What to Watch For: Week 0
The 2018 New Jersey high school football season gets underway today with Week 0 games around the state, and 10 Shore Conference teams will play on opening weekend. It’s officially football season once again.
This is the most Shore Conference teams we’ve had playing in Week 0, so there’s a little more to get into than usual. Ok, there’s a lot more to get into because of one particular matchup. The Week 0 games have featured some decent matchups over the years, but nothing like Friday night when No. 1 Red Bank Catholic heads to Holmdel to take on No. 2 St. John Vianney in “The Holy War”. It’s been a long time since the top two teams in the Shore have met on opening weekend and it’s never happened in Week 0.
The season kicks off on Thursday with No. 3 Mater Dei hosting Pinelands and Middletown South heading across state lines to face Pennsylvania 6A power Coatesville. Our Jersey Mike’s Radio Game of the Week is Brick Memorial at Central on Friday night while Ocean hosts Lacey and reigning Central Jersey Group 4 champion Long Branch heads south to test its mettle against Hammonton.
Let’s get right into what to watch for in Week 0.
THE HOLY WAR
When the Shore Conference football schedule was released eyes immediately were drawn to the Week 0 matchup between Red Bank Catholic and St. John Vianney. Everyone knew they would be among the top teams in the Shore, and they are officially the top two in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10.
The Lancers and the Caseys are Non-Public Group 3 stalwarts. RBC won the championship in 2014 and the Lancers have reached the semifinals four straight seasons. There’s also plenty of recent history between the two teams. The programs met in Week 7 last season with St. John Vianney coming away with an impressive 35-17 victory on its way to finishing the season as the top-ranked team in the Shore. The Lancers have won three in a row in the rivalry series, taking a 41-21 victory in 2016 and squashing RBC, 49-6, in the 2015 state playoffs.
St. John Vianney will enter Friday night’s clash with a 38-game Shore Conference winning streak, as well. The Lancers’ last defeat at the hands of a Shore Conference team came via a 24-2 loss to Matawan in their final game of the 2013 season. It’s a different program now.
Another storyline is longtime Matawan head coach Joe Martucci now leading St. John Vianney. Martucci won five sectional titles with the Huskies and has much of his former coaching staff now with him at SJV. He’s looking to start his second high school coaching stint with a bang.
From the standpoint of returning starters, Red Bank Catholic has a clear advantage. The Caseys bring back multiple players on both sides of the ball, led by Boston College-bound senior quarterback Steve Lubischer and Notre Dame-bound junior tight end Kevin Bauman. Factor in wide receivers/defensive backs Jaden Key and M.J. Wright, two-way lineman Tommy Smith, tight end/linebacker Charlie Gordinier, fullbacks/linebackers John Columbia and Steve Cmielewski, running back Billy Guidetti, defensive end Gino Tartamella and safety Anthony Romano and it's clear the Caseys are loaded with experience. They also have one of the Shore’s top kicker, senior Ryan O’Hara.
St. John Vianney, on the other hand, is replacing a ton of starters on both sides of the ball, including linebacker Johnny Buchanan, who was the 2018 SSN Defensive Player of the Year and also a standout running back. The right side of the offensive line is stellar with 6-foot-5, 280-pound Rutgers recruit C.J. Hanson at tackle and First Team All-Shore selection Paul Liseno at guard. The Lancers also have 6-foot-6 tight end Andrew McGimpsey as a returning starter, but everyone else is new.
SJV does have a handful of transfers who should make an impact, including junior quarterback C.J. Duell and junior running back Kavon Chambers. Duell, a Toms River native, came from St. Joseph Prep in Philadelphia while Chamber ran for over 1,400 yards at Central Regional last season. The Lancers also have Don Bosco Prep transfer Damon Washington and Colonia transfer Jaden Duncan on the defensive side of the ball.
How it all plays out on Friday night is anyone’s guess. Red Bank Catholic has the advantage on paper, but it would be foolish to discount the Lancers considering it is they who own a conference winning streak spanning four years.
Our Jersey Mike’s Radio Game of the Week takes us to Bayville where Central will host Brick Memorial in a matchup of former Class A South rivals. Last season, the Golden Eagles and Mustangs shared the A South division title.
Brick Memorial has to replace its all-time leading rusher, Tony Thorpe, plus two-way standout Blaine Netterman and linebacker Grant McKelvey, among others, but bring back senior quarterback Tyler Sindel and an experienced offensive line.
Central was hit hard by graduation and also lost running back Kavon Chambers, who transferred to St. John Vianney. Senior wideout Darius Martorano leads the returning cast along with quarterback Joe Fowler. The Eagles also have senior Isaiah Johnston, a running back and defensive back who transferred in from Monroe.
THE REST OF WEEK 0
Pinelands at No. 3 Mater Dei Prep, 3 p.m. on Thursday: The Seraphs are the overwhelming favorite as they begin their quest for a third straight division title and another trip to a state championship game. Boston College-bound defenders Izaiah Henderson and Shittah Sillah, plus senior Russell Ferrisi, lead a stout defense while running back Malik Ingram and Camden Catholic quarterback transfer Rob McCoy Jr. pace the offense. The Wildcats are led by senior running back Evan Burton and senior quarterback Garrett Brown, and will debut a pistol offense after running the double wing for the last four seasons.
Middletown South at Coatesville (Pa.), 7 p.m. on Thursday: Senior linebacker Matt Tardy leads an Eagles team that hopes to return to its championship ways after going 5-5 in 2017. They have a big challenge in front of them in taking on Coatesville, which is one of the top 6A schools in Pennsylvania and features several FBS and FCS recruits.
No. 5 Long Branch at Hammonton, 7 p.m. on Friday
The reigning Central Jersey Group 4 champions are back to defend their title. Even though the Green Wave lost several standout players to graduation, they bring back a wealth of talent with junior running back Jermaine Corbett, senior quarterback Marc Dennis, senior lineman Kevin Cerruti and senior linebacker Luke Arnold, among others. They’ll face a stern test against the Blue Devils, who look to be one of South Jersey’s top Group 4 schools.
Lacey at Ocean, 7 p.m. on Friday: The Spartans bring back experience on both sides of the ball, including junior quarterback Robbie Nungesser, junior wideout Trebor Pena and senior running back/linebacker Ryan Moran as they look to rebound from a 2-8 season. Lacey lost many of its top players to graduation after going 7-3 last season, so the Lions are in transition as they try to compete in the Constitution Division.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.