Top 10 Tuesday: 11/22/11
With just two weeks to go, it’s still a wide-open race for the final All Shore Media Top 10, and some huge Thanksgiving games this week should provide some more clarity.
The main issue right now is how high to put Manalapan, and where surging Matawan now fits in the picture after knocking off previously unbeaten Manasquan last week. This week brings three high-profile match-ups, led by the Rumson-Fair Haven-Red Bank Catholic showdown on Friday night at Count Basie Field. If RBC beats Rumson, it will finish No. 1 in the Top 10, plain and simple, regardless of what any team does a week later in the state championship games.
If Rumson wins, the Bulldogs would improve to a school-record 11-0 and would have to beat Matawan in the Central Jersey Group II final to finish No. 1 in the Shore for the first time in school history.
Another huge game is Neptune at Asbury Park on Thanksgiving Day. Both are favorites to bring home state titles a week later, so this is a game between two potential state champs. If Neptune wins, the rankings will stay fairly status quo, but if Asbury Park gets the victory, it will really shake things up. Asbury Park could argue for as high as No. 2 or No. 3 behind Rumson depending on what happens in the RBC-RFH game.
Finally, the Manasquan at Wall game on Thanksgiving will decide the outright Class C Central championship. The winner stays in the top 10, while the loser is probably out for good, which not too many probably expected when both were lodged in the top 10 for a majority of the season.
All Shore Media Top 10
- Red Bank Catholic (9-1) – Last week: No. 1. The Caseys lost a heartbreaker, 30-23 in double overtime, to second-seeded Delbarton in a matchup of undefeated, top 10 teams in the state in the Non-Public Group III semifinals. Senior quarterback Ryan Spahr threw a pair of touchdown passes and senior wideout Greg Golden had 8 catches for 153 yards and a score in the loss. Sophomore Larry Redaelli also had 95 yards rushing and a touchdown while filling in for 1,500-yard rusher John DiStefano, a senior who suffered a season-ending dislocated kneecap in the first quarter. RBC will now face No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven at 7 p.m. Friday at Count Basie Field without DiStefano in a bid to cement the final No. 1 ranking and continue its dominance over the Bulldogs, who they have beaten eight straight times. RBC also would set a school record with its 10th win with a victory.
- Rumson-Fair Haven (10-0) – Last week: No. 2. The top-seeded Bulldogs set a school record with their 10th win as they polished off fifth-seeded Delaware Valley, 35-7, to advance to their second straight Central Jersey Group II final. They will once again face Matawan, whom they shocked 13-7 last year to win their first state title. Senior Connor Riley had a pair of touchdowns in the win over Delaware Valley, and the defense continued to dominate. Now they take on rival Red Bank Catholic on Friday night at Count Basie Field in a bid to end an eight-game losing streak to the Caseys and make their case to be the Shore Conference’s No. 1 team.
- Neptune (9-1) – Last week: No. 3. The Scarlet Fliers won their eighth straight game and advanced to their first Central Jersey Group III final since 1999 in emphatic fashion with a 60-27 rout of top-seeded Northern Burlington in which they ran for 521 yards. Senior David Gutzmore ran for a career-high 203 yards and three touchdowns, senior quarterback Jaheem Woods had 109 yards and a touchdown, and senior fullback Jazzmar Clax finished with 96 yards and three touchdowns. The defense also held 1,400-yard rusher Tosin Adeyemo to minus-one yards rushing on 13 carries. Neptune will take on seventh-seeded Steinert, which had never even won a playoff game before this season, in the CJ III final on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at Rutgers in a bid to win their first state title since 1998. Before that comes another huge one, as the Scarlet Fliers face off against rival Asbury Park, a Central Jersey Group I finalist, on Thanksgiving in a big nondivisional game between Top 10 teams. Neptune is trying to make it two in a row over the Blue Bishops after a 31-20 win last season.
- Southern (8-2) – Last week: No. 4. The Rams’ season is over. The main argument for the Rams to stay here is a win over Jackson Memorial, which has a win over Manalapan. Southern’s losses are to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic and to Triton, which got obliterated 52-16 in the South Jersey Group IV semifinals by top-seeded Pennsauken this past weekend. If Manalapan beats Sayreville, it will drop Southern and Jackson much further down in the Top 10.
- Jackson Memorial (7-2) – Last week: No. 5. The Jaguars didn’t play this week after losing in the first round in Central Jersey Group IV, and will wrap up their season at home against Jackson Liberty on Wednesday night. Jackson Memorial has never lost to the crosstown Lions in their three meetings all time. Jackson’s ultimate Top 10 fate rests on the outcome of the Central Jersey Group IV final between Manalapan and Sayreville. Jackson beat Manalapan, 12-7, in the season opener, and the Braves have not lost since. However, Sayreville eliminated Jackson Memorial 21-13 in the first round in CJ IV, so it is a common opponent. If Sayreville beats Manalapan, you could argue that the Braves also would have exited in the first round if they had to face the Bombers, which would still give Jackson the head-to-head edge. We’ll see how it turns out.
- Manalapan (9-1) – Last week: No. 6. The Braves won their ninth straight game, 21-20 in double overtime against third-seeded West Windsor South, to advance to the Central Jersey Group IV final for the first time since 2003 and just the second time in school history. Senior tailback John Sieczkowski ran for 175 yards, a touchdown, and the game-winning two-point conversion in double overtime. Junior quarterback Mike Isabella also tossed a pair of touchdown passes to junior wideout Anthony Firkser, including the game-tying score with 57 seconds left in regulation. Manalapan will take on fifth-seeded Sayreville in the CJ IV final at Rutgers Stadium at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3. A win there, and the Braves will finish at least in the top four and possibly higher. The Braves now host winless Marlboro on Wednesday to lock down the outright Class A North title for the second straight season, and also possibly witness school history. Sieczkowski can become the Braves’ second straight 2,000-yard rusher, and with 135 yards can break the school rushing record of 2,053 set by Josh Firkser last year.
- Matawan (8-2) – Last week: No. 8. The Huskies move up a spot after beating last week’s No. 7 team, previously unbeaten Manasquan, 24-14 to advance to a school-record third straight Central Jersey Group II final. Senior running back Larry Alston III had 247 yards rushing and two touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass, and had an interception on defense to help the Huskies end Manasquan’s 23-game home winning streak and eliminate the Warriors from the postseason for the third straight year. Next up is a Saturday game against St. John Vianney in their annual Thanksgiving match-up. Then it will be on to a rematch with No. 2 Rumson in the CJ II final at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Rutgers Stadium. The Huskies will be seeking their second state title in three seasons and sixth overall.
- Manasquan (9-1) – Last week: No. 7. The Warriors nearly rallied for win but it was too much Larry Alston III in the end, as Matawan knocked off Manasquan 24-14 in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals. It ended Manasquan’s 23-game home winning streak and marked the third straight year that the Huskies have beaten the Warriors in the playoffs. Senior quarterback Tyler Saito threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. There’s no time to cry about it, however, as they head to Wall on Thanksgiving Day for a game that will decide the outright title in Class C Central, where Manasquan is the defending champion after beating Wall last year. A loss would mean the Warriors tumble out of the final top 10, while Wall needs the win to get back into the top 10. The game will be broadcast live on the radio on 1310/1160 a.m. and online at ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
- Asbury Park (9-1) – Last week: No. 9. The Blue Bishops hammered fifth-seeded Point Beach, 54-6, to advance to their fourth Central Jersey Group I final in the last five years. They will play third-seeded Florence on Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. at The College of New Jersey in search of their fourth title in five years and sixth in school history. They also have won 11 straight playoff games. Against Point Beach, senior Armond Conover had a sensational all-around game, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown, catching three passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, throwing a 53-yard touchdown to his twin brother, Amir, and returning an interception 42 yards for a score. Now comes Asbury Park’s last major argument to be a top-four team in the Shore when it meets its old rival, No. 3 Neptune, on Thanksgiving. A win over the Scarlet Fliers and the Blue Bishops could argue to be a top four or possibly top three team in the Shore.
- Barnegat (6-4) – Last week: No. 10. The Bengals lost 49-10 to second-seeded West Deptford, falling to the Eagles in the South Jersey Group II semifinals for the second straight season. They can still end on a high, note, however, as they can set a school record with their seventh win and clinch their first outright division title in program history with a victory over winless Pinelands on Thanksgiving.
Team to watch:
Wall (7-2): The Crimson Knights’ loss to Steinert in the first round of the Central Jersey Group III playoffs doesn’t look as bad now that Steinert upended Woodbridge to reach the final and face Neptune. Wall has had two weeks to prepare for rival Manasquan on Thanksgiving, and the winner will claim the outright Class C Central title. A victory by Wall pretty much guarantees that the Crimson Knights will finish the season in the Top 10.