Shore Conference Football Top 10 After Week Six
When it comes to the All Shore Media Top 10, I may follow the lead of many American companies and start downsizing.
How about we go with a top three?
That’s mainly because it’s anyone’s guess after the top three teams right now after a weekend in which last week’s No. 2, Brick Memorial, went down to No. 7 Toms River North, and last week’s No. 5, Neptune, tumbled to previously winless Red Bank Regional.
The main question is how the Neptune loss affects the rest of Class B North when it comes to the rankings. Long Branch is also ranked, but Neptune beat the Green Wave and Matawan, so does the Scarlet Fliers’ loss to Red Bank drag every B North team out of top 10 consideration for right now? Also, where do these Class A South teams fit in everything right now? Brick Memorial’s win over Neptune is not looking as good as it did a week ago, but the Mustangs have played a more difficult schedule than a team like unbeaten Rumson-Fair Haven, whose only top 10-caliber opponent so far has been Shore Regional.
Let’s try to make some sense of something nonsensical.
- Red Bank Catholic (6-0) – Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys made it 20 in a row against Shore Conference competition and seven in a row overall when they rolled to a 43-12 win over Holmdel in Class A Central. Senior Chris Whitlock continued an outstanding season with a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown, a recovery of his own blocked punt for a touchdown and a tackle for a safety in the win. Senior defensive tackle Josh Klecko also had an interception return for a score. The Caseys have now scored at least one touchdown on special teams for four straight games. They are on their bye week, so they now have two weeks to prepare for their biggest game of the season, a nondivisional showdown at No. 7 Middletown South on Oct. 26.
2. Manalapan (5-0) – Last week: No. 3.
So, um, Braves, about last week and that whole dropping you to No. 3 thing, we’re still friends, right? I got caught up with the shiny new car when the one with the reliable engine that gets the job done was doing just fine. The Braves are back at No. 2 after Brick Memorial’s loss and Manalapan’s 55-12 nonconference win over East Brunswick. Junior running back Tyler Leonetti amassed a career-high 215 yards rushing and three touchdowns and senior quarterback Mike Isabella threw four touchdown passes in the win. Now comes a big one, as the Braves travel to No. 9 Colts Neck on Saturday for a pivotal Class A North game between unbeatens that appears to be their final hurdle toward a school-record third straight Class A North title.
3. Lacey (6-0) – Last week: No. 4.
So, um, Lions about last week and that whole dropping you to No. 4 thing….well, you get the idea. Lacey knocked Southern out of the top 10 and took a big step toward the Class A South crown when it picked up a hard-fought, 21-19 victory over the Rams on Saturday to take sole possession of first place. Junior quarterback Tom Kelly was 22-for-28 for 241 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a touchdown. Senior Kyle Spatz had the game-winning, 13-yard touchdown catch and a crucial interception to set up the drive on defense. The Lions can put another brick in the wall of their second division title in three seasons this week when they host Jackson Memorial (1-4) in a divisional game this week.
4. Toms River North (4-1) – Last week: No. 7.
The Mariners make a jump up by virtue of their 30-25 victory over previously unbeaten Brick Memorial in Class A South. This team is starting to get hot after wins over Southern and Brick Memorial, and it is tied to the ongoing improvement of sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani. He ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Brick Memorial, including a 68-yard burst that put the Mariners up 12 in the fourth quarter. Not only was that a big divisional win, but also a nice power-point haul for the Mariners as they push for at least one home game in South Jersey Group V. This week they are on the road on Friday night at Brick (1-5), which is coming off its first win of the season.
5. Brick Memorial (5-1) – Last week: No. 2.
The Mustangs drop three spots after a 30-25 loss to Toms River North ended their dream of an unbeaten season and knocked them into a tie for second place in Class A South. Junior Mike Basile had a pair of touchdown runs and finished with 190 total yards, including 118 rushing, in the loss. The main thing right now is valuing that victory over Neptune. Is that a quality win, or is Neptune sliding to the point where it won’t seem like as big a deal in a few weeks? I will give Brick Memorial the benefit of the doubt for now because it will face another tough test this week against Southern (3-2). The Rams’ two losses are by a combined five points to No. 3 Lacey and No. 4 Toms River North, so they are no easy out. Brick Memorial still has a shot at a piece of the Class A South title if it can beat Southern and Toms River South back to back and then try to take down Lacey in a big game at home on Nov. 2.
6. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-0) – Last week: No. 6.
The Bulldogs keep churning out wins as they took care of winless Raritan 31-10 in a Class A Central game to remain unbeaten. Senior tailback Travis Clark ran for a pair of scores and also caught a touchdown pass in the victory. There haven’t been too many chances on Rumson’s schedule for statement wins yet, but the Bulldogs face Class B South leader Monsignor Donovan (4-1), which has won four straight, at Borden Stadium on Friday night in a nondivisional game. There is a good chance this team could be 8-0 heading into the postseason, but they have to handle their business first.
7. Middletown South (4-1) – Last week: No. 8.
The Eagles move up a spot, as they are gaining steam for a big showdown with No. 1 Red Bank Catholic in two weeks. Last week they took care of Freehold Township 42-12 thanks to a career-best game by senior Eli Smith, who ran for three touchdowns and caught another in the win over the Patriots. The Eagles roll into Marlboro (2-3) for a Class A North game on Saturday before the big one at home against RBC. This team has been sitting in the weeds, ready to announce its return to prominence after nearly toppling Manalapan earlier this season, and we will find out in two weeks if the Eagles are back.
8. Long Branch (5-1) – Last week: No. 10.
I wrestled with this one for a little bit because if I am dropping Neptune out of the top 10 for the loss to Red Bank, what does that say about a Long Branch team that Neptune beat? Now that Neptune is struggling, the buzz is that this Long Branch team may be the one to beat in Central Jersey Group III. The Green Wave had to recover from a 14-3 hole to post a 30-14 win over Freehold this past weekend, as senior quarterback Avry Griffin ran for one score and threw for another, and senior linebacker Joscil Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown. The Death Star is also getting closer to being fully operational with every week, as senior tailback Dwight Clark gets closer to a return from a broken bone in his ankle from the preseason. The Green Wave will be tested on the road Friday night by a young and talented Ocean (3-2) team that has won two straight. I’ll be honest, this team has not had a big win over a well-regarded team since probably beating Red Bank Catholic in 2009, so sooner or later it will have to step up and take down a quality opponent. I am banking on the hunch that Long Branch will do that, and its game against Matawan on Oct. 26 is looming large in the Class B North race now that Neptune has lost.
9. Colts Neck (5-0) – Last week: Not ranked.
I will give the Cougars a shot as they are off to their best start in program history and have a chance to really open some eyes this week when they host No. 2 Manalapan in a huge Class A North game on Saturday. Colts Neck is coming off a 31-6 win over St. John Vianney in which junior tailback Anthony Gargiulo ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries and senior quarterback Mike Campbell threw for one score and ran for another. The real revelation has been Colts Neck’s defense, which has only allowed more than seven points in one game all season and completely stifled St. John Vianney’s prolific passing attack.
10. Point Beach (6-0) – Last week: Not ranked.
The Garnet Gulls have bulldozed everything in their path. I know their schedule hasn’t had any Top 10-level tests on it yet, but that’s not their fault. They have routed every team they have played, scoring at least 40 points in every game and getting off to their best start since they were awarded the Central Jersey Group I title by the NJSIAA way back in 1945. They are coming off a 40-0 win over a Keansburg team that was 4-1 coming into the game. Senior Danny Tighe has already become the Shore Conference’s first 1,000-yard rusher this season and added another three touchdowns this week. The hits should keep on coming when the Garnet Gulls travel to Highland Park (0-6) this week. Looming on the horizon is a much-anticipated Thanksgiving showdown against Shore Regional that looks like it will decide the Class B Central title.
Neptune (4-2): The Scarlet Fliers are at a crossroads after losing their second straight game with a stunning 21-19 loss at the hands of previously winless Red Bank. That most likely means they will not win the Class B North title outright, although there are still several games to go on that front. The Scarlet Fliers had five turnovers in the loss to Red Bank, so this is either going to be a wake-up call or the part where the season goes off the rails. They have the talent to regroup and make a run at a second straight Central Jersey Group III title, but it will take leadership and crisper play to make that happen.
Southern (3-2): The Rams have lost two pivotal Class A South games by a combined five points after falling 21-19 at home to No. 3 Lacey this weekend. Senior running back Abe Gonzalez had a strong game in defeat, finishing with 115 total yards and two touchdowns. The chances are running out for this team, but another important one is coming up this week when the Rams face No. 5 Brick Memorial.
Teams to watch:
Shore (4-1): I’m sure there will be some unhappiness when the Blue Devils see that Point Beach is ranked and they are not. My feeling is that Point Beach has played the schedule it was given and dominated every game, whereas Shore had its chance to break into the top 10 right in the season opener and didn’t get it done. The Blue Devils had Rumson on the ropes up 10-0 in the fourth quarter but could not put the Bulldogs away, which would have made their case immediately to be ranked. Regardless, Shore can shut everyone up by running the table from here on out, which would mean at least one and possibly two wins over Point Beach along the way. Shore is coming off its bye and faces winless Mater Dei Prep this week before closing with a key stretch of Keansburg and Keyport before the Central Jersey Group I playoffs and a Thanksgiving meeting with Point Beach.
Matawan (4-1): At least a piece of the Class B North title is back in play for the Huskies thanks to Neptune’s loss to Red Bank. The Huskies beat Wall 21-7 thanks to two touchdown passes and a touchdown run by junior quarterback Kashaun Barnes and a solid defensive effort. Now they get a Red Bank team that is sky-high after shocking Neptune. The Huskies lost to Red Bank last year, so there is plenty of incentive for Matawan in this one. I could see Matawan wondering why Long Branch is ranked and the Huskies are not, but Long Branch played Neptune tough while Neptune beat Matawan by 36, and Long Branch just beat a Freehold team by 16 that took Matawan to overtime so if you look at a lot of common opponents, Long Branch has been better. It will get settled on the field anyway when the two teams meet on Oct. 26.
Monsignor Donovan (4-1): The Griffins have won four straight and remain alone in first place in Class B South after a 42-0 win over Pinelands. They can make a top 10 case for themselves this week when they travel to No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven for a big nondivisional game.
Lakewood (4-1): The Piners’ only loss is to Monsignor Donovan and that was with star quarterback Tyrice Beverette out of the lineup. They are coming off a 19-0 win over Jackson Liberty to continue their best start in a decade after registering their first shutout win in six years. Beverette threw for one score and ran for another in the win, and a defense led by Marquis Oliver, who also caught a touchdown pass against Jackson Liberty, and Solomon Cobbs has been much improved. The Piners host Central (2-3) this week in a Class B South game.