I am in a gradual decline to finish the season and had another subpar week last week, so we’ll see if I can pull out of a tailspin in the exercise of futility known as my picks.

We could see the first division titles (or at least ties for them) get clinched this week, and there are some crucial games as far as playoff seedings go.

No. 1 Red Bank Catholic welcomes No. 8 Middletown South to Count Basie Field on Friday night for a nondivisional showdown. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Last week: 17-5

Season: 120-29

Friday’s Games

No. 2 Manalapan (6-0) at Toms River North (0-6), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Toms River North’s defense is giving up 35 points per game and Manalapan is scoring 41 points per game. Looks like the Braves will having a hard time catching Old Bridge for the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group V, so it’s more about taking care of business to grab a top-three seed and get at least one home game. Manalapan is also trying to extend its winning streak against Shore Conference teams to 22 games. The pick: Manalapan.

No. 8 Middletown South (4-2) at No. 1 Red Bank Catholic (6-0), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Some great match-ups up front in this game, as RBC’s ferocious offensive line led by seniors Quenton Nelson and Tim O’Hara takes on the Middletown South interior of Tayler Hendrickson and Conner Spreen. RBC has bulldozed everyone up front this season, and its starters rarely have played much into the fourth quarter. The Eagles will try to be the first team to slow down the Caseys’ run game and Larry Redaelli and force RBC to throw more than usual. They also will have to find a way to block the Caseys’ rugged front seven, led by Nelson, Jamie Gordinier, Shawn McCord and Ryan Schoer. The Caseys have no shot of catching the big boys in Non-Public Group III seeding-wise, so it’s mainly about securing a first-round home game by beating the Eagles. RBC also is looking to win its 31st straight game against Shore Conference competition. The pick: Red Bank Catholic.

Marlboro (0-6) at Perth Amboy (1-5), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Marlboro is still looking to get new head coach Jason Dagato his first win, and this is certainly a good opportunity. However, Perth Amboy comes in with some confidence after beating New Brunswick 39-13 for its first win last week. Marlboro has struggled to put up points all season but has faced some solid defenses, so this is at least a chance to gain some confidence on that side. The pick: Perth Amboy.

Howell (3-3, 2-1) at Middletown North (1-5, 1-2), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Very interesting game. Howell  looks pretty much out of the state playoff race in a loaded Central Jersey Group V bracket, while Middletown North has a bit of a deceiving record because of its tough schedule. Both teams have quarterbacks who can put up big numbers in Howell senior Connor McGlynn and Middletown North freshman Donald Glenn. This could turn into a shootout, and both teams have plenty of weapons, from Howell wideout Joey Schultz to Middletown North running back Chad Freshnock. Middletown North gave a good South Brunswick team a tough game on the road last week and seems to be improving as the season goes along. The Rebels are in the midst of a turnaround season and want to finish with a winning record at the very least, so this will be a hard-fought game. The pick: Middletown North.

Monmouth (2-4, 1-3) at No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven (6-0, 3-0), 7 p.m.

Analysis: This is the definition of a trap game for Rumson. The Bulldogs are heavily favored, and they have a huge game against Manasquan looming next week. However, they have a defense that has not allowed more than one touchdown in any game this season, so that type of consistency should be what helps them handle their business against a Falcons team that has lost three straight. Having one of the Shore Conference’s top running backs in Charlie Volker also gives them a steadying presence on offense who has delivered week after week. The Bulldogs need this one to set up the game against Manasquan and put another brick in the wall in their intention to make their Thanksgiving game against Red Bank Catholic a showdown for the Class A Central title. The pick: Rumson-FH.

St. John Vianney (2-4, 1-3) at Holmdel (1-6, 0-4), 7 p.m.

Analysis: The Lancers are coming off a 33-19 win over Monmouth behind another strong game from senior quarterback Billy DeMato and wideout Julanee Prince. They have an offense that should make it difficult for the Hornets to keep up, given that they are struggling in averaging only six points per game. Qualifying for the playoffs is not a worry for the Lancers, as they are in a Non-Public Group III, which only has eight teams in the whole bracket, so everyone automatically qualifies. The pick: St. John Vianney.

No. 9 Jackson Memorial (4-2, 4-1) at Southern (3-3, 2-3), 7 p.m.

Analysis: This is a big game for both teams. If Jackson Memorial wins this game and Brick loses to Lacey on Saturday, the Jaguars would clinch no worse than a tie for the Class A South title. If Jackson and Brick both win, it sets up a winner-take-all game next week between the two teams for the division crown. Meanwhile, a win also helps Jackson in its quest to solidify a home game in South Jersey Group V. Southern is currently clinging to the eighth spot in power points in SJ Group V, so a win over the Jaguars would be huge as far as clinching a spot and vaulting them up a few seeds. Southern’s running game was shut down by Brick Memorial last week, while Jackson’s erupted behind Khani Glover and Ken Bradley for more than 500 yards rushing and a school-record 62 points against Lacey. Were those one-game aberrations for both teams or a sign of how this week will go? In A South, your guess is as good as mine. The pick: Jackson Memorial.

Just for fun, here are the records set by Jackson Memorial and Lacey in that game last week, courtesy of Jackson program historian and public address announcer Jim Colbert.

Most points, game: 62. Old record: 59 vs. Freehold Twp., Oct. 19, 2001

Most points, Home game: Same as above.

Most total points scored by Jaguars and opponent: 106. Old record: 86 by Jaguars (37) at Lakewood (49), Sept. 28, 1990.

Most TD's scored, Game: 9. Old record: 8 vs Freehold Twp., Oct 19, 2001 and vs Marlboro, Sept. 23, 2005.

Most Rushing TDs scored, Game: 8. Old record: 7 vs. Marlboro, Sept. 22, 2001

Most Safeties, Game 1. Tied 9 other times.

Most Net Yards, Game: 541. Old record: 496 vs. Marlboro, Sept. 23, 2005.

Most Net Rushing Yards, Game: 501. Old record: 366 vs. Marlboro, Sept. 23, 2005.

Here's where Lacey makes some positive records against the Jaguars:

Most Passing TDs scored by opponent, Game: 5. Ties record by Middletown South, Sept. 24, 1983

Most Passing yards by opponent, Game: 376. Old record: 245 by Central, Oct. 11, 1981.

Most Passes Completed by opponent, Game: 21. Old record: 19 by Shawnee, Nov. 16, 2001

Most points scored by opponent, Jaguars win: 44. Old record: 31 by Delsea, Oct. 20, 2007 (Jaguars won 34-31 in OT)

And now the individual marks set or tied:

Most points (30), most TDs (5) and most rushing TDs (5) by Ken Bradley. Ties Jon Reggio in all three categories initially set at Manalapan, Sept. 9, 2005.

Most Yards Passing by Opponent: 341 by Tom Kelly, Lacey. Old record: 235 by Jeff Musselman, Central, Oct. 18, 1980.

Most Yards Receiving, Opponent: 177 by Christian Tutela, Lacey. Old record: 177 by Jamie Ryan, Toms River North, Oct. 31, 1981.

We had Khani Glover's rushing total at 302 yards, second Jaguar ever to eclipse 300 yards in a game. Second-highest total, just shy of Aaron Edwards mark of 308 vs Southern on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1996.


Toms River South (4-2, 3-2) at Brick Memorial (5-2, 3-2), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Yet another crucial Class A South game. The winner of this remains in striking distance down to the wire for the division title, and a victory is big for both teams as far as the playoffs are concerned. Brick Memorial has won four straight with a defense that has improved every week and a solid run game. Toms River South’s defense has come alive in the latter half of the season, and the offensive is explosive as always with Tymere Berry, Otis Kearney, Khaleel Greene, Billy Kosh, Jared Egan and Darrius Hart. It comes down to whether Brick Memorial can contain Toms River South’s speed on the outside and chew up the clock with its own methodical, ball-control running game. A big factor is going to be turnovers. Brick Memorial fumbled seven times last week against Southern, losing three of them. The Mustangs cannot afford to give Toms River South’s dangerous offense extra possessions. As far as the playoffs are concerned, Brick Memorial needs this one much more than the Indians. The Mustangs are currently ninth in power points in Central Jersey Group V (top eight qualify), while Toms River South is second in South Jersey Group IV. The pick: Brick Memorial.

Long Branch (5-2, 3-1) at Matawan (4-2, 3-2), 7 p.m.

Analysis: This is an old-school Class B North slugfest that has important implications in the Central Jersey Group III race. Long Branch will most likely lock down a first-round home game with a win, while Matawan will clinch a spot in the field with a victory. This looks to be a low-scoring, defensive game given the way these two teams have played all season. Matawan has won with defense and clutch field goals by senior Mike Creamer, while Long Branch has won with its own smothering defense and a power running game along with its own talented kicker, Vinny Mota. Field position and turnovers should be huge in a game where points look to be at a premium. The pick: Long Branch.

Wall (3-3, 2-2) at No. 3 Ocean (6-0, 4-0), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Ocean can clinch at least a tie for the Class B North title, its first division championship since 2006, with a win. Wall is clinging to the eighth seed in South Jersey Group III, so an upset here would rocket them into a good seed in that bracket. Ocean wants to lock down the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group III as it guns for its first state title since 2005, so it needs this win to help that cause. All season, Ocean has done it with a shutdown defense led by linebacker Dan Loizos, a big-play running game featuring sophomore Tyler Thompson, and a passing attack capable of hitting teams for long touchdowns from quarterback Royal Moore to wideout Cole Mehr. Wall has been primarily a running team with tailback Pete Miceli and quarterback Jack Gifford, and the Crimson Knights enter on a three-game skid. It’s a tall order to get off the deck against this Ocean team that smells a division title. Also, if Ocean wins and Long Branch loses to Matawan, the Spartans claim the division crown outright. If Long Branch wins, then Ocean will have to beat winless Freehold next week to officially get the outright title. The pick: Ocean.

Freehold (0-6, 0-4) at Red Bank (1-5, 1-3), 7 p.m.

Analysis: The Colonials have had trouble stopping many teams in allowing 32 points per game, while Red Bank enters averaging only 10 points per game, so something has to give. The Bucs showed their offensive potential in a 36-35 overtime win over Neptune, while Freehold has not scored more than 23 points in any game this season. The pick: Red Bank.

Keyport (5-2, 2-1) at Point Beach (6-1, 3-0), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Point Beach looks to solidify a home game in Central Jersey Group I and grab a top-three seed with a win while also staying on track to face off against Shore Regional on Thanksgiving to defend its Class B Central title. Keyport is in seventh place in power points in Central Jersey Group II with several teams jockeying for the final spots, so this would lock down a state playoff berth and be a huge boost for the Red Raiders. It comes down to whether Keyport can slow down Point Beach’s punishing running attack led by Joe Wegrzyniak while also containing the outside against Michael Frauenheim. The Garnet Gulls also bring heavy pressure defensively, so Keyport senior quarterback Alex Thomson will have to make throws on the run and with guys in his face while not turning it over with ball-hawking Point Beach senior Noah Yates lurking in the secondary. The key for the Red Raiders is to get an early lead and try to put Point Beach in enough of a hole that it has to throw more than it wants. Easier said than done. The pick: Point Beach.

Msgr. Donovan (3-3, 3-1) at Central (4-2, 4-1), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Central already looks to have secured its second state playoff berth in three seasons, so now it’s about making a push for a rare first-round home game for the Golden Eagles with a win here. Monsignor Donovan is in the postseason no matter what because Non-Public Group III only has eight teams. Central is coming off a big 34-28 overtime win against Lakewood and has been one of the surprise teams in the Shore so far this season. Senior quarterback Marquis Drumright, senior running back Javon Hardy and senior wideout Isaiah Akers give them plenty of playmakers on offense. Monsignor Donovan was overwhelmed last week by Rumson-Fair Haven in a 42-7 loss and will have to shake that off and get its running game back in gear. Senior quarterback Vinny Grasso and senior running back Joey Fields have both been playmakers against Class B South competition, so Central needs to make someone else beat them. The pick: Central.

Point Boro (0-7, 0-5) at Jackson Liberty (2-4, 2-3), 7 p.m.

Analysis: Jackson Liberty is getting healthier, and its defense is coming off a shutout of Pinelands. Point Boro is struggling through its worst season in recent memory with a young team. The host Lions look to take care of business in this one and give themselves a shot at still having a winning season. The pick: Jackson Liberty.

Saturday’s Games

Freehold Township (1-5, 1-3) at No. 7 Colts Neck (5-1, 2-1), 1 p.m.

Analysis: Freehold Township will face an ornery Cougars team coming off its first loss of the season against Manalapan. Colts Neck will come right at them with tailback Anthony Gargiulo and look to smother the Patriots’ running game. Colts Neck is fifth in power points in Central Jersey Group IV right now and looks to handle its business in this game to set up a huge game, power-point wise, against fellow CJ Group IV contender Middletown South next week. The pick: Colts Neck.

Asbury Park (4-2) at Middlesex (2-4), 2 p.m.

Analysis: The Blue Bishops have been the proverbial team that beats the teams it’s supposed to, and team that comes up just short against favored teams so far this season. That means they should take care of this one behind quarterback Robert Barksdale, running backs Daquane Bland-Bennett and Tyquis Davis and wideout Jaedon Stephens. Their defense, led by linebacker William Wells, has been tough all season and should lead the way against a Middlesex team averaging 14 points per game as Asbury Park gets ready for the state playoffs. The pick: Asbury Park.

Mater Dei Prep (3-4) at Metuchen (2-5), 1 p.m.

Analysis: This is a game to compare the relative strength of the small-school teams in the Shore Conference and Greater Middlesex Conference. Asbury Park just beat Metuchen 32-0 and Mater Dei gave Asbury a game. The Seraphs have lost four straight after a 3-0 start, so this is their opportunity to get back to .500. Mater Dei Prep is already qualified in Non-Public Group I, so this is more about tying the highest win total they have had in the period since their last winning season in 1999. The pick: Mater Dei Prep.

Manchester (1-5, 1-3) at Pinelands (1-6, 1-4), 2:30 p.m.

Analysis: Manchester has a shot to finish strong and have a .500 season, and can get the momentum going with a victory over the Wildcats. The Hawks have Amani Richardson, Kashaun Barnes and Devin Tomei as weapons on offense, while Pinelands has struggled offensively as of late. The pick: Manchester.

No. 5 Barnegat (6-0, 5-0) at Lakewood (4-2, 3-2), 2 p.m.

Analysis: Barnegat can clinch no worse than a tie for the Class B South title, its second division title in program history, and can win it outright if Central loses to Monsignor Donovan. The Bengals are neck-and-neck with Manasquan for the No. 1 seed in South Jersey Group III and want to stay right with the Warriors in case Manasquan loses to Rumson next week. Barnegat’s new running back-by-committee in the wake of a season-ending injury to A.J. Opre looked solid in a 40-0 win over Point Boro last week, and this is a step up in competition. Lakewood is coming off a 34-28 overtime loss to Central in which its offensive miscues came back to haunt the Piners. It has to play mistake-free in this game, and there are some great match-ups up front in this one. Barnegat has the gigantic duo of Zach Andrews and Sam Madden on the offensive line, while Lakewood has FBS prospects Ben Watson and Datrell Reed on its defensive line. The pick: Barnegat.

Shore (5-1, 2-0) at Keansburg (1-6, 0-3), 2 p.m.

Analysis: Shore is pushing for the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group I and wants to continue on the path toward setting up a Thanksgiving showdown with defending champion Point Beach for the Class B Central title, so it has to have this one. Keansburg is dangerous because of offensive weapons like Kason Preston and Joey Rodriguez, but Shore’s running game has been on fire behind Brian Miller in recent weeks while its defense has not allowed more than 13 points in any game all season. The pick: Shore.

No. 10 Brick (5-2, 4-1) at Lacey (5-2, 3-2), 2:30 p.m.

Analysis: Going into this game, Brick will either still be tied with Jackson Memorial for first place in the division or can clinch no worse than a tie for the title with a win over Lacey if Jackson loses to Southern on Friday night. The Green Dragons would also essentially put the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group IV on ice with a win. Meanwhile, Lacey can keep itself in position to potentially share the Class A South title depending on how things shake out, and will go a long way toward securing a first-round home game at the very least in South Jersey Group IV. The main intrigue is the health of Brick junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani, a dual threat who suffered a bruised shoulder and mild sprain in a win over Toms River North last week. Head coach Rob Dahl said he would be good to go this week, but it remains to be seen if he is anything resembling 100 percent. Lacey’s defense is coming off its worst performance in school history in a 62-44 loss to Jackson Memorial, so that unit will be out for redemption. It surrendered more than 500 yards rushing last week, so it has to get it together against a Brick team led by Sclafani and junior running back Ray Fattaruso. Lacey is going to put up points, led by the prolific senior tandem of quarterback Tom Kelly and wideout Christian Tutela, so this could be another wild one. The pick: Brick.