Shore Conference Football Week Four Top 10
Two heavyweights at the top of the All Shore Media Top 10 solidified their spots this week, but it took all that No. 3 Manalapan had in the tank to hold off an excellent effort by Middletown South.
No. 2 Neptune took a major step toward securing its first division title since 1998 when it rolled to a 46-10 win over previously ranked and unbeaten Matawan in Class B North. All eyes will be on the Scarlet Fliers this week as they head to No. 5 Brick Memorial for a titanic nondivisional showdown on Friday night, which will be live on 105.7 “The Hawk’’ f.m. Neptune has the Shore Conference’s longest current winning streak, 14 games, on the line. The winner will get a major power-point haul that should go a long way toward securing a top-two seed in that team’s respective state playoff bracket.
The wins kept on coming for the rest of the top 10, which has remained relatively stable, with only one team dropping out this week.
All Shore Media Top 10
1. Red Bank Catholic (4-0) – Last week: No. 1. The RBC Victory Tour made a stop in Hazlet last week, as the Caseys blew out to a 42-0 halftime lead on their way to downing Raritan 49-14 for their 18th straight win over Shore Conference competition. Junior quarterback Pat Toomey threw a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Matt Golden and also ran for a score to lead the way. The Caseys welcome Freehold (1-2) for a nondivisional game at Count Basie Field on Friday night in a bid to make it 19 in a row.
2. Neptune (4-0) – Last week: No. 2. The most impressive performance in the Shore this past weekend was Neptune’s 46-10 dismantling of defending Central Jersey Group II champion Matawan. Scarlet Fliers’ senior quarterback Ajee Patterson was sensational, throwing for 328 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, to lead the way. Senior wideout Geoff Fairbanks had 127 yards receiving and two scores. Neptune is now the heavy favorite to finish the rest of its Class B North slate undefeated to capture its first division title in 14 years. Now comes one of the most eagerly-awaited Shore Conference games of the season, as Neptune travels to No. 5 Brick Memorial on Friday night for a nondivisional game with major rankings and power-point implications.
3. Manalapan (4-0) – Last week: No. 3. The Braves hopes of winning a third straight Class A North title were hanging in the balance before they made a fourth-quarter comeback to beat No. 7 Middletown South 35-31 in a thriller at The Swamp. It was the 15th straight divisional win for the Braves and a huge step toward becoming the first Manalapan team to ever win three straight division titles. Junior Saeed Blacknall had a 39-yard touchdown catch, an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown and a touchdown-saving tackle on defense in the win. Junior running back Tyler Leonetti rolled up 135 yards and two touchdowns rushing, including the game-winning score. The Braves are now on their bye week and will return with a nonconference meeting with East Brunswick (1-3).
4. Lacey (4-0) – Last week: No. 4. The Lions continued their recent pattern of shaky first halves and dominant second halves in a 42-20 win over Toms River South in Class A South. They were only leading 21-20 at the half and surrendered nearly 300 yards rushing, but then exploded in the second half to win by a 21-0 margin and blow the game open. Junior quarterback Tom Kelly threw for 266 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, two apiece to Christian Tutela and Kyle Spatz. An offense that averaged 14.4 points per game last year is now blistering teams at a clip of 44.8 points per game this year. The Lions welcome winless Manchester (0-4) for a nondivisional game on Saturday with a big Class A South game looming at home against Southern a week later.
5. Brick Memorial (4-0) – Last week: No. 5. The Mustangs’ offense continues to detonate teams, as they hung 52 points on Toms River East in a 52-28 win in Class A South. Senior quarterback Ryan Cieplinski threw for 208 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Mustangs are averaging 39 points per game, but the competition ratchets up dramatically this week. Brick Memorial’s first four opponents are a combined 1-14, so this team still has much to prove against quality competition. It will get that and more this week from No. 2 Neptune, which rolls in with the Shore Conference’s longest current winning streak at 14 games. This is Brick Memorial’s chance to make a statement that it will be a force in the postseason.
6. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0) – Last week: No. 6. The Bulldogs are just grinding out wins as they pulled out a 9-3 nondivisional victory over winless Red Bank in The Battle of Ridge Road this past week. Junior Jake D’Amelio continues to put his name among the Shore’s top kickers, as he booted a 41-yard field goal in the win. Senior quarterback Danny Roberto also ran for a touchdown, and the Bulldogs’ defense dominated the Bucs. The Bulldogs now get a much-needed bye week to rest a host of banged-up starters, and they return with a Class A Central game against Raritan (0-4).
7. Toms River North (3-1) – Last week: No. 9. The Mariners leapfrog up two spots because they boast a quality win over No. 9 Southern. They took care of Jackson Memorial 42-10 this past week for their second straight win, as sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores, and juniors Kyle Carrington and Joey Fields each added a pair of touchdowns.
8. Middletown South (2-1) – Last week: No. 8. It was funny, after the 35-31 loss to No. 3 Manalapan, someone asked me, “Are you going to drop South out of the top 10?” Absolutely not. If anything, I thought about moving the Eagles up off a loss because they were so impressive. Their offense really opened my eyes with its performance in a big game. Senior fullback Jake Ripnick ran for a career-high 250 yards and a touchdown and junior quarterback Kyle Brey threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Eagles gave the Braves all they could handle. The reason Toms River North jumped them is because the Mariners’ best win, Southern, is better than the Eagles’ best win at this point. Still, this team looks like it will be a serious problem in the postseason as usual. The Eagles welcome Manasquan (1-3) for a nondivisional game between traditional Shore powers on Friday night at The Swamp. The minor subplot in that one is former longtime Manasquan assistant Rich Read and his son, RJ, who was the quarterback on the undefeated 2006 Manasquan team, are now assistants at Middletown South.
9. Southern (3-1) – Last week: No. 10. The Rams grinded out a 19-7 victory over winless Brick in Class A South to stay one game behind the leaders. Senior quarterback Dan Higgins threw three touchdown passes, including two to junior wideout Mike Gesicki, who finished with five catches for 140 yards. The Rams are now on their bye week and have two weeks to prepare for a monster showdown with No. 4 Lacey in Class A South on Oct. 13.
10. Long Branch (3-1) – Last week: Unranked. The Green Wave are back in the Top 10 after a 38-7 bounceback win over Wall. Long Branch gets the nod over Matawan because it gave a much more competitive game to Neptune than the Huskies. The good news is that any discussion between Long Branch and Matawan will get settled on the field in a Class B North game. Seniors Deon Williams and Joscil Jackson each scored twice in the win over Wall. Once this team gets star tailback Dwight Clark back around Week Six, its running game will be downright scary. The Green Wave host winless Pinelands (0-4) this week in search of their ninth win in their last 10 games.
Dropped out – Matawan (3-1). The Huskies were run over by No. 2 Neptune in a 46-10 loss in Class B North. They now have two weeks to put that loss behind them and continue their march to their usual spot in the state playoffs. They will face Wall in a Class B North game after their bye week.
Teams to watch:
Colts Neck (4-0): The Cougars are 4-0 for the first time in school history after a 35-13 win over Middletown North in which senior quarterback Mike Campbell threw four touchdown passes to senior wideout Tim Vangelas. The jury is still out on the Cougars considering their first four opponents are a combined 2-13, but they are all but a lock to make the state playoffs for the first time since 2008. They are on their bye week now and then return with a nondivisional game against an explosive St. John Vianney team and then a showdown with Manalapan with important Class A North title implications.
Shore Regional (3-1): The Blue Devils continue to buzzsaw through their Group I competition as they manhandled previously unbeaten South River 45-7 in a nonconference game for their third straight win. They should have a fight on their hands this week with a nondivisional game at Holmdel (3-1) on Friday night. This is a chance to get a win over a bigger school that has been much improved this season. The clear subplot in that game revolves around junior quarterback Matt Muh, who transferred to Shore at the end of last season after serving as Holmdel’s starting quarterback as a sophomore.
Point Beach (4-0): Much like Colts Neck, the jury is still out on the Garnet Gulls. They are off to their best start since 1995, but it’s against teams with a combined record of 5-11. This week is their chance to show they are for real, as they welcome Asbury Park on Friday night for a pivotal Class B Central game. This has quickly become a fierce rivalry between these teams, and Asbury Park beat Point Beach twice last year, including a 54-6 rout in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals. A victory here by the Garnet Gulls would go a long way toward setting up a Thanksgiving showdown with Shore Regional for the division title while also providing a nice batch of power points for a high seed in CJ I.
Asbury Park (2-1): The Blue Bishops bounced back from a loss to Shore by handing Point Boro its first loss with a 24-14 nondivisional win thanks to a pair of touchdown passes by junior Robert Barksdale and a dominant defensive effort. They now look to continue their mastery over Point Beach when they travel to Point Pleasant on Friday night for an important Class B Central game.