Shore Conference Football Top 10 After Week Seven
The Class A South division continues to cannibalize itself outside of division champion Lacey, as two more prominent Ocean County squads were sent tumbling out of the top 10 with tough losses in Week Seven.
The minute a team puffs its chest out and starts basking in the glow of a big win, it gets popped a week later. Apparently it’s not as easy to be the hunted rather than the hunter because the second teams get a big win and put the target on their back, another opponent comes along and shoots a bull’s eye.
This past weekend it was a one-win Brick team that took out Toms River North, last week’s No. 4 team, with a 24-21 victory. Southern, which had lost to two Top 10 teams by a combined five points, finally cleared a hurdle when it used a bulldozing running game to send previously fifth-ranked Brick Memorial to its second straight loss with a 28-21 victory.
Manalapan solidified its No. 2 spot with a 24-21 comeback win over a Colts Neck team that was impressive in defeat, while No. 3 Lacey clinched no worse than a tie for the Class A South title with a 42-28 win over Jackson Memorial. The bad news is that Lacey lost starting quarterback Tom Kelly to a broken collarbone, so sophomore Conor Davies will step in as the starter for the rest of a season that has had the makings of a 12-0 campaign.
Friday night is loaded with key games with Top 10 and state playoff implications, and there is one to watch on Saturday as well. On Friday, No. 1 Red Bank Catholic heads to No. 5 Middletown South in a huge nondivisional game, No. 2 Manalapan hosts Toms River North, and No. 6 Long Branch tangles with Matawan. On Saturday, two red-hot teams square off in Class B Central when No. 7 Point Beach heads to Keyport.
Southern is back in the top 10 after the win over Brick Memorial, and Shore Regional makes its debut. It’s always tricky ranking the Group I schools because they play the schedule they were given, so you don’t want to totally penalize them for that. Still, I would be curious to see who people would pick if Shore or Point Beach was playing Neptune, Brick Memorial, Matawan or Toms River North, who are all on the outside looking in right now.
All Shore Media Top 10
- Red Bank Catholic (6-0) – Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys’ No. 1 spot will receive its sternest test of the regular season when they head to No. 5 Middletown South for a nondivisional game on Friday night. RBC has had two weeks to prepare because of its bye and has won 20 straight games against Shore Conference competition entering the game. This is RBC’s chance to drive home the point that it is the best team in this area for a second straight season. This is also an interesting game as far as comparisons go because it is a common opponent with No. 2 Manalapan, which beat Middletown South 35-31 with a fourth-quarter comeback. Just a note for fans: The game will be streamed live online at rbcsports.com, so make sure to check it out if you can’t make it to The Swamp.
2. Manalapan (6-0) – Last week: No. 2.
The Braves’ best start since 1987 continued when they picked up a crucial Class A North victory by recovering from deficits of 14-0 and 21-10 to beat Colts Neck 24-21 in a showdown between unbeaten teams. Manalapan has now all but mathematically wrapped a school-record third straight Class A North title and has won 16 straight divisional games dating back to 2009. The victory also vaulted the Braves to No. 2 in power points in Central Jersey Group V as they jockey for two home games. Junior Tyler Leonetti ran for 110 yards and a touchdown and David Debner broke off a 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give Manalapan the lead for kid. The defense also shut out Colts Neck in the second half. Next up, the Braves have a big nondivisional game against Toms River North (4-2) at home Friday night. Manalapan has crushed Toms River North’s playoff hopes the last two seasons with wins and will look to do so again. A win could also vault the Braves to the top seed in the bracket.
3. Lacey (7-0) – Last week: No. 3.
The Lions clinched no worse than a tie for the Class A South title with a 42-28 win over Jackson Memorial for their second division title in three seasons and the 13th under legendary coach Lou Vircillo. The bad news is that junior quarterback Tom Kelly, who was having a brilliant season, suffered a broken collarbone that put him out for the rest of the year. Sophomore Conor Davies, the son of offensive coordinator Cory Davies, will step in and try to keep the wins coming. In the victory over the Jaguars, senior linebacker/kicker Liam Dolly had a sensational all-around game, accounting for 20 points. He had a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, a 71-yard fumble return for a touchdown and nine tackles, while also kicking six extra points and a career-long 42-yard field goal. Senior tailback Kyle Spatz also ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Davies threw a touchdown pass to senior Bill Belford, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in the win. The Lions can clinch the outright division title this week when they head to resurgent Brick (2-5), which has won two straight after an 0-5 start. This is also the last game that counts in the power points for Lacey, which is currently first in power points in South Jersey Group IV, two points ahead of Timber Creek, which has also played seven games. A win over the Indians should guarantee two home playoff games for the Lions.
4. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-0) – Last week: No. 6.
The Bulldogs are rounding into playoff form as they routed Class B South leader Monsignor Donovan 30-0 in a nondivisional game to remain unbeaten. Senior quarterback Danny Roberto threw three touchdown passes to lead the offense, while a dominant defense limited the Griffins to 107 total yards, including eight yards in the second half. Rumson travels to Monmouth (1-5) for a Class A Central game on Saturday. This team has been under the radar most of the season, but is quietly gunning for a third straight trip to the Central Jersey Group II final.
5. Middletown South (5-1) – Last week: No. 7.
The Eagles have a chance to reclaim their place among the best of the best in the Shore Conference this week when they host No. 1 Red Bank Catholic in a highly-anticipated nondivisional game on Friday night. This past weekend, they took care of Marlboro, 35-7, with a big second half that included a pair of touchdowns by senior fullback Jake Ripnick and one by senior Eli Smith. Now they look to end RBC’s 20-game winning streak against Shore Conference competition and pick up a bushel of power points in the process to guarantee some home games in Central Jersey Group IV, where they are currently fifth in power points.
6. Long Branch (6-1) – Last week: No. 8.
Everyone is moving up with Brick Memorial and Toms River North taking a tumble out of the top 10, and Long Branch continues to play well. The Green Wave upended Ocean, 35-21, in Class B North for their fourth straight win. Long Branch has now won 11 of its last 12 games as it continues to build momentum for the state playoffs. The ferocious rushing tandem of senior Joscil Jackson and junior Deon Williams plus a physical offensive line have led the way, as Jackson had 155 yards and a touchdown and Williams had 152 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Ocean. Now comes a big one, as the Green Wave welcome old rival Matawan (5-1) on Friday for a pivotal Class B North game. The winner is most likely on track to tie Neptune for the division title, while the loser will be on the outside looking in. Also, Long Branch and Matawan are currently 4-5 in the power-point standings in Central Jersey Group III, so this is a big one as far as a top-three seed and at least one home game are concerned.
7. Point Beach (7-0) – Last week: No. 10.
The Garnet Gulls continue to thrash everyone in sight as they took care of winless Highland Park 49-23 to continue what is believed to be their best start ever. They have now scored at least 40 points in all seven games this season. Andre Cochran led the way against Highland Park with 14 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns and also had 10 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack, and a fumble recovery. Next up is a Class B Central game against Keyport that will be the biggest game in the Shore Conference on Saturday, as Keyport has won six straight and will look to shake up a division race that has looked like it will come down to Point Beach and Shore on Thanksgiving. The Garnet Gulls are also currently first in the power-point standings in Central Jersey Group I, and a win here all but guarantees two home playoff games as they bid for their first state title in program history.
8. Colts Neck (5-1) – Last week: No. 9.
I know it looks a little weird for a team to move up after a loss, but it’s a combination of Colts Neck giving No. 2 Manalapan all it could handle and other teams freefalling out of the rankings. The Cougars led 14-0 and 21-10 over Manalapan but fell just short, 24-21, in a big Class A North game. They still proved in defeat that they can hang with the best and should be a factor in Central Jersey Group IV. Senior quarterback Mike Campbell threw touchdown passes to Anthony Gargiulo and Connor Canonico, and Gargiulo also had a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Cougars will travel to Freehold Township (1-5) for a Class A North game on Friday night looking to lock down their first state playoff berth since 2008.
9. Southern (4-2) – Last week: Unranked.
The Rams make a return to the top 10 after taking down last week’s No. 5, Brick Memorial, by handing the Mustangs their second straight loss with a 28-21 victory. Senior Abe Gonzalez ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns and senior quarterback Dan Higgins threw two touchdown passes as the Rams rolled up 278 yards on the ground for a much-needed win for their state playoff hopes. They victory shot them up to No. 3 in the power-point standings in South Jersey Group V, positioning them to get a home game for a second straight year if they keep winning. They are one of four teams currently tied for second in Class A South behind Lacey, but in a division where the landscape changes weekly, they are the ones coming off the big win right now. The Rams head to Jackson Memorial (1-5) for a division game on Friday night.
10. Shore Regional (5-1) – Last week: Unranked.
Time to give the Blue Devils their shot, as their showdown with Point Beach on Thanksgiving could be something special if both teams handle their business between now and then. The Blue Devils wiped out winless Mater Dei Prep, 47-0, this past weekend and now turn their attention to Keansburg (4-3) for a division game at home on Friday night. Their only loss is an overtime setback against No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven, and they should be right there with Point Beach for division and Central Jersey Group I titles.
Brick Memorial (5-2): The Mustangs have hit a rough patch after a 5-0 start with two straight losses, including a 28-21 setback against Southern last week. They gave up nearly 300 yards rushing, and they will have to shore up that run defense with an explosive Toms River South (3-3) team and junior running back Otis Kearney coming up on the road Friday night. The Mustangs currently sit fourth in power points in Central Jersey Group V and could use the boost from a win over the upstart Indians, who are fighting for a state playoff berth of their own.
Toms River North (4-2): The Mariners suffered a stunning, 24-21 loss to a Brick team that had one win entering the game. They currently sit fourth in South Jersey Group V and can make a serious power move this week and come roaring back into the top 10 with a win. That is because the Mariners face No. 2 Manalapan in a nondivisional game on the road Friday night. Manalapan has pulled out a pair of thrillers that have dashed Toms River North’s playoff hopes in the last two seasons, so the Mariners are looking to reverse that result this year.
Teams to watch:
Neptune (5-2): The Scarlet Fliers righted the ship, picking up a 28-7 win over Freehold to end a two-game losing streak and put them back on track toward the state playoffs, where they are the defending Central Jersey Group III champions. Senior quarterback Ajee Patterson threw three touchdown passes, including two to senior wideout Keith Kirkwood, and also ran for another in the win over the Colonials. They are now on their bye week and return with a divisional game against Wall before they begin defense of their state title.
Matawan (5-1): The Huskies escaped Red Bank with a 14-7, double-overtime win over the Bucs to set up a showdown with No. 6 Long Branch in a game with major Class B North and Central Jersey Group III implications on Friday night. Senior Glenn Cross ran for the game-winning touchdown on fourth down in the second overtime before the defense came up with a stop to seal the win over the Bucs.
Asbury Park (4-2): The Blue Bishops’ 36-7 win over Keyport in the season opener is looking better by the week now that Keyport has ripped off six straight wins. Asbury Park is coming off a 27-16 win over Metuchen, and it’s two losses are to No. 7 Point Beach and No. 10 Shore Regional. The Blue Bishops welcome Middlesex (2-4) for a nonconference game on Saturday.