The playoffs are on the horizon, a top Shore recruit is set to announce his college destination, and two coaches on the cusp of milestones highlight this week’s Rundown.

Note: Make sure to check out the Thursday Night High School Football Show from 7-8:30 p.m. on 105.7 f.m. and streaming online at 1057thehawk.com.

Barnegat welcomes Central on Friday night with first place in Class B South on the line. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

1. Playoff brackets start to take shape

Now that we are pretty much at the midpoint of the season, talk of playoff contenders and brackets is starting to heat up as we head to the home stretch of the regular season.

Shore Sports Network’s Ed Sarluca gives his full take on all the brackets involving Shore Conference teams here, which you should check out. Here is my two cents on the brackets, and you can check out the current power-point standings for each bracket here.

2. Central Jersey brackets

Central Jersey Group V: This is a fierce bracket, but if Manalapan goes into the postseason 8-0, the expectation will be that the Braves get over the hump and win their first NJSIAA title. Monroe appears to be a primary obstacle and is battling Manalapan for the top seed. The Braves’ game against Colts Neck in Week Seven is going to be huge for both teams as far as the winner potentially securing two home games in the postseason. Unbeaten Trenton is a wildcard because the Tornadoes haven’t been in the playoff mix for a while. Plus, there’s Hunterdon Central, which Manalapan beat in last year’s semifinals, Old Bridge, defending champion South Brunswick and three-time defending sectional champ Sayreville, which moved in from CJ IV.

This bracket is so deep that one of the top two seeds could get a scary first-round game potentially against Sayreville or Montgomery. Brick Memorial also is looking to make a darkhorse run and be a problem for a team in the first round.

Central Jersey Group IV: There is a good chance that Brick, Colts Neck and Middletown South will all be in the mix to reach this final. The Colts Neck-Middletown South game on Nov. 8 will be a crucial one, and Brick’s showdown at Lacey on Nov. 2 is the Green Dragons’ chance to make a run at the No. 1 seed if they handle their business in their other games. We will learn more in the next few weeks as far as which one of those three Shore teams could be a favorite to win this bracket. Middletown South already beat Brick, but just lost 38-0 to Manasquan, so the Eagles are not the lock they usually are to make the final.

Nottingham, which beat Neptune in last year’s CJ Group III final, is a team to keep an eye on along with Burlington Township. Clearly, Nottingham has experience beating Shore Conference teams in the playoffs after knocking off three of them last year, but I would be surprised if at least one Shore team isn’t in this championship game.

Central Jersey Group III: Ocean and Long Branch will slug it out in a huge Class B North game with division title implications on Oct. 25, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they meet again in the championship of this bracket depending on how the seedings shake out.

Lawrence and Hopewell Valley are off to good starts, but Lawrence has never won a state playoff game and Hopewell Valley has never even made the playoffs. Matawan could also be a dangerous team in this bracket given its defense and playoff pedigree. This bracket is begging for a Shore team to win it.

Central Jersey Group II: Rumson-Fair Haven is the main contender in this bracket, and the primary teams in the way look to be Rahway and Weequahic, the latter of which beat the Bulldogs in the first round last year. Rumson’s game against Manasquan on Nov. 8 is shaping up to be enormous for both teams in gaining a high seed in their respective brackets. Lakewood is a darkhorse with a tough defense, while Keyport has little margin for error to qualify because it plays primarily a Group I schedule in Class B Central. Spotswood is also in the mix and has a win over Point Beach to its credit, but Rumson plays a tougher schedule so I would give the Bulldogs the edge if they saw the Chargers.

Central Jersey Group I: This is all the teams expected to be in the mix since the preseason – defending champion Florence, Shore Regional, Point Beach and Asbury Park. Shore and Point Beach don’t play until Thanksgiving, so there can’t be a power-point swing from that game. The Blue Devils appear headed for the No. 1 seed, but as Florence showed last year in beating Point Beach in the semifinals, it is tough enough to go on the road and get a big win. The main intrigue appears to be if Point Beach or Asbury Park can break through to reach the final after falling in the semifinals last year, or if it will be a Florence-Shore rematch.

3. South Jersey and Non-Public brackets:

South Jersey Group V: Jackson Memorial and Southern look like the main hopes to qualify in a rugged bracket, where Williamstown is the defending champion. Southern’s game against Lacey on Saturday is a big one as far as putting the Rams in the mix for a home game, but they proved last year they can go on the road and pull upsets to reach the final. Eastern and quarterback Tom Flacco are capable of lighting anyone up, but Southern beat them last year so it would not be intimidated to see the Vikings again. Cherokee is yet another tough team in this bracket. If you qualify and get a first-round win here, that’s a pretty good season. In most brackets with the expanded playoffs, just making the playoffs is not that big of an accomplishment. You just need a pulse and gas in the bus. This is a legitimately big-time bracket, so getting in and getting a win legitimizes a season.

South Jersey Group IV: Defending champion Timber Creek is probably the best Group IV team in the state. With games against teams like Southern and Brick, Lacey has a chance for the power-point haul to get at least one home game and possibly two. Toms River South is the darkhorse, but the Indians are going to have to beat some good teams just to make sure they qualify.

South Jersey Group III: This has got Manasquan-Barnegat written all over it, with defending champion Delsea looking to throw a wrench into that plan. The Warriors have a shot at the top seed, especially if they knock off Rumson, while Barnegat also could make a run at two home games by running the table on its schedule.

Central could turn the whole bracket upside down with a win over Barnegat on Friday night. Wall has a good shot at qualifying and could potentially see old rival Manasquan twice because the teams also play on Thanksgiving.

Non-Public Group III: No mystery here. Defending champion St. Joseph-Montvale, No. 1 in the state and nationally ranked, will be the No. 1 seed barring some major upsets. Red Bank Catholic’s schedule might prevent the Caseys from grabbing a top three seed even if they go 8-0. The hope would be that the Caseys would avoid the Green Knights until the final rather than seeing them in the semifinals like last year. St. John Vianney and Monsignor Donovan should qualify given that there are nine teams for eight spots in this bracket. Delbarton is always tough, and Pope John XXIII has reloaded after some down seasons. Any team RBC gets in the semifinals is going to be tough even if it’s not St. Joe’s.

Non-Public Group I: Mater Dei Prep will qualify, but St. Joseph’s-Hammonton rules this bracket with an iron fist. However, if the Seraphs could get a first-round win, that would be a big step forward for their program.

4. Mike Gesicki to make his choice Friday

Either Bill O’Brien or Urban Meyer will be high-fiving his assistants on Friday, as Southern Regional senior Mike Gesicki, who plays wideout but is rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country, will announce his college choice between either Penn State or Ohio State.

There will not be any type of ceremony at the school, just a release by the school regarding Gesicki’s choice, according to athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr. I like the understated approach. I’m not a fan of the table with the hats. I remember current Penn State linebacker and former Southern star Glenn Carson also announced it in his own low-key way. He told me at the time that it was because he didn’t want to seem like he was insulting the coaches from other teams who put hard work into recruiting him with the picking one hat out of three or four on the table thing.

5. Vircillo, Duddy go for milestones

Lacey head coach Lou Vircillo is one win away from passing late Manasquan/Middletown North legend Vic Kubu for second all-time in Shore Conference history with 264 career victories. To do so, his team will have to beat an opponent coached by a fellow Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Famer with more than 200 wins, Southern and Chuck Donohue Sr.

Vircillo is the only coach in Lacey history since the program’s inception in 1981, and has a record of 229-97-3 during his time with the Lions, including four NJSIAA titles and 13 division championships. Prior to coaching at Lacey, he was the head coach at Red Bank Regional from 1976-80, leading the Bucs to a pair of division titles and three state playoff appearances.

Monsignor Donovan head coach Dan Duddy is one win away from his 100th career victory when the Griffins take on Pinelands on Friday night. Duddy has been at Monsignor Donovan since 2006, and he previously coached at Central, where he took the Golden Eagles to their only state final appearance in program history in 1994. Last year, he led the Griffins to their first division title since 1993 and just the second one in school history.

6. B South takes center stage on Friday

Barnegat and Central are both coming off their bye weeks and will square off on the Bengals’ home field for sole possession of first place in Class B South on Friday night.

Unbeaten Barnegat is clearly the favorite thanks to a punishing running game behind its imposing line and tailback A.J. Opre as well as a dangerous passing attack featuring quarterback Cinjun Erskine and wideout Manny Bowen.

Central has its own weapons in senior quarterback Marquis Drumright, one of the Shore’s top passers, and senior wideout Isaiah Akers, as well as a diverse ground attack led by Javon Hardy and Nick Leone. The main question for Central will be up front, where Barnegat will look to use its size advantage to control the clock and keep Central’s offense off the field. The game also has important South Jersey Group III seeding implications, and a win by either team would put stamp them as the front-runner to take home the division title.

The game will also be live on 105.7 f.m. and streaming online at 1057thehawk.com, so make sure to listen in if you can't make it in person.

7. Big games to watch in Week Six

Matawan at Wall, Friday at 7: Key game for both teams as far as power points and playoff berths.

Central at Barnegat, Friday at 7: First place in B South on the line, plus South Jersey Group III implications.

Southern at Lacey, Saturday at 1: Big Class A South game, crucial power-point game, and Lacey coach Lou Vircillo is trying to move into second place all by himself behind Warren Wolf for the most wins all time by a Shore Conference coach.

South River at Keyport, Saturday at noon: Keyport has to have this game for its state playoff hopes.

Middletown North at Marlboro, Saturday at 1: One of these teams is coming away with its first win of the season.

Jackson Memorial at Toms River South, Saturday at 7: Another good Class A South battle with playoff implications for both teams.

8. Alumnus of the week

Tim Wright, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The former Rutgers wide receiver and Wall Township star has converted to tight end in the NFL. Signed as an undrafted free agent by his old coach at Rutgers, Greg Schiano, Wright has made an impact.

In a 31-20 loss to the Eagles this past weekend, he had 7 catches for 91 yards. He is third on the team with 13 catches for the season after opening the season fourth on the depth chart. Not too shabby for an undrafted rookie free agent playing a new position.

9. Stat(s) of the week: 1, 13-15

While Colts Neck has yet to allow a point this season, Long Branch has quietly only allowed one offensive touchdown all season against a tougher schedule heading into Week Six, coming off a 35-0 win over Pinelands.

The other two numbers are Manasquan quarterback Tucker Caccavale’s completion-attempts stats to start the game in a 38-0 win over Middletown South. He came out on fire, hitting 13 of his first 15 passes on his way to a school-record 350 yards passing.

10. Eye-opener of the week.

Hearing the news about Robbinsville coach and former Philadelphia Eagles wideout Irving Fryar on Wednesday was a stunner. Not to mention that I can't remember the last time a head football coach was indicted in the middle of a season. He and his mother have been charged with trying to steal $700,000 in a fraudulent loan scam.