Shore Conference Football Top 10 After Thanksgiving
There were no radical changes in the All Shore Media Top 10 as we head into the home stretch with two weeks left and 11 Shore Conference teams still standing.
The sectional semifinals are this weekend and bring plenty of juicy match-ups. The only one featuring two Top 10 teams squaring off is in Central Jersey Group IV, where No. 10 Middletown South will travel to No. 4 Colts Neck for a rematch after the Cougars beat the Eagles 28-9 in a regular-season game.
Thanksgiving didn’t bring too much turbulence to the rankings as all of the favorites among Top 10 teams picked up victories. In the most anticipated Turkey Day showdown, No. 6 Point Beach improved to 10-0 with a 19-7 win over last week’s No. 9 team, Shore Regional, to win the Class B Central title. No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, No. 2 Manalapan, and No. 5 Long Branch all clinched outright or shared division titles.
All Shore Media Top 10
1. Red Bank Catholic (10-0) – Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys picked up a 28-12 win over Rumson-Fair Haven for their 10th straight win over the Bulldogs to clinch the outright Class A Central title, their third straight division title and fifth in six years. Fullback Frank Olmo had a pair of touchdowns, junior linebacker Ryan Schoer had 12 tackles, a sack and an interception, and senior defensive back Chris Whitlock added 10 tackles and a blocked extra point. RBC tied the school record for wins it set last season, and now comes the monster showdown we have all been waiting for. The Caseys will be a heavy underdog when they travel to St. Joseph-Montvale (8-2) on Saturday for a Non-Public Group III semifinal. St. Joseph is the defending champion and just beat Don Bosco Prep 20-10 to end a 61-game winning streak against New Jersey competition by the Ironmen. If RBC finds a way to go up there and get a win, it will signal that the Caseys’ program has ascended to the elite in New Jersey. If they lose and then Manalapan, Lacey or both go on to finish unbeaten with state titles, then the real arguments for No. 1 will kick into gear.
2. Manalapan (10-0) – Last week: No. 2.
The Braves rolled to a 51-0 win over Marlboro to clinch their third straight outright Class A North title, a feat that had never been done in school history. Junior wideout Saeed Blacknall had five catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns in the win, which helped the Braves tie the school record for wins they set last year. They look to make it 11-0 this week when they host fourth-seeded Hunterdon Central (5-4-1) in the Central Jersey Group V semifinals as they shoot for their second straight appearance in a sectional final and their first state title in program history.
3. Lacey (10-0) – Last week: No. 3.
The Lions had the week off as they do not have a Thanksgiving game, so they will have had two weeks to prepare when sixth-seeded Kingsway (7-3) rolls into Lacey on Saturday for a South Jersey Group IV semifinal. The second-seeded Lions are looking for their second unbeaten season in the last three years.
4. Colts Neck (9-1) – Last week: No. 4.
The Cougars set a school record for wins when they cruised past Howell, 48-7, thanks to a pair of touchdowns by junior tailback Anthony Gargiulo and a touchdown run and a touchdown pass by senior quarterback Mike Campbell. They will look to make more history on Saturday when they welcome No. 9 Middletown South for a Central Jersey Group IV semifinal in a bid to reach the first state final in program history. Colts Neck beat Middletown South 28-9 in a Class A North game this season.
5. Long Branch (9-1) – Last week: No. 5.
The Green Wave clinched a tie with Neptune for the Class B North title by beating Red Bank Regional, 13-0, for their seventh straight win. A dominating defense held the Bucs under 100 total yards, sophomore kicker Vicente Mota booted a pair of field goals, and senior tailback Dwight Clark scored his first touchdown of the season in his second game back from a broken ankle suffered in the preseason. After winning their first division title since 2007, Long Branch will try to advance to its first Central Jersey Group III final since that same season when it heads to second-seeded Nottingham for a semifinal game on Saturday.
6. Point Beach (10-0) – Last week: No. 6.
The Garnet Gulls picked up their biggest win of the season when they ended Shore Regional’s eight-game winning streak with a 19-7 victory that clinched the Class B Central title. It is the Garnet Gulls’ first division title since 1997 and extended the school single-season record for wins. Point Beach is also tied with RBC for the Shore Conference’s longest current winning streak at 11 games. In the win over Shore, senior tailback Danny Tighe continued his brilliant season with 121 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Senior defensive end Lucas Jordy had three sacks to lead a defense that held the Blue Devils to 93 total yards, including 17 yards rushing, and made a pair of interceptions while also registering six sacks. The second-seeded Garnet Gulls will look to make it 11-0 when they host third-seeded Florence in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals on Friday in a bid to reach their first sectional final since 1982 and the second one in school history.
7. Southern (8-2) – Last week: No. 7.
The Rams rolled to a 35-0 victory over Central in the renewal of a Thanksgiving rivalry that started in 1958 and had been on hiatus since 2005. Junior wideout Mike Gesicki had a pair of touchdowns and the defense picked up its third shutout of the season. Southern will now try to reach its first sectional final since 2008 and just the second one in school history when it travels to second-seeded Eastern on Friday night in the South Jersey Group V semifinals.
8. Neptune (8-2) – Last week: No. 10.
The Scarlet Fliers continued their late-season surge with a 33-6 win over Asbury Park in their long-standing Thanksgiving rivalry. Senior quarterback Ajee Patterson threw three touchdown passes, two to senior running back Myles Martin, and also ran for a score in the win, while the defense had four interceptions. Neptune has an eagerly-awaited showdown at top-seeded Allentown on Friday in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. The Scarlet Fliers are the defending CJ III champions and pulled out a 40-33 overtime win against Allentown in last year’s playoffs. Their win over Long Branch is also looking awfully good as the Green Wave continue to rack up victories.
9. Middletown South (7-3) – Last week: Unranked.
The Eagles jump back into the rankings thanks to the loss by Shore and their 21-13 win over Middletown North in which senior Eli Smith had a pair of touchdowns. Middletown South’s main argument to be ranked at this point is its 40-8 win over second-seeded West Windsor South in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs and the fact that the Eagles’ losses are to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, No. 2 Manalapan and No. 4 Colts Neck. They now get a rematch with Colts Neck in the CJ IV semifinals on the road on Saturday in a bid to cement themselves into the final top 10.
10. Rumson-Fair Haven (7-3) – Last week: No. 8.
The Bulldogs fell 28-12 to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic to conclude their season with their third straight loss. Senior Danny Roberto threw a pair of touchdown passes in his final high school game. The Bulldogs’ primary argument to remain ranked is their 13-10 overtime win against Shore Regional from the season opener.
Shore (8-2): The Blue Devils fell 19-7 to Point Beach to bring their eight-game winning streak to a halt and finish behind the Garnet Gulls in the final Class B Central standings. The good news is that the opportunity is still there to come flying back into the top 10 by beating Asbury Park in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals on Friday night and then possibly getting a rematch with Point Beach in the CJ I championship game.