What to Watch For: Week Two
Now that the Week One games have been completed we are officially off and running in the 2015 Shore Conference football season.
Last week saw several standout wins and individual performances from around the Shore. Top-ranked Middletown South was extremely impressive in rallying from an 18-point deficit to beat South Brunswick 41-21. No. 4 St. John Vianney held off No. 10 Matawan in a key Class A Central battle, while No. 9 Brick sent a message with a 36-6 win over Brick Memorial in A South. Ocean and running back Tyler Thompson showed their offensive punch in a 34-28 win over Neptune in B North, Lakewood an Amir Tyler ran past Central 40-34 and Raritan won for the first time ever on Manasquan’s home field.
It’s too early for any team to start panicking, but the sense of urgency is definitely up a few notches for some 0-1 teams. No. 10 Matawan will visit No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven, which opens its season after a Week One bye, trying to avoid an 0-2 start. Brick Memorial welcomes No. 3 Toms River North for as close to a must-win game as you can have in Week Two. There is also an interesting game in Class A North between Freehold and Howell, which are both 1-0.
Here are some things to watch for this weekend:
The 0 Must Go.
When Matawan heads to Rumson for Friday night’s Class A Central game it will do so without starting quarterback George Pearson, but with the hopes of avoiding an 0-2 start for the second straight season.
Matawan head coach John Kaye confirmed earlier this week that Pearson is out indefinitely with a hip pointer. Junior Jake Burlew stepped in to start during a Week One loss to St. John Vianney and played well. The left-hander ran for a pair of touchdowns and also went 7-for-9 for 110 through the air.
As Matawan proved last season, starting 0-2 isn’t a ticket to mediocrity. The Huskies lost to both St. John Vianney and Rumson to start the 2014 season, but went 8-2 the rest of the way en route to winning the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III title. Still, it’s most a situation they would like to avoid, not to mention that a win over Rumson still keeps them alive for a share of the division title.
The combination of Burlew and senior running back Makiya Ceasar will try to get the ground game going after mustering just 106 yards on 34 carries last week against St. John Vianney. Burlew was very efficient in the passing game and had some chemistry with senior wide receiver Shawn Ramcheran, who caught three passes for 42 yards.
The Huskies defense was and will continue to be led by senior linebacker Aliem Shaw, who had nine tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack against St. John Vianney.
This will be Rumson’s first game of the season and the first chance to get a look at the Michael O’Connor-led Bulldogs offense. The junior quarterback was the secondary option behind running back Charlie Volker last season, but will the the main threat for Rumson’s offense. He ran for 912 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing for 485 yards and seven touchdowns. O’Connor is a dangerous runner, and could be even better in the passing game this year with 6-foot-6 sophomore wide receiver Elijah McAllister.
Rumson should be defensively sound again with senior linebacker Max Pfrang and junior linebacker Mike Ruane leading the way. Ruane is the leading returning tackler with 100 last season.
Another team with an important game this weekend is Brick Memorial. The Mustangs are coming off a 36-6 loss to Brick where not much went right, and things don’t get any easier with Toms River North coming to town on Friday night.
Brick Memorial could not get its run game going in a lopsided, season-opening loss to the Dragons, rushing for just 147 yards out of its flexbone offense and finishing with 165 total yards. The Mustangs were also gashed for 350 yards rushing, so they will need improvement on both sides. Senior quarterback Tim Santiago had a fairly swollen hand late in the game, so it remains to be seen if there any lasting effects from that injury.
Toms River North enters off a 29-7 victory over Lacey where junior quarterback Mike Husni ran and threw for over 100 yards each to pick up where he left off last season. As a sophomore, Husni ran for 1,387 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns. There are great weapons around him with receivers Bryce Watts (three touchdowns in Week One) and Darrion Carrington, punishing senior running back Asante Moorer and promising sophomore running back Daryn Blackwell.
Where Eagles dare
No. 1 Middletown South hosts old rival Neptune on Friday night at “The Swamp”, and the Eagles will be looking to build off a remarkable Week One victory.
Down 21-3 to South Brunswick, Middletown South poured on the final 38 points of the game for a 41-21 win on the road. South Brunswick is the No. 1 team in the Greater Middlesex Conference, a state sectional finalist last season and a championship contender again this season. Neptune, meanwhile, showed great potential with a young and inexperienced roster during a 34-28 loss to No. 8 Ocean. The Scarlet Fliers flashed plenty of playmaking ability on both sides of the ball, and it took a huge game from Ocean’s Tyler Thompson to hold them off.
Middletown South looks ever bit the powerhouse it was billed as during the regular season. The Eagles have it all working in every phase of the game, and that makes them a scary opponent for any team. Senior quarterback Matt Mosquera was brilliant against South Brunswick, running and throwing for a touchdown while kicking a pair of field goals and five extra points. He also had seven touchbacks in the game, limiting South Brunswick’s chances at making something happen on special teams. He looks like one of the most complete players in the Shore and beyond.
Senior running back Cole Rogers was suffering from cramps throughout the game, so the Eagles just used junior James McCarthy, who rumbled for 156 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. The Eagles’ running game looks fantastic behind another very good group of offensive linemen. Factor in an always punishing defense and their special teams play - which included a punt return touchdown by Tom Marron versus South Brunswick - and the Eagles will be a load for Neptune.
Rasheed Martin threw a pair of nice passes for big gains to wide receiver Kahmar Rice while also showing some moves on the ground. David McLean had a long touchdown run and Marvin Morgan returned a kickoff for a touchdown. The talent is certainly there for Neptune, but it may take some time to get everything moving in the same direction. With Ocean and Middletown South as Neptune’s first two games, however, there isn’t much of a break-in period.
Lakewood under the lights
Lakewood will host Pinelands on Saturday night in the first home night game for the Piners in over a decade, according to head coach L.J. Clark.
Lakewood fundraised to get the money for the portable lights, and Clark said the Lakewood Police Department also donated some lights to be used for the game. Clark also commented that the Piners crowd during their 40-34 win at Central in Week One was the largest show of support he’s seen since becoming Lakewood’s head coach in 2011, so they are expecting a good atmosphere.
More to watch:
**Monmouth Regional will look to start 2-0 for the first time since 2010 when it hosts Manasquan (0-1) on Saturday at noon.
**Manalapan will go for its 34th straight Class A North victory when it hosts Freehold Township on Friday night.
**Freehold and Howell battle on Friday night in a matchup of 1-0 teams in A North.
**Red Bank Catholic senior quarterback Eddie Hahn could return to the lineup tonight when the Caseys host St. Joseph-Metuchen at 7:30. Hahn missed Week One recovering from a preseason knee injury. The game was originally scheduled to be played at St. Joe’s on Saturday, but with the school getting a new turn field installed it was not yet ready, so the game was moved to RBC.
**Another big game in Class B South has Central hosting Barnegat on Friday night. The Eagles need a win after falling to Lakewood last week while the Bengals are coming off a win over Manchester and could remain tied for the division lead with a victory.