Although there were many great stories on the field in 2012, the
number 1 story has to be the devastating hurricane that struck the Shore
on the night of October 29th. HS Football came to a standstill for at
least 10 days. Homes of many players were destroyed, players were
displaced, schools were closed, electricity was out, towns, especially
the beach area’s, were completely destroyed. Never had we seen anything
like the destruction we saw in that 24 hour period. Where and what do
we do with the football season? The State answered quickly and pushed
all games back a week, pushing the playoffs back and changing the
format, while keeping Thanksgiving games in play. While some schools
were out for 2 weeks, some began to go back the week of Nov. 5th.
Practice resumed for most teams, but players were missing and mass
clean-ups were still in progress. Considering what took place, you must
commend the coaches and the way they began to put the pieces back
together again. For some it was easier than it was for others.
Everyone was affected, but towns on the beach or near it, like Point
Pleasant Beach, Keyport, Manasquan, Southern(LBI), Keansburg, Long
Branch, TR East, Central, Shore, Asbury Park all suffered the hit worse
than others. Of those schools, 7 were in the playoffs, which lends to
the slogan that has come from the storm- “Jersey Strong”. We are still
in recovery mode and some towns will never be the same, but we are
resilient, and towns will rebuild. Boardwalks will be rebuilt better
than ever and football in 2013 will be better than ever.
#2-No State winners this year!
It was 1985 when the Shore had not one State winner. The streak
of 27 years had to end at some point and perhaps the storm had something
to do with it, but for me, it was better teams that did us in. We went
into the finals with 2 favorites; Manalapan and Neptune. The other 3
were underdogs to their opponents. Manalapan was primed, after a 2011
loss in the finals to Sayreville, to win their first ever State
Championship. South Brunswick had other ideas, as they won their first
ever Championship in the last game at Rutgers, just 1 week ago. The
Braves fought hard as Mike Isabella, John Appice and Anthony Firkser,
and the rest of the seniors did get A-North Championships while they
played, but that elusive State title is for another day. Still, it was
a great run.
Neptune was looking for back to back titles under Head Coach Mark
Ciccotelli, but the Fliers were beaten by Nottingham HS in a wild game.
QB Ajee Patterson did throw for over 300 yds., but the Fliers turned it
over 4 times, and you just can’t do that in Championship games. Coach
Ciccotelli ended a tremendous personal run which saw him win 11 straight
playoff games in the last 4 years. During that span he won back to back
Championships while at Freehold Boro and one Championship last year at
#3-To the Finals!
The run to the final of the State Championship by Southern and
Middletown South. Considered under-dogs in each of their first 2
rounds, they upset higher seeds to get to the finals, only to lose in
their attempt at the big prize. Southern played before a full house at
Rowan University and lost to a very good Williamstown football team.
Both were going for their first Championship ever and the Rams fought
hard, but the Braves were better that night.
Middletown South upset Washington and Eastern, on the road,to get
to Rutgers, and a chance to play 2 time defending Champs, Sayreville HS.
Well the Bombers have now won 3 in a row, as the Eagles lost by a TD.
South’s Junior QB Kyle Brey has established himself as a very good
signal caller and he will be back to lead the Eagles in 2013.
#4-Comeback teams of the year
The comeback teams of 2012 were TR South, Lakewood, Colts Neck,
and SJ Vianney.
Lakewood went from 2-8 last year to 7-3 this year and just missed
out on the B-South Championship. LJ Clark was voted our Ocean County
Coach of the Year.
TR South only finished 4-6 on the year, but no one wanted to play
the Indians at the end of the year. After going 3-7 in his first year,
Ron Signorino Jr has re-established the Indians as a major threat in the
A-South. With many under-class men coming back, look for the Indians
to make a serious move up the ladder of the elite teams. Anything less
will set the Indians back to where they were for so many years.
Colts Neck was 6-4 last year and powered their way to a 9-2
record, while making a semi-final run in the CJ. Group 4 playoffs.
Although they lost to Middletown South in that game, the Cougars are for
real and Greg LaCava has established a solid program. Greg was voted
our Monmouth County Coach of the Year.
SJ Vianney was 6-4 for Head Coach Andy Carlstrom in 2012. It’s
the first winning season since 2006 and the Lancers made a trip to the
playoffs this year. Players from surrounding schools are now beginning
to think SJV, when they think Parochial schools, and that’s a good sign.
Point Beach wins B-Central and Mon Don wins B-South. Both of
these schools won titles in 2012 with great seasons. Point Beach beat
Shore on Turkey Day to wrap up the title and remain unbeaten for the
time being. The season would come to a crashing end just one week later
when they lost to Florence in the State Semi’s. But this story is not
about losses, it’s about winning. Led by Ocean County Player of the
Year Danny Tighe, the Gulls were virtually unstoppable, as they
steamrolled to the title. With players like Tighe, Quinn Kusma, Lucas
Jordy, Tim Morris, Andre Cochran and Kyle Samaratano, running out of the
Wing-T, the Gulls averaged over 40 points per game and gave up only 10 a
game. John Wagner, in his second year, has established the program he
had at Roselle Park for 25 years. He won 2 Championships in back to
back years in 92 and 93 while at Roselle Park. Can Beach keep it up and
stay on top of the division? I think they can.
Mon Don wins the B-South, their first title since 1993, when they
won C-South. They were led by U of Virginia bound Brad Henson up front
and RB Grant Klimek in the backfield. QB Vinny Grasso won the job in
pre-season and the Griffs were off and running to a Championship. Dan
Duddy, who is recognized as the true gentleman of coaches, is the very
deserving head man, who gets himself and his kids a title, with the
likes of Lakewood, Barnegat, Point Boro and Jackson Liberty in the
conference. Not a bad conference and not a bad team that won it this
#6- Anthony Starego
Before the season began no one knew who Anthony Starego was, now
just about the entire world has heard of Anthony. The 18 year old
kicker for Brick HS provided the most heart warming story of the year on
a Friday night in October. With 21seconds left, Anthony kicked a 23 yard
field goal to beat rival Toms River North, 24-21. Not emotional enough
for you? Well the fact is, Anthony is a Special Needs student who has
Autism. The story began in 1997, when Anthony, who was an orphan, was
adopted by Ray and Reylene Starego, at the age of 3. At that time
Anthony had a long list of cognitive and developmental issues. He would
struggle to contain his emotions and articulate his thoughts. In 2006
Anthony was at the infamous Rutgers/Louisville college football game
when Rutgers kicker Jeremy Ito kicked the game winning field goal.
That’s when Anthony decided he wanted to be a kicker. After that night,
there were many practice days, with Dad chasing after footballs, as
Anthony would take kick after kick. Fast forward 6 years and many
practice days on the Dragon field, Anthony finally got his chance to be
a hero. He took that chance and ran with it, as he calmly kicked the
game winner that night. The Today Show and many other news shows and
papers ran with the story and Anthony soaked it all in and handled
himself with pride and dignity. A true definition of what a hero should
be. Yes Anthony, there were many tears of joy that were shed by some
tough, strong football players, as your story was told around the
nation. You are an inspiration to many.
Well there you have it, the 2012 High School Football season, in a small nutshell. While I’m sure others will disagree as to my top stories of the year, that’s how I saw it, and your welcome to comment. Oh, and the #1 team in 2012– it’s got to be RBC(10-1). Undefeated to Shore teams in more than 2 years, they deserve the top ranking. Remember, no State winners this year.
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