T&T Coast Football Top 10, 11/15/16
The cream of the Shore Conference showed its strength in the first round of the state playoffs, with every Top 10 team that is in the tournament advancing to the semifinals.
Out of 25 total Shore teams in the playoffs, 17 are still alive heading into this weekend’s semifinal action. There is still a chance for the Shore to sweep all five Central Jersey brackets, Wall and Toms River North remain favorites in their South Jersey brackets, top-seeded Middletown South is still alive to defend its North Jersey II Group IV title, while non-public squads St. John Vianney and Mater Dei Prep face their toughest tests of the season this week in their respective brackets.
There’s only three weeks left in the season, and even less for those without Thanksgiving games. We’re getting closer and closer to the final T&T Coast Top 10, and here’s the latest as the playoff atmosphere ratchets up another notch this week.
1. Toms River North (10-0). Last week: No. 1.
The top-seeded Mariners got their first scare of the season as they fought off eighth-seeded Atlantic City, 27-20, in South Jersey Group V for their 20th straight victory. Their 27 points marked the first time all season they didn’t crack at least 30, and they were shut out in the first half, but they found a way to survive and advance. A 1-yard touchdown run by senior Parker Day with 2:47 left in the game snapped a 20-20 tie and sent them to victory. Day finished with three touchdowns, and senior quarterback Mike Husni added a 51-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Darrion Carrington. After that wake-up call, the defending sectional champions will host a Howell team they beat 58-33 in the regular season in the semifinals on Friday night as they look to get one step closer to their first undefeated season since 2007. Next game: The Mariners host Howell (6-4), which upset fourth-seeded Vineland, in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
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2. Manalapan (10-0). Last week: No. 2.
The top-seeded Braves cruised into the semifinals with a 49-0 rout of eighth-seeded New Brunswick in Central Jersey Group V. This is the seventh straight season the Braves have reached at least the sectional semifinals. Junior running back Naim Mayfield packed what would be a career game for any other running back into a single half. He ran for 274 yards and four touchdowns on only 11 carries, all in the first half, to power the win. Dave Ryan added 80 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries and junior fullback Chris Maksimik had a 17-yard touchdown catch and also ran for 40 yards on three carries. Junior quarterback Luke Corcione added a 17-yard score. Next game: It will be payback time as the Braves host fifth-seeded South Brunswick (7-2) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday. South Brunswick, the defending CJ V champion, beat Manalapan 27-21 on a last-second touchdown in last year’s semifinals.
3. St. John Vianney (10-0). Last week: No. 3.
The fifth-seeded Lancers turned in one of the most impressive wins by any Shore Conference team in the opening round as they took apart Camden Catholic, 33-13, on the road in a match-up of undefeated teams in Non-Public Group III. Senior running back Chris Chukwuneke ran for 108 yards and a touchdown, junior kicker Will Forman connected on two field goals, junior fullback Johnny Buchanan scored on two short runs, and wideout Zyaire Sterling added a two-yard touchdown run. A.J. Calabro had a fumble recovery that led to a touchdown and junior defensive end Nick Densieski and junior defensive tackle Dominick Spano each had two sacks. Now comes the moment of truth for St. John Vianney to show it’s ready to win its first state title since 1981 when it travels to face the state’s No. 1 team. A victory would put St. John Vianney in the state finals for the second straight season and tie the school record for wins set last year. Next game: The Lancers will head to end of the Garden State Parkway to face St. Joseph’s (Montvale), the state’s top-ranked team, on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Green Knights (7-2) received a bye into the semifinals.
4. Middletown South (7-2). Last week: No. 4.
The top-seeded Eagles rolled into the North II Group IV semifinals with a 56-7 win over eighth-seeded JFK-Iselin, which included exploding for 42 points in the second quarter.
Running backs Anthony Summey and Chaz Alessi each scored twice while senior quarterback Aneesh Agrawal threw touchdown passes to fellow seniors Jeff Lewandowski and Samson Dube. Senior Brendan Donlon ran for a touchdown and junior Jake Krellin returned an interception for a touchdown. The Eagles, who are the defending champions, are seeking their 11th sectional title overall to tie Manasquan’s Shore Conference record. Next game: Middletown South welcomes fifth-seeded Sayreville (8-2) to “The Swamp” on Friday at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. Sayreville knocked off Phillipsburg, the team Middletown South beat in last year’s championship game, with a 21-7 win in the first round. The last time the Eagles and the Bombers met in the playoffs, Sayreville beat Middletown South 35-28 to win the Central Jersey Group IV title in 2012.
5. Rumson-Fair Haven (7-2). Last week: No. 5.
The Bulldogs’ quest for four straight state titles continued with a 23-13 win over Cranford in Central Jersey Group III. Senior running back Matt Vecchiarelli ran for two touchdowns and the defense recorded four interceptions to lead the way. Senior quarterback Mike O’Connor added a rushing touchdown and senior Thomas Chapin kicked a field goal. Senior defensive back Ryan Tuorto led the defense with a career-high three interceptions and senior safety Mike Murdock also had an interception. It marked the eighth time in nine games that Rumson’s defense has held an opponent to 14 points or less this season. Next game: The fourth-seeded Bulldogs will face a stern test when they travel to top-seeded Somerville on Friday at 7 p.m. The undefeated Pioneers (10-0) beat Rahway 47-21 in the first round and have not been held under 41 points all season. Their 50.1 points per game lead the entire state.
6. Manasquan (8-1). Last week: No. 6.
The Warriors had to do some heavy lifting to get out of the first round as they rallied from a two-score hole to beat A.L. Johnson 33-29 to reach the Central Jersey Group II semifinals. A 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jerry Maher to senior wide receiver Damaso Jaime with 6:21 left to play put Manasquan ahead, and an interception by senior defensive back Peter Mills helped clinch the win. Junior running back Connor Morgan ran for 128 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and senior fullback Tommy Meyer had 94 yards rushing on six carries. Maher completed 5 of 8 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns, a 10-yard score to senior tight end Adam Schreck and the eventual game-winning touchdown to Jaime, who also had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Next game: The road only gets harder as the Warriors have to travel to face second-seeded Roselle (9-0) at 1 p.m. on Saturday in a bid to reach their first state final since losing to Matawan in 2009.
7. Middletown North (7-2). Last week: No. 7.
The second-seeded Lions eased into the North II Group IV semifinals with a 33-14 win over seventh-seeded Woodbridge. Junior running back Connor Welsh ran for 136 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and senior wide out Brendan Kube caught five passes for 140 yards and a touchdowns to push the Lions into the semifinals for the second straight season. Senior quarterback Donald Glenn threw for 183 yards and also had a touchdown pass to senior Dwight Wilkerson, while sophomore running back Connor Robbins added a short touchdown run. Senior defensive lineman Kyle Ewington made a game-high 10 tackles with one hit for a loss to lead a defense that forced four turnovers. Next game: The Lions welcome third-seeded Summit (8-2), a program that has eight state titles in its history, on Friday at 7 p.m. in a bid to reach their first state final since winning their last title in 1996. A win would also most likely mean playing Middletown South on Thanksgiving and then again a week later with a state championship on the line. A victory over Summit would also give Middletown North its most wins since going 9-2 in 1996.
8. Wall (7-2). Last week: No. 8.
The top-seeded Crimson Knights routed eighth-seeded Camden, 35-0, to move on to the South Jersey Group III semifinals. They rolled up 402 yards rushing, led by senior running back Sean Larkin, who had 229 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries. Junior quarterback Eddie Scott and junior running back Brady McNalley added rushing touchdowns, while senior Darryin Valme led the defensive effort with three sacks. Wall had eight sacks as a team, and senior Mike Capra and sophomore Dylan Richey each had interceptions. Next game: Wall will host fifth-seeded Hamilton West (6-3), which beat Lakewood 26-12 in the first round, in a bid to reach its first state final since 2004. The Crimson Knights are looking to ultimately win their first title since going 11-1 in 2002.
9. Central (7-2). Last week: No. 9
The Golden Eagles, who were disqualified from the NJSIAA playoffs due to ejections from a fight in a win over Toms River East, wrapped up their season two weeks ago with a loss to No. 1 Toms River North. They are clinging to this spot with several other teams trying to overtake them with championship state-playoff runs. Their 14-13 win over Jackson Memorial and their 21-7 victory over Brick could be crucial in cementing them in the Top 10 if either of those teams makes a run to the Central Jersey Group IV title. Next game: Season complete.
10. Mater Dei Prep (10-0). Last week: No. 10.
The Seraphs continued their best season in school history by registering a school-record 10th victory with a 51-8 romp over St. Anthony in the Non-Public Group II playoffs. Sincere Saunders ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns and George Pearson ran and threw for touchdowns as the Seraphs rolled into the semifinals. Pearson had a touchdown pass to senior wide out Eddie Lewis, while Justin McRae also ran for a touchdown and Mario Rodriguez returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown to help build a 44-0 halftime lead. Next game: Mater Dei Prep has a chance to open eyes around the state and advance to its first state final since 1999 and just the second in school history when it hosts six-time defending champion St. Joseph’s (Hammonton) in the semifinals at 1 p.m. on Saturday. St. Joe’s (7-3) has long been the dominant small-school non-public program in New Jersey, so the Seraphs could announce their ascendance with a win in arguably their biggest home game in school history on Saturday. The last time the two teams met, St. Joe’s beat Mater Dei 41-18 in the Non-Public Group I semifinals in 2014.
Dropped out: none.
Teams to watch:
Keyport (9-1): The third-seeded Red Raiders advanced to the Central Jersey Group I semifinals for the second straight season with a 41-6 win over sixth-seeded thanks to 200-plus yards and three touchdowns by fullback Devin Wollner and three touchdowns for Shykim Treadwell also ran for three touchdowns. Keyport, whose only loss is to No. 10 Mater Dei Prep, now has its most wins since going 11-1 in 2003. Next game: Keyport will travel to second-seeded Point Beach (6-4), which it beat 10-7 in the season opener, in a bid to reach its first state final since that 2003 season.
Brick (7-3): The top-seeded Green Dragons avoided an upset at the hands of eighth-seeded Neptune with a 20-13 win to reach the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals. Ja’Sir Taylor had 114 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries and John Prato added a touchdown in the win. Brick’s three losses are all to Top 10 teams (St. John Vianney, Toms River North, Central). Next game: The Green Dragons will have their hands full containing junior quarterback Ashante Worthy and fifth-seeded Freehold at Brick at 7 p.m. on Friday. Worthy ran for 465 yards and 8 touchdowns and accounted for 10 total touchdowns, all of which are Shore Conference single-game records, in a 69-56 win over Pennsauken in the first round.
Howell (6-4): The Rebels went down into the wilds of South Jersey and upset fourth-seeded Vineland, 29-27, in South Jersey Group V on an 18-yard field goal by Pat Handy with 22 seconds left in the game. Junior quarterback Eddie Morales threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown, junior wide receiver Naz Brantley caught 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, senior wide out Dan Cacciatore caught four passes for 100 yards, and junior receiver Ryan Mazik caught a 17-yard touchdown pass. It marked Howell’s first state playoff win since 2009. Next game: The Rebels travel to face top-seeded Toms River North (10-0) in the semifinals on Friday night. The Mariners beat Howell 58-33 in the regular season. Howell is hoping to pull the upset and reach its first state final since winning the program’s only state title in 2007.
Jackson Memorial (6-4): Here come the Jaguars, as they have now won four straight after a 39-6 victory over Nottingham in Central Jersey Group IV, where they are the two-time defending champions. Senior running back Mike Gawlik was at it again, becoming the program’s first 2,000-yard rusher with 220 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries in the win to give him 2,023 yards and 25 total touchdowns this season. Next game: Jackson Memorial will travel to second-seeded Allentown on Friday night in a bid to reach its third straight state final.
WATCH: Damaso Jaime takes a kickoff back 80 yards for a touchdown in Manasquan’s playoff win over A.L. Johnson.
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