What to Watch For: Week 5 Football Preview
As Week 5 of the Shore Conference football season gets set to kick off, we’ve reached the point where teams have separated themselves into tiers both within their respective divisions and on a conference-wide level. Games that will decide division championships and the march to the playoffs are squarely in focus, leaving us with many huge showdowns in the coming weeks.
On paper, Week 5 does not have many premier matchups, but there is one meeting between teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 as well as a few other important divisional clashes.
Let’s get right into it as we break down this weeks’ action.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: WEEK 5
Central at No. 9 Brick Memorial, Friday at 7 p.m.
The surging Mustangs will host the Golden Eagles in a Class A South game on Friday night in our Jersey Mike’s Game of the Week, which will be broadcast live on 92.7 WOBM and 1160/1310AM and streaming on ShoreSportsNetwork.com as well as the SSN App.
Brick Memorial entered the SSN Top 10 this week after a scintillating 22-21 double-overtime victory over previously-undefeated and defending North 2, Group IV champion Sayreville, so the Mustangs are riding high at 3-1. After losing to Brick in Week 1, Brick Memorial rattled off wins over Toms River North and Toms River South, but the win over a championship-caliber Sayreville team really signaled the Mustangs have returned to form after going 2-8 last season.
It’s all about the running game for Brick Memorial, which uses the flexbone triple-option attack under 11th-year head coach Walt Currie, and when the Mustangs having it operating at full tilt they are one of the most difficult offenses to deal with in the Shore Conference.
Brick Memorial has one of the conference’s best running backs in senior fullback Tony Thorpe, who is coming off a 172-yard, two-touchdown performance on 38 carries. Senior halfback Blaine Netterman is an explosive player on the perimeter and is averaging over 12 yards per carry. That tandem behind and improving offensive line has carried the Mustangs so far, while junior quarterback Tyler Sindel has played mostly mistake-free football. Sindel is doing a fine job managing the offense, but if he can start breaking some big runs and force teams to really account for all phases of the option the Mustangs’ offense will reach another level.
Another big reason for Brick Memorial’s success has been an improved defense. The Mustangs were near the bottom of the league last season allowing 30.1 points per game, but so far in 2017 they are allowing just 15.5 points per game and 170 total yards per game with one shutout.
Central had a bye in Week 4 and is coming off a 14-13 victory over Jackson Memorial in Week 3. The Golden Eagles’ are 3-1 with their only loss coming in a nondivisional game to No. 10 Wall. Central has lived on the edge this season with all three of its victories being decided by six points or less, including two one-point wins and two overtime games.
Central’s pro-style offense has been almost exclusively driven by sophomore running back Kavon Chambers. In four games this season Chambers has rushed for 667 yards and eight touchdowns. Central has only passed for 168 yards and zero touchdowns this season, so it’s been Chambers or bust for the Eagles.
The Eagles’ defense has been solid, and even provided points in the win over Jackson as Jonathan Banks’ 45-yard interception return for a touchdown ended up as the winning score.
The keys for each team are pretty straight forward. Whichever unit can control the line of scrimmage and assert its will in the running game will probably come out on top. Limiting turnovers will be big, especially for Brick Memorial since the triple-option can become a fumble-prone offense just because of the nature of how the ball is distributed. Although Brick Memorial did rally from a 14-0 deficit last week, neither team is built to come from behind.
A win here by Brick Memorial puts them in great playoff position in Central Jersey Group IV, and the same can be said for Central in South Jersey Group IV. Central is also trying to keep pace with Brick, as the two are currently tied for first place in A South.
Crosstown rival Brick won’t exactly have the green and gold pompoms out, but the Dragons will be pulling for Brick Memorial since a win would leave Brick all alone in first place.
No. 10 Wall at No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, Friday at 7 p.m.
The lone top-10 battle of the week pits the Crimson Knights against the juggernaut Caseys at Count Basie Field.
Wall entered the Top 10 following a 21-14 loss to Long Branch. Yes, that sounds odd, but it was a tough week for finding one last team to rank and the Crimson Knights had the best resume despite the loss to the No. 7 Green Wave. Red Bak Catholic, meanwhile, is rolling along after a 49-12 win over Colonia.
The Caseys are looking every bit the behemoth they were predicted to be in the preseason, averaging over 50 points per game and winning each game by an average of 35 points. The offensive playmakers are RBC’s disposal seem endless, but it starts with standout senior running back Zack Bair. Last week Bair was unconscious with 246 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns on just five touches. The Caseys also have senior Nick Brusca and sophomore Billy Guidetti behind an offensive line that has been outstanding thus far.
Junior quarterback Steve Lubischer has emerged as one of the Shore’s best this season, and he has no shortage of targets with wide outs Brandon Lombana, Jaden Key and Matt Ansell and 6-foot-6 sophomore tight end Kevin Bauman, who is an FBS recruit and just picked up an offer from Virginia. Lubischer is also a threat to run, giving the Caseys yet another dimension opposing defenses have to worry about.
Senior defensive end Emmett McNamara, a University of Virginia recruit, along with Ansell at safety, have been among the leaders of a defense that has allowed 15.8 points per game. Outside of a wild 60-41 win over Middletown North, RBC’s defense has been lights out.
Wall till try to pull the major upset behind an offense centered around quarterback Eddie Scott and running back’s Chevesse Covin and Brady McNally. Scott is a dynamic quarterback who can beat teams with his arm and his legs, and is a veteran presence as a three-year starter. Covin is the breakaway threat in the backfield while McNally is more of a between-the-tackles runner.
Senior linebacker Tim McKernan leads a Wall defense tasked with finding some way to slow down RBC’s freight train of an offense.
Middletown South at No. 7 Long Branch, Friday at 7 p.m.
This is a classic B North/Central Jersey Group III matchup from yesteryear, pitting the host undefeated Green Wave against the 2-2 Eagles.
Long Branch is coming off a 21-14 victory over Wall where its running game did most of the damage. Sophomore running back Jermaine Corbett has started to break out with consecutive 100-yard games, one of which was 250 yards, and had two touchdowns in the win. Senior Marc Dennis got the start at quarterback and ran for 130 yards and also threw a touchdown to senior tight end Kaymar Mimes;
Corbett’s emergence is huge for a Long Branch offense that had high expectations coming into the season, but most of that was centered around the passing game. Quarterback Juwan Wilkins and receivers T.J. Fosque, Pasa Fields, Kevin Porch and Matt Clark, along with Mimes at tight end, were going to be a load to handle. Head coach Dan George was high on Corbett in the preseason, and those thoughts have been proven right so far. With both aspects of their offense going, Long Branch gives opposing defenses a lot to think about.
This is a big game for Long Branch to remain undefeated and keep pace with Red Bank Catholic atop Class B North, but it’s an even bigger game for a Middletown South team that is 2-2 and fighting for a playoff spot. The Eagles were shut out by Rumson-Fair Haven last week, 35-0, so they are seeking a bounce-back performance.
Middletown South’s defense is its unquestioned strength with All-Shore senior linebacker Jake Krellin along with Adam Markman, Matt Tardy, Chris Patterson and Jake Bancala. The question mark for the Eagles has been an offense that is averaging just 12 points per game. There needs to be more productivity and consistency on that side of the ball, and the Eagles need it to start this week to avoid falling under .500.
Lacey at Lakewood, Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
This is a crossroads game for both Lacey and Lakewood. Lacey comes in at 2-2 after last week’s 14-13 loss to Jackson Liberty on a failed 2-point conversion attempt with three seconds left. The Piners had a bye last week and are 1-2 following Week 3’s 32-29 victory over Jackson Liberty.
Lakewood has been besieged by injuries this season, including to its standout quarterback, Zyheir Jones. Injured in the preseason, Jones returned in Week 3 to have a big game on both sides of the ball in the in over Liberty. With another week of rest during the bye, Jones should be even healthier and more explosive on Saturday. He is the driving force for the Piners’ offense, as without him Lakewood scored just 15 points in two games, including a 28-0 shutout loss to Donovan Catholic.
THE REST OF WEEK 5
No. 5 Howell at Neptune: The undefeated Rebels (4-0) are ranked in the NJ.com Top 20 and are the heavy favorite against a winless Scarlet Fliers (0-3) squad.
Holmdel at No. 2 St. John Vianney: The Hornets are having a nice turnaround season at 3-2 but have a tall order against the undefeated Lancers.
Matawan at No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven: Matawan fell to Ocean, 27-20, last week to fall to 1-3, while Rumson is picking up steam after a 35-0 win over Middletown South upped its record to 3-0.
Toms River North at Toms River East: In a major reversal from last season it’s the Raiders that enter at 2-2 after a 42-28 victory over Manchester gave them their first winning streak since 2014. The Mariners, meanwhile, are 0-4 following consecutive 11-1 seasons.
Jackson Memorial at Southern: The Rams (1-3) are in a must-win situation coming off their bye week while the Jaguars (2-2) will look to move above .500 following last week’s 28-7 win over Toms River South.
No. 4 Mater Dei Prep at Shore: The Seraphs look to win their 15th straight game while the host Blue Devils try to pull the upset after last week’s great defensive performance against Bishop Ahr.
Manchester at No. 8 Point Boro: The Hawks have lost two in a row following a 2-0 start and have to go on the road against the undefeated Panthers, who are coming off a 13-3 win over Monmouth Regional behind an outstanding defense.
Barnegat at Jackson Liberty: The visiting Bengals return to Class B South play after suffering their first loss of the season, 27-0, to Manasquan in a nondivisional game. Jackson Liberty earned its first win of the season with a thrilling 14-13 victory over Lacey.
Pinelands at Donovan Catholic: Both the Wildcats (1-3) and Griffins (1-3) are coming off losses and will try to climb back up the B South standings.
Marlboro at East Brunswick: The Mustangs won a 20-14 overtime thriller against Colts Neck last week and will look parlay that momentum into a win over the Bears (0-3).
New Brunswick at Middletown North: The Lions return from their bye week at 1-2 and looking to make a run starting with a game with the Zebras (1-3). Middletown North’s losses are to No. 3 RBC and No. 5 Howell.
Freehold Township at Perth Amboy: The Patriots will try to start the season 5-0 for the second straight year when they take on the Panthers (1-2).
Keyport at Middlesex: Sectional finalists a season ago, the Red Raiders (0-4) are still looking for their first win of the season. They have a tough game once again on the road against the Blue Jays (3-1).
No. 1 Manalapan at Colts Neck: The Braves (4-0) head to Colts Neck (0-4) where they’ll look to remain perfect following a 55-21 win over Freehold.
Raritan at Monmouth: The Rockets picked up their first win of the season last week while Monmouth suffered its first loss of the year, 13-3 to Point Boro.
Brick at Toms River South: Both teams are coming off losses last week, Brick 42-0 to St. John Vianney and Toms River South, 28-7, to Jackson Memorial. Brick looks to be without injured quarterback/defensive back Jimmy Leblo.
Point Beach at Keansburg: The Garnet Gulls (3-1) will try to bounce back after falling to Middlesex last week, while the Titans (2-2) are feeling good after a 14-13 win over Pinelands for the program’s first victory over a Shore Conference team since 2012.
Monroe at Freehold: This was the game where Freehold quarterback Ashante Worthy took off last season. The Colonials are 1-3 and desperately need a win over the Falcons (1-3) to have a chance at the postseason.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.