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Teams Make Early Statements in Divisional Races in Week Two

Week Two in Shore Conference football featured several teams making early statements in divisional races and other squads coming back strong after disappointing season openers.

In a game featuring a pair of Top 10 teams, Lacey knocked off Toms River North 37-20 on Saturday to show that it will be a contender to Southern’s supremacy in Class A South. Senior wideout Bill Belford had three first-half touchdowns and the Lions scored a pair of defensive touchdowns to give head coach Lou Vircillo his 250th career win. Vircillo became just the third coach in Shore Conference history to reach that mark, joining former Brick legend Warren Wolf and the late Vic Kubu of Manasquan and Middletown North fame.

Kyle Spatz and Lacey ran by Toms River North to get an early leg up in the Class A South race. (Photo credit: Bill Normile)

In the Class B Central race, Shore Regional showed that it will be a team to beat when it upended defending division champion Asbury Park 37-12 on Friday night. The Blue Devils had a balanced offensive attack and a defense that limited the Blue Bishops to 120 total yards, including only 13 passing yards. Shore had three interceptions, including one returned for a 50-yard touchdown by senior defensive lineman Chris Vaccaro, to bring its total to six interceptions in two games after rebounding from a season-opening loss to Rumson-Fair Haven.

Another storyline was Marlboro ending a 13-game losing streak by beating Howell 16-8 in Class A North for its first divisional victory since 2005. The Mustangs jumped out to a 16-0 lead and held on for the victory, bouncing back from a season-opening loss to J.P. Stevens after going winless in 2011. Another team that recovered from a tough season opener was Monsignor Donovan, which beat Lakewood 18-14 after losing 40-0 to St. John Vianney. Senior Grant Klimek had a hit for a safety, a field goal and the game-winning touchdown in the second half to bring it home against a Piners team that was without star quarterback Tyrice Beverette, who was held out for precautionary reasons after severe dehydration issues in the season opener, according to Lakewood coach L.J. Clark.

Jackson Memorial is another team that recovered from a season-opening setback, as it defeated Toms River East 33-17 behind a huge game from junior running back Khani Glover, who ran for 190 yards and four touchdowns. Wall, which lost to Jackson Liberty in the season opener, won its first game in thrilling fashion with a 34-28 victory over Red Bank in double overtime that gave new head coach Nick Gregorio his first victory with the Crimson Knights. Barnegat, which was surprised by Holmdel in its season opener, came back to beat Manchester 27-0 thanks to a 200-yard rushing day by junior A.J. Opre, who scored two touchdowns. Keyport also recovered from a season-opening loss to Asbury Park to come back and beat Highland Park, 25-23, in a nonconference game.

The teams in the upper echelon of the top 10 all picked up victories this week to improve to 2-0. Top-ranked Red Bank Catholic grinded out a 10-0 win to put Manasquan in a rare 0-2 hole, thanks to running backs Jesse Flaherty and Mike Cordova both going over 100 yards. Neptune didn’t even have to play to get a win, as an impetigo skin issue resulted in a forfeit by Ocean. Manalapan rolled to a 33-0 win over Freehold Township, as senior wideout Anthony Firkser hauled in two touchdown passes for the second straight week and senior quarterback Mike Isabella went 10-for-10 passing.

Southern blanked Toms River South, 19-0, to begin defense of its Class A South title, and the Rams join RBC, Manalapan and Holmdel as teams that have yet to allow a point this season. Lacey took care of Toms River North to remain in the top five, and sixth-ranked Brick Memorial got off to a fast start and spoiled Middletown North’s opener with a 36-21 victory. Junior Mike Basile scored all five of the Mustangs’ touchdowns in the win with two on the ground, two touchdown catches and an interception return for a touchdown.

Despite getting the news that starting tailback Conor Walsh is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the season opener, Rumson-Fair Haven roared to a 35-13 win over St. John Vianney in Class A Central. Middletown South kicked off its season with a 28-0 win over Brick in which senior Jake Ripnick ran for a pair of touchdowns.

The ranked team that had the biggest battle on its hands was Matawan, which outlasted Freehold 21-14 in overtime thanks to some late-game heroics by junior quarterback Kashaun Barnes. He scored on a 5-yard run with 19 seconds left in regulation to help tie the game and then ran for the winning touchdown in overtime.

Long Branch is off to a 2-0 start after an emotional 27-0 win over Monmouth Regional in which senior Deon Williams ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown only three days after two of his older brothers died in a car crash. Two other teams off to 2-0 starts are Colts Neck and Point Beach, which rolled to lop-sided nonconference victories.

Jackson Liberty is 2-0 for the first time in school history after recording its first shutout since its inaugural season in 2007 and its first shutout of a Shore Conference opponent. The Lions beat Central 7-0 thanks to a strong defensive effort led by senior linebacker Chris Cruz, who had 10 tackles. Point Boro is right with the Lions as another 2-0 team in Class B South after rolling to a 55-6 win over Pinelands.

Yet another team off to a surprising 2-0 start is Keansburg, which went a combined 1-19 the last two years. The senior-laden Titans erupted for a 48-35 nonconference win over Spotswood on Saturday in which senior quarterback Ryan Kurtz exploded for a career-high 261 yards rushing and four touchdowns on only 19 carries and also went 7-for-12 for 150 yards and a touchdown passing. Holmdel, which went 1-9 last year, also is now 2-0 after posting its second straight shutout with a 28-0 win over Middlesex in which senior quarterback Rob Cantelli ran for three touchdowns and threw for another.

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