Shore Conference Top 10 After Week 10
We are down to the final three weeks of the season, and the All Shore Media Top 10 remains stable after the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs.
Nine of the top 10 teams from last week won their first-round playoff games, with only Rumson-Fair Haven bowing out with a 13-10 loss to Weequahic. However, Rumson still does have a win over Shore Regional as an argument to stay in the rankings, although Middletown South could be coming on strong after a 40-8 demolition of second-seeded West Windsor South in Central Jersey Group IV.
The big one this week is No. 6 Point Beach at home against No. 9 Shore Regional on Thanksgiving morning with the Class B Central title hanging in the balance. The two teams could then meet again in two weeks in the Central Jersey Group I championship game, so this is a stretch that fans of both sides have been anticipating all season and it’s finally here.
All Shore Media Top 10
- Red Bank Catholic (9-0) – Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys routed Monsignor Donovan 54-0 in a first-round formality in Non-Public Group III to advance to face defending champion St. Joseph-Montvale in the semifinals in what will be one of the most high-profile sectional semifinals across New Jersey. Senior James Taylor seems focused on setting a Shore Conference record for kick and punt returns for touchdowns as he had two more in the win over Monsignor Donovan and has been an absolute menace on special teams this year. Now the Caseys will look to clinch the outright Class A Central title, their third straight division crown and the fifth in sixth years, by continuing their mastery of rival Rumson-Fair Haven (7-2) on Thanksgiving. RBC has beaten Rumson nine straight times.
2. Manalapan (9-0) – Last week: No. 2.
The top-seeded Braves cruised to a 39-7 win over eighth-seeded Monroe in Central Jersey Group V to roll into the semifinals, where they will host fourth-seeded Hunterdon Central. Junior tailback Tyler Leonetti had a pair of touchdown runs and also went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark to keep Manalapan’s streak intact of having a 1,000-yard rusher every year since 2003. The Braves can now lock up their third straight outright Class A North title and tie the school record for wins they set last year by continuing their dominance over Marlboro (4-5) this week. Manalapan has won 16 straight divisional games.
3. Lacey (10-0) – Last week: No. 3.
The Lions became the first Shore Conference team to hit 10 wins this season as they fought off seventh-seeded Toms River South, 45-31, in a South Jersey Group IV quarterfinal. Senior tailback Kyle Spatz ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns, and junior Christian Tutela had five catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Conor Davies threw a pair of touchdown passes and junior Tom Kelly made his return from a broken collarbone to throw some clutch passes in the fourth quarter. Lacey does not have a Thanksgiving game, so it has two weeks to prepare for sixth-seeded Kingsway in the semifinals as it tries to go undefeated for the second time in three seasons.
4. Colts Neck (8-1) – Last week: No. 4.
The Cougars tied the school record for wins, won their second state playoff game in history and first since 2000, and captured their first home playoff win when they took care of sixth-seeded Steinert, 34-20, in Central Jersey Group IV. Junior tailback Anthony Gargiulo ran for a career-high 234 yards and a touchdown and senior quarterback Mike Campbell threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, including two to senior Gio Zefferino, in the win. They will host seventh-seeded Middletown South in the semifinals after having beaten the Eagles 28-9 in a regular-season game, with a trip to Colts Neck’s first state final on the line. Before they get to that, they will play Howell (1-8) on Wednesday night in a bid to set the school record for wins.
5. Long Branch (8-1) – Last week: No. 5.
The Green Wave beat Matawan for the second straight game, knocking off the sixth-seeded Huskies 26-3 to advance to the Central Jersey Group III semifinals, where they will travel to second-seeded Nottingham. Senior quarterback Avry Griffin threw for one score and ran for another, and sophomore defensive end Hunter Baillie added an interception return for a touchdown in the win. The Green Wave will now play Red Bank Regional (4-5) in one of the Shore’s oldest Thanksgiving rivalries in a bid to clinch a tie with Neptune for the Class B North title for their first division title since 2007.
6. Point Beach (9-0) – Last week: No. 6.
The Garnet Gulls romped to a 44-6 win over seventh-seeded South River to kickstart their quest to win their first sectional title in program history in Central Jersey Group I. They will host third-seeded Florence in the semifinals. Senior running back Danny Tighe finished with 114 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries to help lead the way against South River. Now comes the game that everyone has been waiting for, a showdown with No. 9 Shore Regional (8-1) on Thanksgiving morning at Point Beach for the Class B Central title. The Garnet Gulls are seeking their first divisional crown since 1997.
7. Southern (7-2) – Last week: No. 7.
The Rams won a 33-32 thriller on the road over third-seeded Washington Township to advance to the South Jersey Group V semifinals, where they will travel to second-seeded Eastern. Senior quarterback Dan Higgins threw a touchdown pass to Rob Yaiser for a 33-26 lead and then the Rams blocked an extra point with three minutes remaining to help seal the win. Senior tailback Abe Gonzalez had a career-high 238 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the victory. The Rams will now take on Central (3-5) in their Thanksgiving game on Thursday. The two old rivals are renewing the series for the first time since 2005. Central leads the all-time series 21-17-1.
8. Rumson-Fair Haven (7-2) – Last week: No. 8.
This is where the rankings start to get tricky because of Rumson’s win over Shore from the season opener. Rumson also has a win over Red Bank, which beat No. 10 Neptune. The Bulldogs lost a 13-10 game to sixth-seeded Weequahic at home in Central Jersey Group II to abruptly end their playoff hopes. Barring a major upset against No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, they will end the season with three straight losses after a 7-0 start. Whether they stay ranked depends mainly on how the Shore-Point Beach slugfest ends up and whether Middletown South can take out Colts Neck in their rematch. We will see.
9. Shore Regional (8-1) – Last week: No. 9.
This is the Blue Devils’ week to make a serious move in the top 10. They took care of eighth-seeded Keansburg, 48-12, to win their eighth straight game and advance to the Central Jersey Group I semifinals as the top seed. Senior fullback Jack Kelly ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the way. They will host Asbury Park, which they beat 37-12 in the regular season, in the next round. Now comes the big one, a showdown on the road Thanksgiving morning against No. 6 Point Beach with the Class B Central title on the line. A victory there helps erase the season-opening loss to Rumson and gives Shore its first marquee win of the year. It could be part one of a two-game showdown as the two teams could see each other again in the CJ Group I final.
10. Neptune (7-2) – Last week: No. 10.
The Scarlet Fliers picked up a hard-fought, 14-7 win over fifth-seeded Lakewood to reach the semifinals in Central Jersey Group III, where they are the defending champions. A dominant defense held Lakewood to 71 total yards, including 11 total yards in the second half and zero on the ground after halftime. Neptune will travel to top-seeded Allentown in the semifinals after having beaten the Redbirds 40-33 in overtime in last year’s playoffs. Before they can worry about that, they will take on rival Asbury Park (6-2) in one of the oldest and best Thanksgiving rivalries in the Shore on Thursday. The Scarlet Fliers have given Long Branch its only loss but also have losses to a .500 Brick Memorial team and Red Bank (4-5), so they are tricky to rank right now. A deep state playoff run could help solve that.
Dropped out: None
Team to watch:
Middletown South (6-3): The Eagles roared back to life as the No. 7 seed in Central Jersey Group IV, dismantling No. 2 seed West Windsor South 40-8 to set up a rematch against Colts Neck in the semifinals. Senior fullback Jake Ripnick had four touchdowns in the first half to help lead the rout. Their game against Colts Neck is their opportunity to come storming back into the top 10 and reach their 10th sectional final in the last 12 years. This week they have Thanksgiving rival Middletown North (2-7), which has not beaten them since 2000.