What To Watch For: Thanksgiving Games
The Thanksgiving Day football schedule around the Shore Conference is not the large slate it used to be, but there are still a few pivotal games on Turkey Day that will pique the interest of fans.
There will be 18 teams in action this week and eight games on Thanksgiving. Pinelands will visit Barnegat on Wednesday night as the teams conclude their season. Five teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 will be in action and a four of those teams plus Raritan will play for NJSIAA state sectional championships next Saturday.
The Thanksgiving games are also a chance for seniors to end their careers on top and create some lasting memories, especially for those who will not be playing football in college. The season will be over for all but nine teams after this week. Then it’s on to the NJSIAA sectional championships where Middletown South, Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, Rumson, Red Bank, Raritan, Shore, Toms River North and St. John Vianney will try to bring home titles.
Here’s what to watch for on Turkey Day. Also, we wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all the Shore Conference football fans, coaches, parents and players out there and want to say thanks for all your support of Shore Sports Network this season.
The marquee game on Thanksgiving week is undoubtedly Rumson-Fair Haven hosting Shore at 11 a.m. at Borden Stadium. The Bulldogs are 9-1 and will be playing for their third straight sectional title, while the Blue Devils are 10-0 and going for their second straight Central Jersey Group I title and seventh state title overall. Rumson is ranked No. 6 in the latest Shore Sports Network Top 10 and Shore is No. 7
With both teams playing in sectional finals the following weekend it’s fair to wonder how hard they will go in their pursuit of what is essentially a regular-season victory. Rumson and Shore are bitter rivals in every sport, however, and there wasn’t any mass resting of players in last year’s game to make you think it won’t be business as usual on Thursday morning. Shore won last season’s meeting 13-0 in the inaugural Thanksgiving matchup for its first win over Rumson since 2008. The Blue Devils are undefeated this season, so finishing 12-0 is a big carrot dangling in front of them. Rumson would certainly love to enter its Central Jersey Group III final against Red Bank off a win, especially over its biggest rival.
Both teams feature standout defenses that will try to hold down great rushing attacks. Shore has the conference’s No. 1 scoring defense at 5 points per game while Rumson is third allowing just 7.3 points per game. Shore features standout linebacker Doug Goldsmith, who has over 100 tackles this season, plus 6-foot-4 senior outside linebacker Connor Rempel along. The Blue Devils have a strong defensive line with hulking tackle Steve Fiumefreddo and ends Erik Graham and Jeremy Radaelli. Sophomore defensive end Mike Rosati has a team-high eight sacks. Shore has recorded two straight shutouts and has not allowed more than a touchdown in any game this season.
Shore’s Delaware Wing-T offense has battered opposing teams to the tune of 36.5 points per game, which is third in the conference. Goldsmith has twice as many carries as any other Blue Devils running back and will enter Thursday’s game with 800 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior running back Jack Britton has been a game-breaking threat after missing all of last season with multiple injuries. On just 68 carries Britton has rushed for a team-best 830 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging an absurd 12.2 yard per carry. Seniors Alex Johnson and Devin McLaughlin, and junior quarterback Matt Pennel will also get carries.
Rumson has its own shut-down defense led by junior linebacker Mike Ruane and senior linebacker Max Pfrang. Ruane is one of the top linebackers in the Shore Conference with 114 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Pfrang is the field general, an extension of head coach Bryan Batchler and defensive coordinator Jerry Schulte. Junior Mike Murdock comes in with 81 tackles, Liam Adams has team-best seven sacks and Mike Caruso leads the secondary with three interceptions. The Bulldogs have recorded three shutouts this season.
Like Shore, Rumson is a run-heavy team with junior quarterback Mike O’Connor and junior running backs Bryan Hess and Matt Veccharelli. O’Connor has a team-high 868 yards rushing and eight touchdowns and has also thrown for 516 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hess has 736 yards and seven touchdowns on 101 and Veccharelli has 695 yards and seven touchdowns on 133 carries. The main weapon in the passing game is senior John Kingdon, but sophomore Elijah McAllister represents a matchup problem with his 6-foot-6 frame and leaping ability. The Bulldogs have a top-10 offense in the Shore Conference, averaging 28.6 points per game.
Division Titles On the Line
Middletown South, the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference and New Jersey, hosts Middletown North for the second straight week before turning its attention to the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV championship. The Eagles defeated the Lions 41-14 in the playoff semifinals behind a 225-yard, four-touchdown performance from senior running back Cole Rogers.
Middletown South (10-0) can clinch the outright Class A North division title with a victory, which would be its first division championship since claiming the now-defunct Federal Division crown in 2009.
Middletown North (7-3) has not won this game since 2000 and remains a big underdog. The Lions have a prolific passing game with junior quarterback Donald Glenn (1,854 yards and 16 TDs) and junior wide receiver Brendan Kube (58 rec., 997 yards and 6 TDs), and Glenn put up 272 yards and a touchdown last week. Kube will likely go over 1,000 receiving yards for the season as the Shore Conference’s leading pass catcher.
Rogers has run for 1,314 yard and 19 touchdowns for Middletown South despite missing one game. Senior quarterback Matt Mosquera has been efficient all season with 1,238 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in nine of 10 games. Junior running back James McCarthy has just 56 carries this season, but is averaging 10.4 yards every touch and has scored 15 touchdowns.
Middletown South’s defense needs no introduction as one of the best units in the state. The Eagles have recorded four shutouts and allow just 6.6 points per game. Senior linebacker Dylan Rogers is among New Jersey’s best defenders, and juniors McCarthy and Kevin Higgins help form a fearsome trio of linebackers.
Red Bank will host Long Branch where it can lock up the outright Class B North title. The Bucs are in the midst of a historic season and can make it their best ever with wins in their final two games. Red Bank has not won a division title since 1977. The Bucs will then turn their attention to the Central Jersey Group III state championship where they will face Ridge Road rival Rumson-Fair Haven. Red Bank’s last state title came in 1975, capped by a legendary 46-44 win over Hightstown. Red Bank has never finished 12-0.
The Bucs have a balanced offense with senior quarterback Jack Navitsky over 1,000 yards passing and 400 yard rushing, senior running back Alim Godsey over 850 yards rushing and senior do-it-all force Sadiq Palmer close to 1,000 total yards between receiving and rushing. Palmer, a Syracuse recruit, had all three touchdowns in the Bucs’ 21-14 win over Ocean in the sectional semifinals.
Red Bank’s defense is also among the Shore’s best, allowing 8.9 points per game.
Long Branch (3-6) has just one win over a Shore Conference team this season, and that was a 6-0 victory over Colts Neck (2-8). The Green Wave will lean on junior running back Keith Cooper (898 yards, 8 TDs) as it tries to pull the upset and spoil Red Bank’s undefeated season.
More to watch:
-Raritan at Holmdel, 10 a.m.: The Rockets (5-5) will look to keep their momentum going after pulling a pair of upsets to reach the Central Jersey Group II final. Raritan leads the “Battle of the Boarder” series 5-2. Holmdel (1-7) has not played since a 41-0 loss to Rumson on Nov. 6 because it cancelled its consolation game with Barnegat due to injuries.
-Neptune at Asbury Park, 10 a.m.: Asbury Park (6-3 will try to end a resurgent season under first-year head coach Tim Fosque by beating the rival Scarlet Fliers (3-6) for the “Friendship Trophy”. The Blue Bishops bounced back from a 2-8 season to make the playoffs and also contend for the Class B Central title. The Scarlet Fliers are having a down year with a young team, but have also played a rugged schedule with losses Ocean, Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank and Toms River North. They a re coming off a 56-16 win over Hightstown in their consolation game.
-Ocean at Monmouth, 10:30 a.m.: After falling to Red Bank 21-14 in the Central Jersey Group III semifinals, the Spartans (8-2) will look to end their season on a high note against the Falcons (5-4). Ocean won last season’s meeting 21-14 and lead the all-time series 18-2.
-Manasquan at Wall, 11 a.m.: Manasquan (3-6) and Wall (3-6) square off in what is usually the Thanksgiving game that draws the biggest crowd. Buy a 50-50 ticket if you go. You can listen to the action live on 1160/1310 a.m. and streaming right here on our site.
-Toms River South at Lakewood, 11 a.m.: This will be the 96th meeting between the Indians (4-5) and Piners (6-3) on Thanksgiving in the Shore’s oldest rivalry. Toms River South was expected to have a down season after graduating several start player, but started 4-1 before a brutal stretch of games against Jackson Memorial, Brick Memorial, Brick and Hammonton. Lakewood will share the Class B South championship with Point Boro, its first since 2000, and is trying to close the season strong after two straight losses. Lakewood senior Amir Tyler, one of the Shore’s best all-around players, concludes his career.