The Office Lounge Football Top 10, 11/11/14
When Red Bank Catholic thoroughly defeated Manalapan, 35-7, on October 24 it appeared the race for No. 1 in the Shore Conference was over until 2015.
Not so fast.
Jackson Memorial sent shockwaves through the Shore and New Jersey on Friday night at “The Jungle” when it took down the mighty Caseys, 33-27 in overtime, to cap a classic game and put a stop to Red Bank Catholic’s 40-game conference winning streak. Now, for the first time in four years, there will be a new No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10.
Several teams can make a legitimate claim to be No.1, including the Jaguars, Manalapan, St. John Vianney and Brick. And even though the Caseys will drop from their perch this week, they still have games left where a win would vault them back atop the rankings.
Our thoughts here at Shore Sports Network are that Jackson has been the best team from Week One, and cemented that by stunning the Caseys. The Jaguars’ only loss is 30-24 in overtime to Brick, and it also has wins over No. 8 Brick Memorial and Toms River North (5-4). While it was not factored into our rankings decisions, the fans also voted Jackson Memorial as their choice to be the new No. 1 team.
Manalapan is 8-1, but just lost to Red Bank Catholic by four touchdowns. St. John Vianney is the Shore’s only remaining undefeated team, but doesn’t have the resume to match the other teams in the conversation. This is where Brick’s loss to a 2-6 Wall team really hurts the Dragons’ ability to move up.
The good news for any of the teams that feel they were snubbed is there is the chance to sort it all out in the playoffs. The Central Jersey Group IV bracket features Jackson, Brick, Middletown South, Neptune and Freehold, so the winner will have a very strong argument to be No. 1. If Manalapan can take down South Brunswick en route to winning its first state title in Central Jersey Group V, it too would have a big-time claim to be No. 1. And if either Red Bank Catholic or St. John Vianney can make waves in a very strong Non-Public Group III bracket they would also have a legitimate shot to finish on top.
Every other ranked team was victorious in Week 9 other than Freehold, which drops out after being blanked by Middletown South, 42-0. That win enabled the Eagles to jump both Jackson and Brick for the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV.
The playoffs start this week, so any margin for error is now gone. State sectional champions will be crowned less than a month from now, and the battle begins this Friday.
1. Jackson Memorial (8-1). Last week: No. 6
Led by its veteran offensive line, the Jaguars ran for 258 yards, including 149 and three touchdowns to go along with the game-winning 18-yard score in overtime from sophomore Mike Gawlik, to stun Red Bank Catholic, 33-27. To beat RBC a team has to win the battle in the trenches, which no team had done since 2010, and Jackson’s front controlled the game to key the upset. Junior running back Vinny Lee also had a rushing touchdown and Jared Calhoun hit field goals of 34 and 35 yards as Jackson nearly scored as many points as RBC had allowed all season (43). Because it was the Jaguars’ ninth game, however, they didn’t get the massive power point haul that would have accompanied the win. Middletown South was able to jump both Jackson and Brick for the top seed in Central Jersey Group IV, knocking the Jaguars back to the third seed. They will host Middletown North (6-2) in the first round on Friday at 7 p.m. as they begin the quest for the program’s fourth state title and first since 2005.
2. Red Bank Catholic (8-1). Last week: No. 1
Junior quarterback Eddie Hahn ran for touchdowns of 11 and 5 yards, and also threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Cowley, but the Caseys had their 40-game Shore Conference winning streak snapped in a 33-27 overtime loss to Jackson Memorial. Senior Mike Cordova had a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter that eventually sent the game to overtime. The defeat was a stunning one for Red Bank Catholic, which looked like it had No. 1 locked up after it beat Manalapan two weeks prior. The Caseys need to regroup quickly, however, if they are going to make a run in Non-Public Group III. The good news for RBC is that the loss came in their ninth game, so it wouldn’t have affected its playoff positioning either way. Also, even though St. Joe’s took down the nation’s No. 4 team, Paramus Catholic, over the weekend, it still fell short of the No. 2 seed. That means if RBC wins its first-round game, it will get to host the defending champion Green Knights at Count Basie Field in the semifinals. The Caseys take on Bishop Eustace (5-3) on Friday night.
3. St. John Vianney (9-0). Last week: No. 3
Junior quarterback Anthony Brown threw a pair of touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Dan Calabro, and junior running back Calvin Beaty ran for two touchdowns in a 34-7 win over Manasquan that clinched the Class A Central division title, the first for St. John Vianney since 1982. Junior Khalil Haskins added a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Lancers’ case for being No. 1 is that they are the only undefeated team left in the Shore and have been highly-ranked all season. The Lancers’ best win so far is over a Rumson-Fair Haven team that did not have star running back Charlie Volker, so their resume is not as strong as Jackson. St. John Vianney has a shot to vault to the top, however, if it can make a run to the final in Non-Public Group III. The fourth-seeded Lancers will host fifth-seeded Pope John (5-4) on Friday night.
4. Manalapan (8-1). Last week: No. 2
The Braves defeated Howell, 35-6, to officially clinch their fifth straight Class A North division title. Senior running back Imamu Mayfield ran for 92 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, while senior quarterback Dan Anerella was 12-for-18 passing for 181 yards and a touchdown. The Braves have now won 32 straight divisional games. Manalapan earned the No. 3 seed in Central Jersey Group V, which is huge because it means avoiding South Brunswick (8-0) until the sectional final. The Braves can make their claim for No. 1 by winning their first sectional title in program history. The road starts Friday night at home vs. Old Bridge (5-3).
5. Brick (8-1). Last week: No. 5
Senior quarterback Carmen Sclafani ran for two touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass to lead the Green Dragons to a 34-14 victory over Toms River South that clinched the outright Class A South title. Senior running back Ray Fattaruso added a touchdown run and K.C. Stackable kicked a pair of field goals. If not for its overtime loss to Wall, Brick would be the No. 1 team in the Shore right now. Instead, the Dragons find themselves in the middle of the pack, but still with a clear shot at No. 1 if they can win it all in a loaded Central Jersey Group IV bracket. The defending champion, Brick is the No. 2 seed and hosts Princeton (8-1) on Friday night.
6. Middletown South (6-2). Last week: No. 4
The Eagles routed Freehold, 42-0, behind 176 yards rushing and three touchdowns from junior running back Cole Rogers to jump all the way up to the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV. It was also the Eagles’ fifth shutout of the season, as they held Freehold to just 34 total yards. That win was crucial in that it enabled the Eagles to avoid Brick and Jackson Memorial until the final, and set themselves up with a potential semifinal game against a Neptune team they already defeated, 41-0, in Week Two. Middletown South has reached a sectional final in an astonishing 76 percent of its playoff appearances, and just like Brick and Jackson Memorial, can lay claim to No. 1 in the Shore by winning it all for the 10th time. Its road begins Friday night against eighth-seeded Burlington Township (6-2).
7. Neptune (6-2). Last week: No. 7
The Scarlet Fliers stayed hot by posting their third straight shutout in a 21-0 victory over Toms River North. Senior quarterback Royal Moore threw a touchdown pass to Savior King and also returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown, and senior Jaree Parrish ran for a 67-yard score in Neptune’s fifth straight win. Neptune won’t be able to finish No. 1 because it has a 37-0 loss to Red Bank Catholic on its resume, but could finish very high by winning the Central Jersey Group IV bracket. To do so, the Scarlet Fliers will likely have to go through a Middletown South team that beat them 41-0 early in the season. Neptune is the No. 4 seed and will host fifth-seeded Freehold (7-2) in the first round.
8. Brick Memorial (6-3). Last week: No. 9
Senior fullback Connor Owen ran for 103 yards and a touchdown to lead the Mustangs to a 35-7 win over Southern. The health of junior quarterback Tim Santiago will be key for the Mustangs’ playoff hopes in South Jersey Group V, where they are the No. 5 seed. Brick Memorial opens the playoffs by visiting fourth-seeded Cherokee on Friday night, which is no easy task. The Chiefs have won nine state titles and own a 33-15 playoff record. Even though the road is tough, however, you can’t count out Brick Memorial with its history of road playoff victories against higher-seeded teams.
9. Long Branch (6-2). Last week: No. 10
The Green Wave are coming off a bye after losing to Neptune, 27-0, on Nov. 1. They earned the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey Group III, and will look to get their running game back on track behind 1,800-yard rusher Dahmiere Willis when they host Hamilton (3-5) in the first round on Friday night.
10. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-2). Last week: not ranked
The Bulldogs re-enter the rankings after a 41-6 victory over Holmdel pushed their record to 6-2. Sophomore quarterback Mike O’Connor had a pair of touchdowns, and Seamus Walsh, Jack Moore, Matt Vecchiarelli and Lucas Seckler all ran for long touchdowns in the win. Rumson is the defending champion in Central Jersey Group II, and begins its title defense as the No. 2 seed. The Bulldogs will host seventh-seeded A.L. Johnson (4-4) on Friday night at Borden Stadium.
Dropped out: Freehold (7-2).
Teams to watch:
Shore (7-1): The Blue Devils clinched their second straight outright Class B Central title and also secured the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group I by blanking Asbury Park, 35-0. Shore will host Point Beach, which it already defeated 17-0 on Halloween, in the first round as it goes for state title No. 5. Their Thanksgiving game against Rumson-Fair Haven is a good opportunity for them to make their Top 10 case in addition to finishing the job in the state playoffs after reaching two straight finals.
Middletown North (6-2): The Lions got into the playoffs with a win over Freehold Township, and now face the Shore’s new No. 1 and one of the hottest teams in the state, Jackson Memorial, in the first round of the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. Regardless, the Lions have guaranteed their first winning season in 14 years.