Shore Sports Network Preseason Football Top 10
The Shore Conference football season has arrived, and that means it’s time for the annual exercise in futility known as the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10.
The 2016 season was another banner year for the Shore Conference, which saw five teams bring home sectional championships. The Shore will once again have some of the top teams and players in the state, and should be right in the thick of several playoff races in November.
The defending sectional champions from the Shore are Asbury Park in Central Jersey Group I, Manasquan in Central Jersey Group II, Rumson-Fair Haven in Central Jersey Group III, Wall in South Jersey Group III and Mater Dei Prep in Non-Public Group II.
The returning division champions are Manalapan in Class A North, St. John Vianney in Class A Central, Toms River North in Class A South, Middletown South in Class B North, Mater Dei Prep in Class B Central and Point Boro in Class B South.
Good luck to all the Shore Conference teams this season.
1. Manalapan (11-1 in 2016; final ranking: No. 4)
The Braves are loaded for a run at the Central Jersey Group V title with multiple starters back on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Luke Corcione, senior running back Naim Mayfield, fullback Chris Maksimik and senior wide receiver Scott Scherzer are among the standouts back on the offensive side while senior defensive end Trevor Radosevich, senior linebacker Sal Tardogno and junior linebacker Tommy Pearce power a defense that was third in the Shore last season.
2. St. John Vianney (10-1 in 2016; final ranking: No. 2)
St. John Vianney has won 29 straight games versus Shore Conference teams and captured three straight Class A Central division titles heading into this season. First-team All-Shore linebacker Johnny Buchanan and first-team All-Shore defensive end Nick Densieski lead a defense that was fourth in the Shore last season, while quarterback Haaziq Daniels and wide receivers Sam East and Zyaire Sterling return to spark an offense that averaged 32 points per game.
3. Red Bank Catholic (5-5 in 2016; final ranking: not ranked)
The Caseys are chock-full of talent and ready for a return to elite status in the Shore Conference. Quarterback Steven Lubischer, running backs Zack Bair and Nick Brusca, receiver Matt Ansell and tight end Kevin Bauman are among the returning offensive standouts, while Emmett McNamara, Conor Smith and Michael Griggs will lead the way up front.
4. Mater Dei Prep (12-0 in 2016; final ranking: No. 3)
The Seraphs are coming off a 12-0 season and the program’s first sectional title, and they’re planning on adding even more hardware in 2017. Quarterback George Pearson, a four-year starter at quarterback who is committed to Central Michigan, leads the way along with linebacker Russell Ferrisi, defensive lineman Izaiah Henderson and wide receiver Kyle Devaney as Mater Dei continues its mission to build a powerhouse program.
5. Howell (6-5 in 2016; final ranking: not ranked)
The Rebels had a breakout season in 2016 by finishing 6-5 and reaching the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V semifinals. Senior quarterback Eddie Morales III is among the top returning quarterbacks in the Shore, and with standout senior Naz Brantley forms the top quarterback/wide receiver duo in the Shore. Running back Nick Chambers, receivers Ryan Mazik and Pat Handy, lineman Scott Prendergast and linebacker Braedon Baldwin give Howell a very good group of returning starters that will go after division and state titles.
6. Manasquan (10-2 in 2016; final ranking: No. 7)
The Warriors returned to glory last season with a 10-2 record and the Central Jersey Group II state title, the 12th sectional championship in program history. With running backs Connor Morgan and Canyon Birch, quarterback Tommy Antonucci, do-it-all athlete James Pendergist and lineman Evan Hilla back in the fold, Manasquan has the goods to battle for the rugged Class B North title and defend its state championship.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-3 in 2016; final ranking: No. 9)
The Bulldogs won their fourth consecutive state title last season and enter 2017 trying to join Manasquan as the only Shore Conference programs to win five state championships in a row. Several top players graduated, but the factory continues to churn out winning players. Tight end/defensive end Elijah McAllister, defensive lineman Chase Pfrang, running backs Peter Lucas and Alex Maldjian, linebackers Keegan Woods and Christian Lanzalotto and offensive lineman Justin Johnson are among the returning starters looking to lead the Bulldogs into the history book.
8. Freehold (6-5 in 2016; final ranking: not ranked)
With Ashante Worthy at quarterback the Colonials are as dangerous as any team in the Shore. Worthy was unconscious last season, including setting the Shore Conference single-game rushing yards and touchdowns records. Along with receivers Matt Krauss and Javonte Hair, and defensive end Qua’Jon Everett, the Colonials will try to carry over their blistering-hot second half of 2016 to this season.
9. Toms River North (11-1 in 2016; final ranking: No. 1)
The Mariners graduated some incredible players, but the cupboard is far from bare for the Ocean County power. Senior running back/defensive end Daryn Blackwell, senior safety Mickey Maldonado Jr. and senior lineman Billy Dowd are among the key returners that plan to have Toms River North in the thick of division and state title races once again.
10. Middletown South (7-4 in 2016; final ranking: No. 5)
The Eagles are a perennial contender in whatever division or state bracket they are in, but will have plenty of work to do with several new starters on the offensive side. Senior defensive end Jake Krellin leads an experienced group of defenders that also includes Matt Tardy, Jake Bancala, Chris Patterson and Adam Markman.
Other teams to watch:
Long Branch: The Green Wave are loaded at the skill positions, so if their offensive line and defense can come together they should challenge for the B North division title.
Central: The Eagles were 7-2 in the first season under head coach Justin Fumando, and will try to build on that this season. Star running back Mike Bickford graduated, Central should still be in the A South title picture.
Brick: The Dragons reached the Central Jersey Group IV final last season and will try to get over the hump behind a standout junior class that includes Cole Groschel and Jimmy Leblo.
Asbury Park: The defending Central Jersey Group I champions return a talented corps that will try to make it two in a row.
Point Boro: Several starters return on both sides of the ball for the Panthers, who will look to defend their Class B South division title and make waves in the Central Jersey Group II playoffs.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.