Scott Stump’s Week Two Shore Conference Football Picks
Not too many big whiffs in my first week of prognosticating, which is a bit of an upset because usually Week One is a train wreck thanks to all the uncertainty about so many teams.
The main botch job was picking against St. John Vianney, which rolled to a 40-0 win over Monsignor Donovan. The other games I lost were mostly toss-ups, which is not the end of the world. There are several of those this week, so it’s time to get on the right track by getting the close ones right. I definitely feel Neptune is a lock.
One thing I am always baffled by is how personally people take some of these picks. It’s all in fun. But just as a reminder: If I pick against your team, it means I hate you, your players, coaches, school officials, anyone who ever played for your school and the colors that your team wears.
All kidding aside, let’s just be done with my rambling and get to the picks.
Last week: 18-4.
Marlboro (0-1) at Howell (0-1), 6:30 p.m.: Marlboro clearly looks improved after going winless last year. The Mustangs scored 26 points in a season-opening loss to J.P. Stevens after averaging 11 points per game last year. Howell lost 35-7 to a good Toms River North team and is trying to get sophomore quarterback Connor McGlynn up to speed after losing starting signal-caller John Quinlan to an MCL tear in the preseason. This game has upset possibility for Marlboro, but I don’t have the guts to pick it. Howell will also be looking to get new head coach Derek Reichenbecher his first career victory. The pick: Howell.
Toms River South (0-1) at No. 4 Southern (1-0), 7 p.m.: This game will be live on the radio on 105.7 The Hawk and 1310/1160 AM on online at www.shoresportsnetwork.com. The Rams got a very positive sign last week when senior quarterback Dan Higgins was able to play in a 28-0 win over Freehold Township despite suffering a separated right shoulder earlier in the preseason. He threw a pair of touchdown passes. Now comes the Class A South opener for the defending champions against an Indians team coming off a 29-26 loss to Central on a field goal as time expired. Toms River South has some scary skill players with great speed like Khaleel Greene, so the Rams don’t want this to be too close in the fourth or the Indians could bust one to pull the upset. Southern is a senior-laden team that should run the ball effectively and win in workmanlike fashion, but there are no easy games in this division. By the way, for those wondering about the lightning-shortened win over Freehold Township last week, Southern coach Chuck Donohue Sr. told me there is a rule where if a team is up 22 or more points in the second half of a game delayed 90 minutes because of lightning like that, the game is called and the team in front gets the win. The pick: Southern.
No. 6 Brick Memorial (1-0) at Middletown North (0-0), 7 p.m.: I am not a fan of first-week byes like Middletown North is dealing with. I feel like the teams that have them usually lurch out of the gate while facing another team that got its jitters out a week earlier. Brick Memorial’s offense should be more in sync this week after the 35-13 win over Brick, while its defense does a good job of creating turnovers. Meanwhile, the Lions’ offense should be improved with senior Cody Thompson back at quarterback. The biggest key for North will be making sure Brick Memorial doesn’t jump on the Lions early, but I think Brick Memorial will grind out a tough win against an underrated team. The pick: Brick Memorial.
Jackson Memorial (0-1) at Toms River East (0-1), 7 p.m.: This is the definition of a toss-up game. Both of these teams struggled to score in dropping their season openers. Jackson Memorial is working a bunch of new players into the lineup, while Toms River East is trying to get its passing attack up to speed to complement junior running back Matt Gudzak. I have no feel for this game. I am going with Jackson in a low-scoring game. The Jaguars did a solid job against the run in their loss to Manalapan, but the bad news was that big plays in the passing game and on special teams ensure the game was not that close. However, Toms River East does not have nearly the weapons in the passing game that Manalapan does, so I am thinking Jackson will find a way. The pick: Jackson Memorial.
Freehold Township (0-1) at No. 3 Manalapan (1-0), 7 p.m.: Who has a tougher 1-2 punch to start the season than Freehold Township? The Patriots had No. 4 Southern last week and now deal with No. 3 Manalapan, the two-time defending Class A North champion. Freehold Township’s offensive woes continued with a shutout loss in the opener, while Manalapan’s offense looked as explosive as ever. Not a whole lot of thought to put into this one. The pick: Manalapan.
Colts Neck (1-0) at North Brunswick (0-1), 7 p.m.: The Cougars pulled out a 14-7 win over Toms River East, while North Brunswick lost 44-27 to Monroe in its opener. The players to worry about on North Brunswick are sophomore running back LaShawn Boyd, who was a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman, and all-purpose threat Nick Sidotti, who had over 300 yards of total offense against Monroe. If Colts Neck can clean up the turnovers from last week and continue to use the run game to set up shots down the field by senior quarterback Michael Campbell, the Cougars should get this one. The pick: Colts Neck.
Carteret (1-0) at Raritan (0-1), 7 p.m.: Raritan’s schedule from hell continues with a visit from Carteret, a Central Jersey Group II playoff team a year ago, after a 41-13 loss to No. 2 Neptune. Carteret is led by one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top running backs, Jerod Johnson, who had 174 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the opener. Raritan has to clean up the turnovers offensively, but it won’t be facing a team with quite the speed and array of weapons as Neptune. Bottom line: Stop Johnson and you win. Much easier said than done. Raritan will need a great game from its front seven on defense and a strong game from senior running back Steve Winetsky in order to control the clock and keep the ball out of Johnson’s hands. This is one that I genuinely hope I’m wrong about. The pick: Carteret.
Manasquan (0-1) at No. 1 Red Bank Catholic (1-0), 7 p.m.: The Caseys have their home opener after a 47-0 romp over Red Bank, while Manasquan enters off a hard-fought, 18-13 loss to Long Branch. RBC’s run game is as good as it gets in the Shore, and the Caseys have three quality backs in Larry Redaelli, Mike Cordova and Jesse Flaherty. Redaelli should be in the lineup after suffering an ankle injury in the opener. Manasquan is unsettled at quarterback, where wideout Connor Grogan played last week. To be one-dimensional and try to beat RBC is a tall order given RBC’s run defense, which ate up Red Bank last week. You don’t ever see Manasquan start 0-2, but that’s what the Warriors may be looking at. The pick: Red Bank Catholic.
No. 7 Rumson-FH (1-0) at St. John Vianney (1-0), 7 p.m.: This game screams “upset.” Rumson was taken to the limit in a 13-10 overtime win over Shore in which it lost standout tailback Conor Walsh for the season with a torn ACL, while St. John Vianney is flying high after a 40-0 burial of Monsignor Donovan. It should be a great atmosphere in Holmdel for this one, and Rumson’s secondary will be seriously tested by quarterback Billy DeMato and his army of wideouts. The main question is whether the Lancers can protect DeMato from Rumson’s pass rush long enough for him to make plays deep down the field. Conversely, can St. John Vianney’s defense bottle up Rumson’s passing attack led by senior quarterback Danny Roberto? Rumson beat the Lancers 37-0 last year, so they are eager for some payback. I wouldn’t have ranked Rumson if I didn’t think they could win this game, but it will be far from easy. The pick: Rumson-Fair Haven.
Jackson Liberty (1-0) at Central (1-0), 7 p.m.: The winner of this game will get a big confidence boost considering Jackson Liberty has never started 2-0 and Central would be 2-0 after going 5-5 last year. Central’s Javon Hardy showed he may be ready for a breakout season as a senior, one year after his cousin, Kalyph Hardy, was a 2,000-yard rusher for the Golden Eagles. He had a pair of touchdowns in a 29-26 thriller over Toms River South. Jackson Liberty dispatched of Wall, 21-6, to get off on the right foot. I’ll give Central the slight nod because it will be at home and because of its playmakers on offense, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions and quarterback Bob Davies put up some numbers in this one. The pick: Central.
Pinelands (0-1) at Point Boro (1-0), 7 p.m.: The Wildcats lost by 50 to Lacey last week, while Point Boro grinded out a 27-14 win over Monmouth. Pinelands has not really been competitive since 2010, so until proven otherwise, Point Boro is the clear choice here. The pick: Point Boro.
Manchester (0-1) at Barnegat (0-1), 7 p.m.: These are two 0-1 teams, but I feel like there is way more pressure on Barnegat in this one. The Bengals came into this season with high expectations after winning Class B South last season but were squashed 21-0 by a Holmdel team that was 1-9 last year. With projected starting quarterback Cinjun Erskine still sitting out because of NJSIAA transfer rules, the Bengals will have to find a way to generate some points without him. An 0-2 hole would be a rough start for a team that entered with a good amount of hype. Meanwhile, a young Manchester team will play with nothing to lose after a 30-22 setback against Ocean last week. The Hawks have some skill players who can hurt you, so they are entirely capable of winning this game. Barnegat will need to line up and try to pound them with its big O-line. The pick: Barnegat.
Freehold (0-1) at No. 8 Matawan (1-0), 7 p.m.: Matawan picked up a solid 24-6 win on the road against Bishop Ahr in the opener, while Freehold lost at home to Lakewood. Matawan always seems to play well on its home turf, which accentuates its speed advantage. The Huskies’ defense is usually really tough against opposing running games, which will put a lot of pressure on Freehold’s offense. I see the Huskies doing their usual thing – a few big plays on offense, a swarming defense and a solid kicking game. The pick: Matawan.
Red Bank (0-1) at Wall (0-1), 7 p.m.: Just like the Barnegat-Manchester game, this is a meeting between two 0-1 teams where one has a lot more pressure than the other. With a senior-laden team, this was supposed to be Red Bank’s year to make a deep playoff run, but the Bucs were run off the field in a 47-0 loss to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic. There is no pressure on Wall, which has an entirely new team thanks to graduation and is adjusting to a new head coach. This is a danger area for Red Bank because Wall is completely capable of winning this game now that all of its new players got their feet wet in a loss to Jackson Liberty. Red Bank’s offense only managed one first down against the starting defense last week, and it was because RBC jumped offsides. It absolutely has to be better on that side of the ball in order to give the defense a rest and give themselves some kind of margin for error. Looking at Red Bank’s schedule, the Bucs have to have this one or it could be a long and disappointing year. Wall would love nothing more than to give new head coach Nick Gregorio his first win by putting Red Bank in a hole. This should be a dogfight. The pick: Red Bank.
Asbury Park (1-0) at Shore (0-1), 7 p.m.: I have flip-flopped on which team to pick in this game about 25 times. It’s always so close when these teams meet. Last year, Shore had Asbury Park on the ropes the whole time before a 70-yard bomb late in the fourth quarter gave the Blue Bishops a 14-13 win. I expect the same type of tight game again. I was definitely encouraged by the performance of Asbury Park’s skill players in a win over Keyport. Meanwhile, I saw Shore’s defense in person against Rumson-Fair Haven in an overtime loss and was impressed. Shore is going to try to just mash Asbury Park with the running game. This is always one of those games where you find out who is in shape and still has some gas in the tank in the fourth quarter. I’m banking on the hunch that Asbury Park will hit just enough big plays to pull out another one. The Blue Bishops are the defending Class B Central champions, so they are not going to go quietly in a game that will immediately stamp the winner as the front-runner for the title, with Point Beach still lurking out there. The pick: Asbury Park.
Point Beach (1-0) at Dunellen (1-0), 7 p.m.: Point Beach rolled over an undermanned Cardinal McCarrick team while Dunellen pulled out a two-point win over Metuchen last week. Da Beach has a score to settle with the Destroyers after a 24-22 loss last year. These teams aren’t in the same state bracket anymore because Dunellen has been realigned into North Jersey, but the power points from this one will be important. I think Point Beach will do what it does best – pound away with the running game and play tough defense. The pick: Point Beach.
Mater Dei Prep (0-1) at Cardinal McCarrick (0-1), 7 p.m.: Mater Dei Prep gave Keansburg a battle in a season-opening loss, and the most encouraging sign was an offense led by junior Sam Miles that showed some explosiveness. The bottom line is that if Mater Dei’s program is on the rebuilding track that it believes it is on, it has to get this game against another struggling program. I think the Seraphs will deliver. The pick: Mater Dei Prep.
Highland Park (0-1) at Keyport (0-1), noon: Keyport took a 36-7 loss to Asbury Park, while Highland Park was buried 35-0 by South River, so both of these teams are looking for confidence. I think Keyport will pull it together behind junior quarterback Alex Thomson and get the offense in gear to get on track. The pick: Keyport.
Holmdel (1-0) at Middlesex (0-1), 1 p.m.: The Hornets are sky-high after a 21-0 win over a well-regarded Barnegat team, and now their next challenge is stopping Middlesex running back Al-Tarik Rushing (great name), who is a two-time, 1,000-yard rusher. Rushing was out last week when Spotswood beat Middlesex 40-13. Regardless, I think Holmdel’s defense is up to the challenge, led by senior linebacker Brett Lambert. I think the offense will pound away with sophomore fullback Frank Condito and athletic senior quarterback Robbie Cantelli to double the Hornets’ win total from a season ago. The pick: Holmdel.
No. 10 Toms River North (1-0) at No. 5 Lacey (1-0), 1 p.m.: This is the game of the week in the Shore Conference as far as I am concerned. The winner stamps itself right away as a primary threat to Southern’s supremacy in Class A South. Toms River North rolled 35-7 over Howell behind a brilliant debut by sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani, who threw two touchdown passes. Lacey beat Pinelands 58-8, but it’s hard to use that as a gauge because Pinelands is struggling so badly right now. The Lions will have to dramatically step up their game. They will need balance between the passing of Tom Kelly and the running of Kyle Spatz to move the ball consistently and they will have to find a way to contain Sclafani and the outstanding group of wideouts for the Mariners. Much of it will come down to the pass rush and tackling in space. For Toms River North, if it can get a stalemate on defense at the line of scrimmage to put Lacey in obvious passing downs, it will be in good shape. I’m not going to lie that I am scared to death of picking against Toms River North because of its offensive capability. The pick: Lacey.
Monmouth (0-1) at Long Branch (1-0), 1 p.m.: Monmouth hung with Point Boro in a 27-14 win in which it didn’t have star quarterback Jeff Farrah for the second half because he was taken to the hospital with severe dehydration. Long Branch found a way on the road against Manasquan behind fearsome senior linebacker/running back Joscil Jackson and some clutch plays in the passing game and on special teams. Long Branch is on a mission to show people that it can win without Dwight Clark and then become a really dangerous threat when he returns. The pick: Long Branch.
Msgr. Donovan (0-1) at Lakewood (1-0), 1 p.m.: Looking at Lakewood’s schedule, it’s not crazy to think the Piners could start 4-0. That is insane given that this team has won a combined five games in the last two years and a combined 10 games since 2003. All of that is in the past, as the Piners beat Freehold 23-13 in the opener and has plenty of playmakers, led by senior quarterback Tyrice Beverette. Monsignor Donovan has to be a little shell-shocked after a 40-0 loss to St. John Vianney in the opener. I think Lakewood will ride the momentum and its speed will be the difference. I could see Beverette going wild in this one. The pick: Lakewood.
Spotswood (1-0) at Keansburg (1-0), 1 p.m.: While I would like to believe in the senior-laden Titans in this one, Spotswood did a number on Middlesex last week, although Middlesex was without its best offensive player. Keansburg enters with confidence after knocking off Mater Dei Prep, but I think the Chargers will use their offensive balance to take a victory in this one. The pick: Spotswood.
No. 9 Middletown South (0-0) at Brick (0-1), 7 p.m.: The Eagles also had a first-week bye, just like rival Middletown North, once the plan of them moving their annual Thanksgiving game to the season opener went up in smoke. Brick is a young team, but showed some flashes of ability in a 35-13 loss to Brick Memorial last week. We will get our first look at St. John Vianney transfer Eli Smith on offense for Middletown South, as well as seeing how the Eagles’ run defense looks against a team that wants to establish the ground game and has a quarterback with good mobility. The pick: Middletown South.
Ocean (1-1) vs. Impetigo (1,000-0): Impetigo remained unbeaten in its career when an outbreak caused Ocean to have to forfeit to Neptune on Saturday. However, the Spartans will rise above and hopefully move on to a strong season while putting a tough incident behind them. The pick: Ocean.