Shore Conference Football Top 10 after Week Nine
Other than the top three teams, it has been an ever-changing landscape in the All Shore Media Top 10 this season, and now we will find out who is ultimately for real with the NJSIAA playoffs starting this week.
I can already see the fight brewing for the final No. 1 spot if No. 1 Red Bank Catholic finishes 10-1 and loses to perennial powerhouse St. Joseph-Montvale in the Non-Public Group III semifinals and No. 2 Manalapan and No. 3 Lacey both run the table to finish undefeated with state championships. That will be a major headache, but it’s one I am not thinking about until all this plays out.
As for everything else, it’s a free-for-all, and hopefully the state playoffs will provide more clarity rather than muddying up the picture. We’ll see. Good luck to the 27 Shore Conference teams who will be in playoff action this week.
All Shore Media Top 10
- Red Bank Catholic (8-0) – Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys rolled 41-6 over Monmouth Regional for their 22nd straight win over Shore Conference competition to clinch no worse than a tie for the Class A Central title, their third straight division crown and fifth in six years. Junior tailback Larry Redaelli had a pair of touchdown runs and senior Chris Whitlock also had a strong all-around game in the win. They earned the No. 4 seed in Non-Public Group III and will host fifth-seeded Monsignor Donovan (5-3) in the first round on Friday night. Then it’s most likely a trip to St. Joseph-Montvale, which is RBC’s chance to show New Jersey that it can compete with the best of the best and win. The Caseys have not reached a state final since 1980, and a win over St. Joe’s would send a shockwave through the state.
2. Manalapan (8-0) – Last week: No. 2.
The Braves routed Howell 31-3 to grab the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group V and clinch no worse than a tie for their third straight Class A North title. Senior quarterback Mike Isabella continued a brilliant season with three touchdown passes and now has 17 touchdowns this year. The Braves host nearby Monroe in the first round of the playoffs on Friday. Manalapan reached the Central Jersey Group IV final last season for just its second final appearance ever, and the Braves have never won a state title. Anything less than making school history will be a disappointment for a program that has accomplished everything else.
3. Lacey (9-0) – Last week: No. 3.
The Lions romped to a 42-0 win over Brick Memorial thanks to three touchdowns by junior Christian Tutela to remain unbeaten. They are the No. 2 seed in South Jersey Group IV and will host seventh-seeded Toms River South, whom the Lions beat 42-20 in a regular-season game in Class A South. If sophomore quarterback Conor Davies can continue to improve and the rest of the Lions continue to play at a high level, they are on a collision course with top-seeded Timber Creek in the final in a bid to win a sectional championship and finish undefeated for the second time in the last three seasons.
4. Colts Neck (7-1) – Last week: No. 8.
The Cougars make a big jump forward after taking down last week’s No. 5 team, Middletown South, with an impressive 28-9 win in Class A North for the Cougars’ first win ever over the Eagles. Senior quarterback Mike Campbell threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, and junior tailback Anthony Gargiulo ran for one touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. Now comes the first home playoff game in program history, as the Cougars host third-seeded Steinert on Saturday. The only state playoff win in program history for Colts Neck came in 2000, so the Cougars are looking to reach a sectional final for the first time ever. Their only loss is a three-point setback against No. 2 Manalapan.
5. Long Branch (7-1) – Last week: No. 6.
The Green Wave had a bye this week but move up thanks to losses by Rumson-Fair Haven and Middletown South. They are the No. 3 seed in Central Jersey Group III and will host rival Matawan on Friday night. Long Branch beat the Huskies 24-21 in a regular-season thriller that came down to a last-second field goal by Vicente Mota. They also look to welcome back standout senior tailback Dwight Clark, who has missed the entire regular season due to a broken ankle suffered in the preseason. Long Branch is looking to reach its first sectional final since 2007 and win its first title since 1999.
6. Point Beach (8-0) – Last week: No. 7.
The Garnet Gulls had a bye week after having already tied the school single-season record for wins with their best start ever, but now comes their chance to make history. They have never won a state sectional title since the inception of the playoffs in 1974, and they enter Central Jersey Group I as the No. 2 seed and will host seventh-seeded South River Friday night. Less than a week later, they will battle No. 9 Shore Regional on Thanksgiving with the Class B Central title on the line, and then could see the Blue Devils again in CJ Group I, where Shore is the No. 1 seed.
7. Southern (6-2) – Last week: No. 9.
The Rams rolled to a 41-20 win over Toms River East thanks to a school-record 266 yards passing by senior quarterback Dan Higgins and a pair of touchdowns for junior wideout Mike Gesicki and senior tailback Abe Gonzalez. They are the No. 6 seed in South Jersey Group V and will travel to perennial playoff contender Washington Township, the No. 3 seed, in the first round.
8. Rumson-Fair Haven (7-1) – Last week: No. 4.
The Bulldogs take a tumble after losing 14-9 to unranked Manasquan (4-4) in a game they led 9-0 early in the fourth quarter. Junior kicker Jake D’Amelio had a 40-yard field goal and senior wideout John Ryan had a touchdown catch in the loss. They look to regroup and make a run to their third straight Central Jersey Group II final this week when they host sixth-seeded Weequahic in the first round Friday night at Borden Stadium. Their season-opening win over Shore Regional also has looked good now that the Blue Devils have won seven straight.
9. Shore (7-1) – Last week: No. 10.
The Blue Devils have now ripped off seven straight wins after a 49-14 victory over Keyport that earned them the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group I. Senior Mark Costantino had 170 yards rushing on only five carries and a 55-yard touchdown catch in the win. They host Class B Central rival Keansburg, the No. 8 seed, in the playoff opener Friday night after having beaten the Titans 35-18 during the regular season. Then next week they have a Thanksgiving showdown with Point Beach for the Class B Central title, and then could see the Garnet Gulls again in the CJ I final.
10. Neptune (6-2) – Last week: Unranked.
The Scarlet Fliers are back in the top 10 following a 54-17 win over Wall that earned them the No. 4 seed in Central Jersey Group III, where they are the defending champions. The victory over Wall also clinched no worse than a tie for the Class B North title, Neptune’s first division title since 1998. Neptune will host fifth-seeded Lakewood on Saturday in a highly-anticipated game. In the win over Wall, senior quarterback Ajee Patterson threw for a school-record 440 yards on 18-for-22 passing along with five touchdowns, while also running for a touchdown. Senior wideout Keith Kirkwood had 211 yards receiving on only four catches to go with three touchdowns. It’s been an up-and-down season for Neptune, which is the only team to beat No. 4 Long Branch and also has a win over a quality Matawan team, but also has losses to Brick Memorial (5-4) and Red Bank Regional (3-5). They can make all that a distant memory with a run to their second straight CJ III title.
Dropped out – Middletown South (5-3): The Eagles fell 28-9 to Colts Neck and will have to go on the road to make noise in Central Jersey Group IV as the No. 7 seed. They will travel to second-seeded West Windsor South in the first round. Their three losses are all to top 10 teams, but they are still searching for a signature win.
Teams to watch:
Matawan (6-2):The Huskies had no game this week because New Brunswick didn’t decide to not play the game, saying it could not field a competitive team. It was counted as a tie as far as power points are concerned, but is not reflected in Matawan's record. Anyway, Matawan has its last golden opportunity to break into the rankings this week in its rematch with Long Branch in the first round of Central Jersey Group III after losing 24-21 in a regular-season thriller against the Green Wave. It will be the first game in three weeks for both teams, so being able to shake off the rust quickly will be a big factor.
Toms River North (5-3): The Mariners picked up a solid 24-10 win over a streaking Toms River South team, and the Mariners do have a win over No. 8 Southern. Two of their losses are to top-three teams in unbeaten Lacey and Manalapan, and the other is a loss to a non-playoff qualifier in Brick (2-6). The Mariners are the No. 7 seed in South Jersey Group V and will head to No. 2 Eastern on Friday night.