U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic Coming July 17
With July upon us, the countdown to the 37th annual U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic at 7 p.m. on July 17 at Brick Township's Keller Memorial Field has begun.
The annual contest, the oldest all-star football game in New Jersey, pits the top seniors from Monmouth County against their counterparts from Ocean County. Before the game, the annual Gridiron Classic 7-on-7 championship will be held with the winners from each county squaring off.
Monmouth County won last year's game 19-7 at Toms River North to take a 20-15-1 all-time lead in the series. Monmouth has won two straight Classics and four of the last five. Ocean Township head coach Don Klein, who led the Spartans to a 10-1 season, the Class B North title and an appearance in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals, will coach the Monmouth County squad. Brick’s Rob Dahl, who led the Green Dragons to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV crown for their first sectional title since 1994, will coach the Ocean team on his home field.
Also, the annual Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame induction will take place at halftime. Raritan's all-time wins leader, Bob Generelli, will be inducted after leading his teams to nine championships in a combined 15 seasons between Middletown South and Raritan with a career record of 110-49-2. He led the Rockets to their only state title in program history during an undefeated season in 2004, and he led Middletown South to a a pair of NJSIAA sectional titles as well as the No. 1 ranking in New Jersey in 1992. His teams also won six division titles.
Joining Generelli will be former Toms River North coach Bob Nani, who helmed the Mariners from 1989 to 2004, winning 103 games and three NJSIAA sectional championships. Nani's teams captured titles in one of the perennially rugged public brackets in New Jersey, South Jersey Group IV, in 1991, 1994 and 1997.
Being inducted in the media category is Shore Sports Network's own Ed Sarluca, who has been a coach and broadcaster involved with Shore Conference football for 46 years. Since 1997, he has been a sideline reporter for the Shore Conference football broadcasts and also has been a host of the Thursday Night Football Show on Shore Sports Network. He also spent 27 years as a defensive coordinator for Keyport, Toms River North, Toms River East and Brick Memorial from 1968 to 1995.
Joining Sarluca is former Asbury Park Press columnist Joe Adelizzi, an award-winning writer and former long-time sports editor who covered the Shore Conference football scene for decades until his retirement in 2008.
With 16 days left to the Gridiron Classic kicks off at 7 p.m. at Brick, here are 16 random facts about an annual rite of summer for Shore Conference football fans:
16: The single-game rushing record for the Classic was set by Freehold Boro legend Joe "The Jet" Henderson, who ran for 161 yards for Monmouth County in 1986 before going on to play at Clemson. His 63-yard touchdown run in that game is also the record for the longest scoring run in Classic history.
15: The largest margin of victory in the game is 36 points. Monmouth County drilled Ocean 36-0 in 1994 thanks to a pair of touchdown passes by Ocean Township star Eddie Conti and six catches for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns by Middletown South's Matt Cuccia. Monmouth's 36 points in that win are also the record for the most points scored in Classic history, and it rolled up a record 455 yards of total offense.
14:The longest field goal in the game's history is 52 yards, which is right up there with some of the longest field goals in Shore Conference history. Brick's Kurt Weiboldt, who is now the Green Dragons' kicking coach and has helped mentor Anthony Starego, and St. John Vianney's Gil Gutierrez did it in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
13: The coach with the most victories in Classic history is also the coach who has the most victories in Shore Conference history - retired Brick legend Warren Wolf. He led Ocean County to five wins in the Gridiron Classic. His 364 career victories are second in New Jersey history, and he was the winning coach in the inaugural Classic in 1978.
12: The record for most passing yards in the game was set in 2005 by Long Branch's Maurice Turpin, who threw for 240 in a Monmouth County win.
11: With this year's game, Brick will tie Toms River North as the site that has hosted the most Gridiron Classics in history. This will be the ninth time the game has been at Keller Memorial Field.
10: A Super Bowl champion decided the 1999 game. Former Marlboro star Dan Klecko, the son of former New York Jets All-Pro Joe Klecko, blocked an extra point to give Monmouth County a 21-20 win. Klecko went on to star as a defensive lineman at Temple before being drafted by the New England Patriots. He went on to win two Super Bowl rings with New England and another one as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
9: There are 11 players participating in the game whose teams won state sectional championships in the fall. Rumson TE/DE Kevin Clayton, LB/S Tom Martello, and OL Peter Righi will suit up for Monmouth County, while the Point Beach contingent of TE/LB Bill Barry, OL Sean Struncius and WR/DB Noah Yates and the Brick group of P Steve Ferlisi, K Anthony Starego, WR/DB Mike Muratore, TE/LB Drew Scott and OL Matt Ulufanua will suit up on their home field for Ocean County.
8: Ocean County won the inaugural All-Shore Classic in 1978 by beating Monmouth County 21-7 before a record crowd of 8,112 fans at Wall Stadium. Former Manasquan coach Jack Hawkins kicked off the tradition in style after being selected to coach the Monmouth County team against Wolf and Ocean County. He showed up in a chauffeured Rolls Royce and got out wearing a white tuxedo complete with a top hat, cane, gloves and tails.
7: The longest winning streak by either team is three years, which Monmouth will try to tie this year with a victory. Monmouth won three straight Classics from 1998-2000 and from 2003-2005.
6: For 21 years, former Toms River East standout quarterback Alex Zarrillo has held the Classic record for touchdown passes in a game when he tossed three in Ocean County's 20-18 win in 1993.
5: If any player on either team can rush for three touchdowns in the game, he will put his name along with one of the Shore Conference greats. Former Red Bank Regional star running back Eric McCoo, who went on to play at Penn State, scored a record three rushing touchdowns for Monmouth County in 1998.
4: Only one set of brothers has ever coached teams to victory in Gridiron Classic history. Former Keyport legend Mike Ciccotelli, who retired after this past season, led Monmouth County to wins in 1999 and 2005. In 2009, his younger brother, Mark, led Monmouth to a win. Mark left Neptune after three seasons to take the head job at St. John Vianney heading into this fall.
3: Plenty of record-setters will be participating in the game. Middletown North's Jake Betkowski had a school-record 54 catches for the Lions this year; Colts Neck running back/linebacker Anthony Gargiulo is the program's all-time leader in rushing yards, tackles and touchdowns; Mike Creamer is Matawan's all-time leader in field goals and set a single-season Shore Conference record with 14 field goals; Linebacker Chris Noesges is Manalapan's all-time leading tackler; Quarterback Tom Kelly is Lacey's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns; Wide receiver Christian Tutela is Lacey's record-holder for receiving yards and touchdown catches; and Point Beach safety Noah Yates had a school-record nine interceptions, including a record four in one game. Keyport quarterback Alex Thomson is the Red Raiders' all-time leading passer, but said he will not participate after injuring the PCL and MCL in his left knee in last week's North-South All-Star Classic.
2: It's going to be hard for anyone to top the longest scoring play in Gridiron Classic history. Former Brick Memorial star Shawn Murray, who held just about every school record when his career ended in 1997, took a pick-six 98 yards to the house for Ocean County in 1998.
1: The inspiring story of Anthony Starego, the Brick kicker with autism, will also have another chapter as he will be a kicker for Ocean County and play on his home field one last time. He will be the first special needs player to participate in the 36-year history of the game.