What to Watch For: Week 2 Football Preview
The first full week of the Shore Conference football season saw three ranked teams go down, a new-look Shore Sports Network Top 10 and several noteworthy performances that set the tone for the entire year.
Week 2 brings more intriguing games, including a pair of divisional matchups between ranked teams. On Friday night, No. 5 Howell will host No. 7 Freehold in a massive Class A North showdown while No. 3 Red Bank Catholic welcomes No. 9 Middletown North to Count Basie Field. There’s a big one on Saturday in Ocean County when No. 10 Point Boro travels to Lacey for a crucial Class B South game.
Brick and Jackson Memorial square off on Friday in Class A South with the winner moving to 2-0 and keeping pace with Central atop the division. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, will look to move to 3-0 with a nondivisional game against Wall. Keyport and Asbury Park will tangle in a rematch of last season’s Central Jersey Group I championship game, and with both losing in Week 1 this is a big one to avoid an 0-2 start. The same goes for Brick Memorial and Toms River North, who will meet on Saturday afternoon.
We’ll take a look at all that and more right here in our Week 2 preview.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: WEEK 2
Howell has a gleaming new turf surface, but the grounds crew better make sure they have some extra bulbs ready to go for the scoreboard when the Rebels welcome No. 7 Freehold on Friday night.
Both teams were expected to be among the best offensive teams in the Shore Conference, and both got off to good starts in Week 1. Howell was a 34-6 winner over Colts Neck, while Freehold defeated Freehold Township, 46-20, to claim “The Duke”. Each team is led by dynamic quarterbacks that can take over a game at a moment’s notice.
Howell senior Eddie Morales threw for over 2,200 yards last season to help the Rebels reach the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV semifinals, and he began his senior season with 333 total yards and three touchdowns in the win over Colts Neck. He can beat teams with his legs and his arms, and he has a very good receiving corps led by senior Naseim Brantley, who is one of the Shore’s top wide receiver. Brantley had over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Week 1 win.
Freehold quarterback Ashante Worthy will threaten to set multiple records this season. Last season he didn’t play quarterback until Week 4, but once he was put in he took off, turning the Colonial’s season around after an 0-4 start and leading them to a playoff berth. All he did in the Week 1 win over Freehold Township was throw for 234 yards and three touchdowns and rush for 227 yards and a touchdown, combining for 461 yards.
Morales and Brantley steer the ship for Howell’s offense, but the Rebels also have Ryan Mazik and Pat Handy to spread out coverages. In the traditional run game, Howell just needs enough productive carries out of Nick Chambers to keep teams honest. If he has running room it really opens up the Rebels’ offense, but for him its more about moving the chains than needing him to run for over 100 yards every week.
Worthy is obviously the driving force for Freehold, but it’s the weapons around him that make him even more dangerous. Quincy Davis is a major target on the outside with his 6-foot-6 frame, as is 6-foot-3 junior Matt Krauss. With Freehold going with an empty backfield, five-wide receiver set on most plays, Worthy seems to have a run-pass option on every play. Worthy’s ability to create something out of nothing on the ground makes it seem like Freehold has 12 players on the field.
Defense probably won’t be the main focus of this game story, but each unit has a chance to have a major impact even in a high-scoring game. Each offense figures to put up a lot of points, so it could come down to which defense can come up with a timely stop or turnover in the fourth quarter.
Top-ranked Manalapan remains the favorite in the division, so the winner here will emerge as the main challenger to the Braves’ throne.
The Caseys’ Clout
Red Bank Catholic made a statement in Week 1 with a 47-10 victory over Middletown South, proving the program is back and ready to contend for championships yet again. Now we’ll find out of Middletown North can slow them down.
RBC looked as good as advertised against Middletown South. Senior running back Zack Bair was running through tackles on his way to a 162-yard game, junior quarterback Steve Lubischer flashed signs of brilliance and the offensive line dominated. On defense, senior safety Matt Ansell was a heat-seeking missile and senior defensive end Emmett McNamara wreaked havoc in the backfield. And not only were the Caseys good, they were fun to watch.
Middletown North authored an impressive 42-6 win over Neptune with several new starters on both sides of the ball. Running back Connor Welsh ran for over 100 yards and three scores and running back Connor Robbins added two scores of his own. Junior quarterback Sean Glenn has some massive shoes to fill in taking over for his record-setting brother, Donald, who is now a freshman at Wagner. He did everything that was asked of him in Week 1 by going 4-for-4 for 110 yards – all in the first half. Defensive linemen Austin Dewise, Nicko Cofone and Steven Holler, along with linebacker Stephen Barry, led the defensive effort in holding the Scarlet Fliers to six points.
On paper, it seems to be a tall order for Middletown North. Red Bank Catholic is as talented as any team in the Shore Conference and is full of confidence after last week’s win. If Middletown North can pull the upset it would turn the rankings on their ear and stamp the Lions as the favorite in Class B North.
Big Cat Brawl
It’s still very early in the season, but Saturday’s Class B South game between Point Boro and Lacey has the feel of a game that will decide the division title.
Point Boro entered the season as the division favorite coming off an 8-2 season and the B South division title in 2016. The Panthers took care of business in Week 1 with a 42-17 win over Pinelands where senior quarterback James Fara ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass.
Lacey has key veterans back this season, and opened with a 34-28 victory over Toms River South in a nondivisional game. The tandem of senior running back Jason Giresi and senior quarterback Coleton Klaus lead the way for Lacey’s offense, and both had big games against Toms River South as Giresi ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns and Klaus threw for 134 yards and a score and also ran for a touchdown. Senior Anthony Tobia also made key contributions with 90 yards rushing and a touchdown on just six carries.
Stopping Point Boro’s offense will be a challenge for Lacey, but one thing the Lions have going for them is they just played a Toms River South team that runs the same offense (triple option). They did, however, allow 28 points, and Point Boro’s offense with its current roster is much better. Still, playing against an option team is all about assignment football, and it can be difficult for teams to adjust if they don’t see the flexbone much. Lacey won’t have that to worry about this week.
Lakewood is still lurking, and if the Piners get healthy they will present a challenge, but the winner of this game will take a major step toward claiming the B South championship.
Dragons Head to the Jungle
Old rivals Jackson Memorial and Brick will meet on Friday night at John J. Munley Field. The Dragons will try to move to 2-0 and keep pace with Central in Class A South, while the Jaguars will look to announce themselves as a division title contender.
Brick is coming off a 27-7 victory over Brick Memorial where it looked good on both sides of the ball. The offense had many contributors, led by junior quarterback Jimmy Leblo and junior running back Joey Carchio. Leblo threw for 153 yards and a touchdown and Carchio had a pair of touchdown runs. Brick’s defense held Brick Memorial’s triple-option attack to just 140 total yards, led by junior linebacker Richie Tallmadge.
Brick is balanced on both sides of the ball with plenty of potential playmakers. Offensively, Leblo is the key because of his ability to make plays outside of the pocket and pick up yards on the ground.
Jackson eked out a 10-0 win over rival Jackson Liberty to give Vin Mistretta his first head-coaching victory. The Jaguars’ defense obviously got the job done in posting the shutout, but the offense couldn’t get anything going for most of the game. Justin Burkert’s 21-yard field goal was it for the Jaguars, as the game’s lone touchdown came on a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by John Ghinga. There figured to be some growing pains on offense in the post-Mike Gawlik era, and I think that’s we saw in Week 1.
Jackson’s offense certainly needs to get going, and that will be a challenge against a solid Brick defense. It looks like the Jaguars will have to win a low-scoring game, but anything is possible when these two programs meet.
The 0 Must Go
There are two games that stand this weekend featuring two teams which lost in Week 1: Brick Memorial vs. Toms River North in Class A South and Asbury Park vs. Keyport in Class B South.
Brick Memorial fell to Brick, 27-7, and couldn’t get its running game going in totally just 140 yards. The Mustangs have to get senior fullback Tony Thorpe going to put their offense back in sync. The Mariners, meanwhile, lost to Southern, 22-14, in a very tough opening game. Southern played in Week 0 and was coming off a crushing overtime loss to Central. The Rams have top-ranked Manalapan this week, so the game against Toms River North was huge to avoid a potential 0-3 start.
This is a separation game, as far as I’m concerned, where the winner remains in play for the division title and the loser finds itself in a position where it has to put together a big winning streak to have a shot at the playoffs.
The same is true for Asbury and Keyport. This was the Central Jersey Group I final last season, won by Asbury Park, 26-17. The Blue Bishops lost to Shore, 12-6 in overtime, in Week 1, while the Red Raiders were outscored by Point Beach, 31-24. Mater Dei remains the favorite to win Class B Central, and to have any hopes of at least tying for the division crown you can’t have more than one divisional loss before facing the Seraphs.
Given that Keansburg made the playoffs in this bracket last season with just two wins means neither Asbury Park or Keyport should be in danger of missing the playoffs with a loss, but this will most certainly have an impact on seeding come November.
THE REST OF WEEK 2
Colts Neck at Freehold Township: The Cougars and Patriots are both coming off Class A North losses in Week 1 and will try to get into the win column. Freehold Township junior quarterback Nick Reardon had a solid debut last week.
Matawan at Red Bank: The Huskies were bombarded by St. John Vianney, 69-7, while Red Bank lost a tough one to JFK-Iselin, 17-14 in overtime. One thing to watch is the return game as Matawan’s Devonte Spann and Red Bank’s Makai Mickens each had kickoff return touchdowns last week.
Raritan at No. 2 St. John Vianney: The Lancers put up 69 points and allowed just 14 total yards to Matawan last week. Raritan had a lot of trouble against the run, yielding 513 rushing yards to Rumson in a 56-13 loss.
Toms River East at Toms River South: Our Jersey Mike’s Radio Game of the Week features two teams trying to snap long losing streaks. Toms River East has lost 10 in a row dating back to last season and will try to give Kyle Sandberg his first head-coaching victory. Toms River South is mired in an eight-game losing streak.
Keansburg at Highland Park: The Titans will try to bounce back from a 26-0 loss to Mater Dei while the Owls will open their season after forfeiting to Bishop Ahr in Week 1.
Manchester at Jackson Liberty: The Hawks rallied for a big 22-15 win over Lakewood last week while the Lions fought hard in a 10-0 loss to Jackson Memorial.
No. 1 Manalapan at Southern: Southern rebounded nicely with a win over Toms River North last week, but has a huge challenge with an excellent Manalapan team traveling into Manahawkin. Manalapan running back Naim Mayfield averaged 26 yards per carry in the Braves’ win over Marlboro.
Wall at Central: The host Golden Eagles will try to move to 3-0 – and do it in regulation – after winning in overtime the last two weeks. Wall escaped with a 20-18 win over Ocean in Week 1.
Shore at Barnegat: The Blue Devils rallied past Asbury Park, 12-6 in overtime, last week while the Bengals used a big game from junior Sean Morris to defeat Donovan Catholic, 22-14.
Bishop Ahr at Point Beach: The Garnet Gulls ran for over 400 yards and had three 100-yard rushers in last week’s win over Keyport. This could be a power-point bonanza for Point Beach since Bishop Ahr is a Non-Public Group III school.
Middletown South at Ocean: An 0-2 Ocean team hosts a Middletown South group that is surely angry after last week’s 47-10 defeat at the hands of Red Bank Catholic.
Pinelands at Marlboro: Both teams had played their respective division favorites in Week 1 as Marlboro was shut out by Manalapan, 44-0, while Pinelands fell to Point Boro, 42-17. Pinelands Evan Burton and Marlboro’s Jonny Helff are two of the more underrated running backs in the Shore. Marlboro also had 6-foot-5 wide receiver Justin Marcus, one of the Shore’s best.
Metuchen at Monmouth: The Falcons are flying high at 2-0 and are looking for their first 3-0 start since 2010.
Woodbridge at Manasquan: The Warriors will try to avoid an 0-2 start against a Woodbridge team that is also coming off a Week 1 loss.
Holmdel at Spotswood: The Hornets will try to improve to 2-1 against a Spotswood team that lost to South River, 34-7, in Week 1.