen all year. Sure there have been guys who have run for more yds., but Alston did it against an undefeated team, on the road, with a spot in the finals on the line. Tyler Saito, after having been held to 2 yds. passing in the first half, tried to rally his team back with 2 fourth quarter TDs passes and and 241 yds. in the second half, but came up a little short, as Matawan and Alston scored with 26 seconds left to ice it. Manasquan now will look ahead to Turkey Day and a road trip to Wall for a winner take all game for the C-Central title. We'll be there to cover that one on Thanksgiving morning on 1160am and 1310 am. Game time is 11am.

If a loss was any easier to take, RBCs effort at Delbarton in their 30-23 2OT loss was one that the Shore Conference can look at with pride and know that we can play with these Parochial powers, and win. Playing without their star RB John DiStefano, who was injured very early in game, the Caseys who went into the game as the #1 team in the shore, proved that they belonged on the field with the unbeaten Green Wave. Soph RB Larry Redaelli filled in for DiStafano and ran for 95 yds. and a TD and had the Caseys on the verge to pull the upset, only to see the Green Wave score in the fourth quarter to tie it and then see a 47 yd. field goal attempt fall short with 3 seconds left, which would have given the Caseys the win in regulation time. Now RBC must re-focus and play undefeated Rumson on Friday night at home, which may very well be for the game that decides who #1 is in the Shore.

Asbury Park made a statement Sat. afternoon as they beat Point Beach for the second time this season. This time was a more convincing 54-6 romp over the Gulls. Armond Conover led the rout with and totaled 246 yds. rushing, receiving and passing and scored 5 TDs doing it. Conover also returned an interception 53 yds for a TD. Asbury will play Florence Twp. at 10am at the College of N.J. on Sat morning Dec. 3rd. for a shot at the CJ-1 Championship.

Congrats to Dan Duddy and his Griffins. They finish with a nice victory over Manchester27-14), to end 6-4. Lots of underclassmen dot the line-up, so look for the Griffs to be just as tough next year.

Top Ten week 12:

  1. Rumson-(10-0) The only unbeaten team in the Shore deserves to #1. They defeated Del Val in the semi's on Friday night, and now set their sights on RBC this Friday night. RBCs loss hurts this one a little, but the Caseys are looking to finish on a winning note.
  2. RBC-(9-1) Can't drop the Caseys too much for their great effort on Saturday against Delbarton.(A 30-23 2OT loss). Have a chance to get top spot back with a win this week.
  3. Neptune-(9-1) Only loss was to #2 RBC in 2 OT early in season. Will play 1 loss Asbury Park in a huge Turkey Day game.
  4. Manalapan-(9-1) The Braves are looking for their first State title ever on Dec 3rd. Sayreville will be the challenge. Before that they get winless Marlboro on Wed night. Get up and get the starters out before anyone gets hurt.
  5. Matawan-(8-2) The Huskies are rolling into their Sat game with SJ Vianney and then a big one at Rutgers against Rumson for CJ-2 title.
  6. Southern(8-2) Rams were idle and have completed their season as A-South Champs.
  7. Asbury Park-(9-1) The Bishops have Neptune on Turkey Day on the road. Then they will play Florence for CJ-1 title.
  8. Manasquan-(9-1) Chance for title wiped out by bad first half against Matawan. They turned it on in second half, but too late to overcome Matawan's lead. Play Wall on road Thursday morning for C-Central title.
  9. Jackson-(7-2) Idle this week, play Jax Liberty Wed night in the battle for Jackson bragging rights.
  10. Wall-(7-2) Will play at home Turkey Day against Squan for C-Central title.

Just outside looking in:

Middletown South(6-3) Battle with cross town rival Mid North on Thanksgiving.

Point Beach-(7-2) Will play Shore Reg. on Turkey Day weekend.

Barnegat(6-3) One win(Pinelands) from outright B-South title.