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Top 10 Tuesday: 11/29/11

Jaheem Woods, Neptune
Jaheem Woods, Neptune (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

The majority of the Shore Conference made its closing argument in the Top 10 rankings this week, but five teams get one final say when the NJSIAA sectional finals involving Shore Conference teams are held on Saturday.

Right now, the most hotly-contested spot is the race for No. 2 behind Red Bank Catholic, which locked down the final No. 1 spot with a 21-0 victory over previously undefeated Rumson-Fair Haven on Friday. If Neptune, Rumson and Manalapan all win state titles, they each will have an argument for that No. 2 spot, making it almost in the eye of the beholder.

Matawan also took a hit with a 35-8 loss to St. John Vianney (5-5) this week, making it a little tricky as to where to rank the Huskies, who will face Rumson in the Central Jersey Group II final for the second straight year.

  1. Red Bank Catholic (10-1) – Last week: No. 1. The Caseys went wire to wire as the Shore Conference’s No. 1 team, sealing the top spot with a 21-0 win over previously unbeaten Rumson-Fair Haven on Friday night. Senior quarterback Ryan Spahr threw a pair of touchdown passes, sophomore running back Larry Redaelli ran for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown in his first varsity start, and the defense held the Bulldogs to 110 total yards. If Rumson and Neptune both win on Saturday, the Caseys will have had victories over two state champions as well as the Class A South champion (Southern). This is the second time in four years that RBC has finished atop the All Shore Media rankings, and they return almost their entire defense next season. The win over Rumson also gave the Caseys a school-record 10th victory, and it marked the ninth straight win over the Bulldogs.
  2. Neptune (10-1) – Last week: No. 2. I’m putting Neptune here right now, and we’ll see what happens on Saturday. The Scarlet Fliers survived Asbury Park’s upset bid with a 29-28 nondivisional win in a game between two potential state champions. Senior quarterback Jaheem Woods ran for the game-tying touchdown with six minutes to go and Elijah Peavy booted what proved to be the game-winning extra point. Neptune’s defense then stopped Asbury Park on fourth-and-goal inside the final two minutes to hold on for the win. Now comes the Central Jersey Group III championship game against Steinert at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Rutgers Stadium. The Scarlet Fliers are the favorite to bring home their first state title since 1998 by winning their 10th straight game to close out the season. Neptune took No. 1 RBC to double overtime in its one loss, which puts the Scarlet Fliers here heading into the final weekend.
  3. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-1) – Last week: No. 2. The Bulldogs drop a spot after a tough 21-0 loss to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic in which they were held to 110 total yards. They will now try to regroup and win their second straight Central Jersey Group II title by beating Matawan for the second straight season in the final. Rumson won its first state title in program history last season and looks to add another when the two teams kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rutgers Stadium. The Bulldogs expect to have everyone in the lineup after having some key players either sit out of the RBC game or only play a half because of nagging injuries. Rumson’s argument to be No. 2 right now would be the fact that it beat Asbury Park convincingly, 28-6, while Neptune escaped with a one-point win. However, Neptune also took RBC to double overtime, while the Caseys handled the Bulldogs by three touchdowns.
  4. Southern (8-2) – Last week: No. 4. The Rams’ season has been done for several weeks, and their main argument to stay here is a win over Jackson Memorial and capturing the Class A South title.
  5. Jackson Memorial (8-2) – Last week: No. 5. The Jaguars concluded their season with a 28-14 victory over rival Jackson Liberty thanks to a pair of touchdown catches by Johntel Thomas. The Jaguars’ head-to-head win over Manalapan keeps them here for now, as we’ll see what happens in the Central Jersey Group IV final.
  6. Manalapan (10-1) – Last week: No. 6. The Braves rolled past winless Marlboro, 42-16, to clinch their second straight outright Class A North title and win a school-record 10th game. Senior running back John Sieczkowski also set a school single-season record with 2,115 yards rushing to pass Josh Firkser’s record of 2,053 from last year in the win. Now comes one of the biggest games in Manalapan history, a showdown against defending Central Jersey Group IV champion Sayreville in the championship game at 1p.m. Saturday at Rutgers Stadium. Manalapan has never won a state title. Sayreville also eliminated Jackson Memorial, which beat Manalapan, in the quarterfinals, so a win over the Bombers and the Braves could make a case to vault as high as No. 2. They were somewhat victimized by their schedule as only two of their 11 wins are over teams with winning records (Middletown South and West Windsor South). I would think that if they hoist that trophy on Saturday afternoon, they could care less about where they are ranked because they will have made school history.
  7. Asbury Park (9-2) – Last week: No. 9. I know it seems a little weird for the Blue Bishops to jump up two spots off a loss, but they gave Neptune all it could handle in a 29-28 defeat. Senior Amir Conover earned team MVP honors in the loss as the Group I Blue Bishops nearly took out their Group III rival. Now they will try to lock down their fourth state title in the last five seasons when they face Florence in the Central Jersey Group I championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday at The College of New Jersey. The close loss to Neptune is probably Asbury Park’s best argument to stay up here in the rankings, as its best wins are a pair of victories over Point Beach (8-3), which was not a Top 10 team at any point this season despite having one of the best years in school history.
  8. Wall (8-2) – Last week: Unranked. The Crimson Knights re-enter the rankings to end the season by virtue of a 16-6 victory over Manasquan that gave them the outright Class C Central title, their first division title since 2007 and first outright title since 2001. Senior quarterback Steve Cluley had 197 yards of total offense, senior tailback Jim Guiliano ran for a score, and senior kicker Tyler Block booted three field goals in the win. Wall’s two losses were to Colonia, a state playoff team, and Central Jersey Group III finalist Steinert.
  9. Matawan (8-3) – Last week: No. 7. The Huskies drop after losing 35-8 to unranked St. John Vianney (5-5) in a Class A Central game in their Thanksgiving rivalry. They were without four suspended defensive starters, but that’s not St. John Vianney’s fault. The Huskies will try to pull it together to upset defending Central Jersey Group II champion Rumson-Fair Haven in the CJ II final and get some revenge for losses to the Bulldogs in last year’s final and during the regular season this year.
  10. Barnegat (7-4) – Last week: No. 10. The Bengals finish ranked in the Top 10 after a 63-0 wipeout of winless Pinelands gave them a school-record seventh victory and the outright Class B South title. Senior running back David Smithman ran for 171 yards and four touchdowns to lead the way. Three of Barnegat’s four losses were to teams playing in state finals this weekend (Matawan, Rumson, West Deptford).

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