Week Six Football Picks
Last week was one of my most mediocre prognostication weeks of the season, so it’s time to start rounding into playoff form as we head into the second half of the season.
As far as division title races go, the Central at Barnegat game is a big one in Class B South this week, while Lacey, Jackson Memorial and Brick look to remain unbeaten in Class A South in a free-for-all for that championship.
The rest of the games primarily feature teams jockeying to secure playoff berths and/or home games and high seeds in the postseason. For this edition, I will list a player on each team to watch who you may not know about. Let’s get to it.
Note: Friday's Central at Barnegat game will be live on 105.7 f.m. and streaming live on 1057thehawk.com.
Last week: 13-4
Central (3-1, 3-0) at No. 7 Barnegat (4-0, 3-0), 7 p.m.
Central player to watch - Jesse Brown, Sr., DL: He already has 50 tackles and 3 sacks in four games, and he will have to play big against Barnegat’s imposing offensive line as the Bengals go to work with A.J. Opre and Co. in the running game. This is a chance to really put his name out there among the Shore’s best. Barnegat player to watch – Ricky Gerena, Jr., DB: Gerena is tied for the Shore Conference lead with three interceptions in five games. He and the Bengals’ secondary will be tested by the Central passing attack led by senior quarterback Marquis Drumright and top wideout Isaiah Akers. The pick: Barnegat.
Pinelands (1-4, 1-2) at Msgr. Donovan (2-2, 2-1), 6:30 p.m.
Pinelands player to watch – Mike Yak, Jr., LB: Yak is among the team leaders in tackles and has two forced fumbles this season. He will need to spearhead the run defense against a Griffins team that has big-play ability with senior quarterback Vinny Grasso and senior halfback Joey Fields. Monsignor Donovan player to watch – Matt Post, Jr., LB: Post has nearly 20 more tackles than anyone else on the team, so he is a defensive leader who looks to help the Griffins stifle the Pinelands’ running game. He also looks to help Mon Don get head coach Dan Duddy his 100th career win with a victory here. The pick: Msgr. Donovan.
No. 2 Manalapan (4-0) at East Brunswick (1-3), 7 p.m.
Manalapan player to watch – Matt McCann, Sr., LB: While Chris Noesges understandably gets plenty of acclaim at linebacker for the Braves, McCann is a star in his own right. He had 14 tackles last week against Jackson Memorial and has been a playmaker all season. Not only that, he plays big in big games. As a junior, he had a huge fumble recovery to seal a win over Middletown South and also had an interception in the state final against South Brunswick. He forms a fearsome tandem with Noesges. The pick: Manalapan.
Holmdel (1-4, 0-2) at No. 1 Red Bank Catholic (5-0, 3-0), 7 p.m.
Holmdel player to watch - Kyle Rooney, Jr., DL: Rooney has 5.5 sacks and has quietly emerged as a force up front for the Hornets. He will face his most difficult task this week against an imposing RBC offensive line. Red Bank Catholic player to watch - Shawn McCord, Sr., DE. McCord has 5.5 sacks of his own and is one of the most relentless pass rushers in the Shore. He is part of a Caseys' defense that has three shutouts in five games. The pick: RBC.
No. 9 Middletown South (2-2, 1-1) at Freehold Township (1-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.
Middletown South player to watch - Pat Crowe, Jr., TE/DE: Crowe is a big target at tight end and also is part of a tough defensive front for the Eagles at defensive end. Freehold Township player to watch: Dan Weissman, Sr., LB. Leads the team in tackles and sacks, and will have to play big against the run game and covering receivers in space against a Middletown South team that will be eager to get back on track after a lop-sided loss to Manasquan last week. The pick: Middletown South.
No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0, 2-0) at Raritan (1-4, 1-2), 7 p.m.
Rumson-FH player to watch – Tom Martello, Sr., LB: He has been a tackling machine this year and one of the top linebackers in the Shore as an anchor of one of the conference’s top defenses. Offenses have to find a way to get a body on him because if he is allowed to run in space, he is everywhere making tackles. Raritan player to watch: James Wines, Sr., WR. Quietly among the Shore Conference leaders in catches, he will look to be a primary target for Riley Sullivan as the Rockets try to pull the upset. The pick: Rumson-FH.
Toms River North (0-4, 0-3) at Brick Memorial (3-2, 1-2), 7 p.m.
Toms River North player to watch – R.J. Bromell, Sr., WR: He only has eight catches this season, but he averages 22 yards per catch. He is a big-play threat the Mariners need to help stretch the field and get their offense on track. Brick Memorial player to watch: Jake Lombardo, Sr., LB. A run stuffer who also gets after the quarterback, Lombardo is one of the Shore’s best. He looks to lead the Mustangs’ front in bottling up the Toms River North running game and dumping the Mariners into a rare 0-5 hole. The pick: Brick Memorial.
No. 10 Brick (4-1, 3-0) at Toms River East (1-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.
Brick player to watch – James Juliano, Jr., LB: Fellow junior Ray Fattaruso rightfully receives plenty of headlines, but Juliano has been outstanding this season. He leads the team with 61 tackles and has 5 tackles for a loss. They will need him in this game to help contain standout Toms River East running back Matt Gudzak and keep the Green Dragons on pace for a high seed in Central Jersey Group IV while also staying at the front of the pack in Class A South. Toms River East player to watch: Dom Spalletta, Sr., RB. Spalletta only has 10 carries this season, but he is averaging 13.9 yards per carry and has a pair of touchdowns. Load up on Gudzak, and Spalletta is capable of breaking big runs to the outside. The pick: Brick.
Matawan (2-2, 1-2) at Wall (3-2, 2-1), 7 p.m.
Matawan player to watch – Aliem Shaw, So., LB: In his first year as a starter, Shaw has been a disruptive force and looks like the next great Huskies linebacker in a long line of them. He has eight sacks in only four games, and leads the team with 34 tackles. His main job will be slowing down Pete Miceli and Wall’s running game to keep the Huskies on pace for a state playoff berth. Wall player to watch: Jeff Horwitz, Sr., DL. A disruptive player up front, Horowitz has 5 ½ sacks this season and will look to make it difficult for the Huskies to get anything going in the running game as the Crimson Knights look to go a long way toward securing a playoff berth of their own. The pick: Matawan.
Point Boro (0-5, 0-3) at Manchester (0-5, 0-3)
Point Boro player to watch - Gene Francheschini, So., DB: He leads the team with a pair of interceptions and should get plenty of work in this game with Manchester’s weapons in the passing game, as seniors Devin Tomei and Kashaun Barnes alternate between being playmaking quarterbacks and wideouts. Manchester player to watch: Amani Richardson, Sr., RB. Richardson is among the Shore Conference leaders with 450 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in five games and is a threat to break one on any play. He looks to get the Hawks into the win column in a game where the winner will pick up its first victory of the season. The pick: Manchester.
South River (4-1) at Keyport (4-1), noon
Keyport player to watch: Drew Bright, Sr., OL/DL. Keyport has been tough up front defensively, and Bright has been an important reason why. He is a standout lineman in a division that has some good ones. He is part of a Red Raiders team trying to win its fifth straight game that really needs this one in its quest to qualify in Central Jersey Group II. The pick: Keyport.
No. 8 Manasquan (4-1, 2-1) at Monmouth (2-2, 1-1), 12:30 p.m.
Manasquan player to watch – Monte Sinisi, Sr., OL/DL: Sinisi has had a strong season up front on both sides of the ball and has anchored the defensive line. He has four sacks and is tough to move up front, so he will look to disrupt Monmouth’s zone read running attack as the Warriors look to keep the momentum going after a big win over Middletown South last week. Monmouth player to watch – Isaiah Searight, Jr., RB/QB/DB: Searight is a versatile offensive threat who also has good speed in the secondary. He will have to have a strong game on both sides of the ball for the Falcons to pull an upset. The pick: Manasquan.
St. John Vianney (1-3) at No. 4 Colts Neck (4-0), 1 p.m.
St. John Vianney player to watch – Louis Thompson, Sr., LB: Thompson leads the team with 42 tackles and has to play well in run support for the Lancers to find a way to slow down Colts Neck tailback Anthony Gargiulo and a physical offensive line. Colts Neck player to watch – Christian Sanchez, Jr., QB: A big question this season was going to be replacing school-record-setting passer Mike Campbell, but between rushing and passing, Sanchez already has 682 yards and five touchdowns in four games on a team that has the Shore’s leading rusher in Gargiulo. The pick: Colts Neck.
Middletown North (0-4, 0-2) at Marlboro (0-4, 0-3), 1 p.m.
Middletown North player to watch – Jake Betkowski, Sr., WR: Betkowski is quietly right among the Shore leaders with 20 catches for 261 yards. Both of these teams have struggled offensively, so someone is going to have to step up and make plays in a game where the winning team will get its first victory of the season. Marlboro player to watch – Brian Prestigiacomo, Sr., DB: He has a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble this season, and he will need to have a solid game in the secondary given the fact that Middletown North has thrown the ball 103 times in four games this season (25.8), one of the highest rates in the Shore. The pick: Middletown North.
Red Bank (0-4, 0-2) at Neptune (2-3, 1-2), 1 p.m.
Red Bank player to watch – Mario Williams, Sr., DB. Williams has had a solid season on defense and will be needed in run support on the perimeter against a Neptune team that has some weapons on the edge. Neptune player to watch: Hunter Daly, Jr., K/P. Daly has been an important addition on a Neptune team that is not as explosive as in the past two seasons. However, when the Scarlet Fliers have a drive stall in the red zone, they still have a chance to put up points thanks to Daly. The pick: Neptune.
Howell (2-2) at St. Joseph-Metuchen (5-0), 1 p.m.
Howell player to watch – Nate Litowsky, Sr., RB: Also a talented wrestler, Litowsky had close to 200 total yards last week against Toms River East, including the rare big game on the ground for the passing-based Rebels with 161 yards and two touchdowns. They will need him to help control the clock against a St. Joseph’s team that is on the rise in the infancy of its varsity program. The pick: St. Joseph-Metuchen.
Southern (2-2, 1-2) at No. 3 Lacey (5-0, 3-0), 1 p.m.
Southern player to watch – Pat Walker, So., LB: Walker leads the team in tackles as a sophomore with 33 and will have to be on his game against a versatile Lacey offense. The Lions put stress on opposing linebackers by making them cover and tackle in space with their high-percentage passing game, so Walker will be key. Lacey player to watch - Sean Frank, Sr., LB. Walker’s counterpart on Lacey is Frank, who leads the team with 36 tackles and has helped compensate for the loss of talented sophomore Jake Post, who has missed two games due to injury. Lacey has had trouble stopping opposing running games, so Southern will look to pound the Lions with Rob Yaiser and Co. The defense needs to step up to put Southern in obvious passing downs so they can’t get too many one-on-ones with Mike Gesicki in the passing game. Lacey coach Lou Vircillo is also looking to pass Vic Kubu for second all-time in Shore Conference history with his 264th win, so there will be some extra adrenaline on the home side. The pick: Lacey.
Freehold (0-4, 0-2) at Long Branch (4-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.
Freehold player to watch – Josh Dixon, Jr., RB: Dixon hasn’t really been able to kick it into gear yet because Freehold has struggled in the passing game, allowing teams to load the box. This will be another formidable test against a rugged Long Branch defense that has only given up one touchdown all season. Long Branch player to watch – Connor Mullan, Sr., LB: Mullan had some of the biggest shoes to fill of anyone in the Shore in replacing star linebacker Joscil Jackson, but he has been a menace so far on one of the Shore’s top units. He has a team-high 58 tackles and looks to help the Green Wave make it five wins in a row heading into a huge game against Ocean next week. The pick: Long Branch.
Pt. Beach (4-1, 2-0) at Keansburg (1-4, 0-1), 1 p.m.
Point Beach player to watch – Michael Frauenheim, Jr., RB/DB: The team’s second-leading rusher with 261 yards and a top player on defense with 25 tackles and a team-high three interceptions, he has stepped into a prominent role this season. He sealed last week’s win over Asbury Park with an interception at Point Beach’s 5-yard line. Keansburg player to watch – Kason Preston, Sr., RB. Preston is averaging 10.4 yards a carry so far in amassing 427 yards, so he will look to get outside and use his speed to make some plays in order for the Titans to stay right with the defending Class B Central champs. The pick: Point Beach.
Asbury Park (2-2, 1-2) at Mater Dei (3-2, 1-2), 1 p.m.
Asbury Park player to watch: William Wells, Sr., LB. Unlike flashier offensive teams at Asbury Park in recent years, this team is built on its defense. Wells is the leader with 47 tackles and looks to be all over the field as the Blue Bishops try to bottle up Mater Dei’s speed on the perimeter to continue their march toward a state playoff berth. Mater Dei Prep player to watch – Tysaun White, Jr., RB/DB: White is an explosive playmaker who had two touchdowns of more than 80 yards last week on defense and special teams. He will need to break a few against a stingy Asbury Park defense to help the Seraphs stay right in the game. The pick: Asbury Park.
Jackson Liberty (1-3, 1-2) at Lakewood (3-1, 2-1), 1 p.m.
Jackson Liberty player to watch – Matt Castronuova, Jr., WR/DB. Castronuova is known as a standout, but he is putting together a brilliant season on defense. He has 52 tackles, and 42 of them are solo, which is crazy. He will need to be good against the run against a Piners team featuring Chapelle Cook in the backfield. Lakewood player to watch – Amir Tyler, So., RB/LB. Only a sophomore, he is the team’s second-leading rusher and a playmaker on defense. The pick: Lakewood.
Jackson Memorial (3-1, 3-0) at Toms River South (2-2, 1-2), 7 p.m.
Jackson Memorial player to watch – Vinny Celidonio, Sr., LB. While Ken Bradley is an established star, Celidonio is also having a strong season and combines with Bradley for a fearsome duo, especially against the run. He is second on the team in tackles, and he and Bradley will be crucial against an explosive Toms River South running game. Toms River South player to watch – Russell Messler, Sr., RB/LB/K: Having Messler, a Rutgers baseball recruit, back in the lineup full time after a knee injury could be the missing ingredient for an Indians defense that has struggled against opposing running attacks. If he can give that unit a boost in addition to his kicking ability and helping out in the run game, this could be a different team down the stretch. The pick: Jackson Memorial.