2018 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic Preview
What: 41st annual Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic
Live updates on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ShoreSportsNet
When: Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be preceded by the Shore Conference 7-on-7 championship at 6:15 p.m. between Monmouth County winner St. John Vianney and Ocean County winner Donovan Catholic.
Where: DiFabio Field at Brick Memorial High School
Tickets: $10 at the door
Broadcast information: The game will be broadcast live on 105.7 The Hawk with Matt Harmon, Ed Sarluca and Brad Burascano. A video live stream will also be available here and will be archived on ShoreSportsNetwork.com immediately following the game.
All-time series: Monmouth leads Ocean, 21-18-1
Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame inductees: Long Branch head coach Dan George, former Central Regional head coach Joseph J. Boyd and longtime Shore Conference referee Hugh Boyd Jr. will be inducted at halftime.
Rosters, coaches, Hall of Fame bios, game facts and more: Click here to view the official gameday program.
Game breakdown: Monmouth County is coming off a 17-8 win in last year’s game when Marlboro’s Cameron Caorsi set a Gridiron Classic record with 168 yards rushing to snap Ocean County’s three-game winning streak. Monmouth is looking to make it two in a row and extend its lead in the all-time series and will do so with an impressive array of skill players which headline and deep and talented roster.
Long Branch head coach Dan George and his staff of Green Wave assistants will guide the Monmouth County squad along with Ocean Township assistant James Simonelli, former Manchester coach Doug Covert and former Red Bank and Ocean Township coach Tony Souza.
Ocean County will be led by Central Regional head coach Justin Fumando and his Golden Eagles assistants, plus Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie, Point Boro head coach Brian Staub and Brick Memorial assistants Mike McArthur and Rob Brown.
The main theme of the game seems to be whether Ocean County’s defense can stop, or at least slow down, a Monmouth County offense that features a serious stable of playmakers. Freehold’s Ashante Worthy, Long Branch’s Juwan Wilkins and Keansburg’s Danny Vital are in line to take snaps at quarterback with Howell’s Eddie Morales also a strong possibility to see time there. All Worthy did was rush for a modern state single-season record 2,815 yards, rush for 41 touchdowns and account for a state-record 61 total touchdowns, and become the first player in state history to rush and throw for 2,000 yards each. It’s safe to assume the Ocean County defense will be keying in on him.
Worthy is far from the only dangerous weapon Monmouth County can deploy. Wilkins threw for 2,053 yards and 22 touchdowns to lead Long Branch to the Central Jersey Group IV championship, throwing a touchdown in overtime and then the championship-clinching two-point conversion pass to give the Green Wave an epic 43-42 overtime win over Freehold. Vital threw for 1,195 yards and 14 touchdowns with only one interception while also rushing for six touchdowns. Morales led the Shore Conference in passing with 2,156 yards and 24 touchdowns with a 70 percent completion rate and also ran for a team-high 725 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead Howell to a 9-2 record and a trip to the South Jersey Group V semifinals.
The standouts in the backfield don’t end with the signal callers. Red Bank Catholic’s Zack Bair, Rumson-Fair Haven’s Peter Lucas, Manasquan’s Connor Morgan and Matawan’s Devonte Spann give Monmouth County a great group of runners. Lucas had a breakout season in his first and only year as the Bulldogs’ starting running back with a school-record 2,196 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns (33 total) on an average of 9.9 yards per carry. Bair played in just seven games due to an injury but averaged a Shore Conference-best 13.8 yards per carry with 1,087 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Morgan powered his way to 1,341 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns and Spann ran for 917 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Monmouth County’s receiving corps is also tremendous with Long Branch’s T.J. Fosque, Howell’s Naseim Brantley and Ryan Mazik, Red Bank Catholic’s Brandon Lombana and Marlboro’s Justin Marcus. The 6-foot-4 Fosque (37 rec. for 704 yards and 7 TDs) and 6-foot-3 Brantley (48 rec. for 785 yards and 13 TDs) were both first-team All-Shore selections. Marcus is a 6-foot-5 matchup nightmare who quietly carved out a tremendous career for the Mustangs. He caught 54 passes for 666 yards and two touchdowns last season. Lombana doesn’t have the height of his teammates but nonetheless brings versatility and great playmaking ability. He hauled in 36 catches for 721 yards and four touchdowns.
The unit that can make it all come together for Monmouth is the offensive line, which came make it a long night for Ocean County if it's working in sync. Rumson-Fair Haven’s Justin Johnson, a first-team All-Shore selection, starts at left tackle with Manasquan’s Evan Hilla at left guard. Mater Dei Prep’s Tom Olausen is the center, Red Bank Catholic’s Richie Christie is the right guard and Howell’s Scott Prendergast is the left tackle. Keyport’s Jerome Hansen is the tight end.
Defensively, Monmouth County has three first-team All-Shore selections highlighting the unit. Middletown North pass-rushing extraordinaire Austin DeWise (60 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, one blocked punt) is at defensive end while Long Branch’s Kevin Porch (59 tackles, 2 INTs) is at cornerback and Red Bank Catholic’s Matt Ansell (104 tackles, 5 INTs) is at safety. Joining DeWise up front is Manalapan’s Antonio Deieso at defensive end and Asbury Park’s Jaylen Paige and Freehold Township’s Damian Rybaltowski at defensive tackle.
The Monmouth starting linebackers are Middletown North’s Connor Welsh, Monmouth Regional’s Anthony Guarino and Holmdel’s Johnny O’Beirne. Along with Porch and Ansell, the secondary features Asbury Park’s Donte Abrams at cornerback and Manasquan’s Tommy Antonucci at safety. Manalapan’s David Gelb is the kicker and punter.
The Ocean County defense tasked with limiting Monmouth County’s high-octane unit is a solid group from front to back. The defensive ends are Jackson Liberty’s Nick Johnson and Central’s Ryan Emmets and the defensive tackles are Brick Memorial’s Willie Garner and Daryn Blackwell. Garner and Blackwell give Ocean County two players who can collapse the pocket from the inside, which would be a huge boost to their chances.
Point Beach’s Luke Frauenheim is the middle linebacker with Barnegat’s Juan Abraham at outside linebacker along with the Point Boro duo of Nate Chiarello and Tanner Gordon rotating at the other spot. Brick Memorial’s Blaine Netterman leads the secondary at safety along with Central’s Jonathan Gonzalez. The cornerbacks are Lakewood’s Myles Jackson and Central’s Jonathan Banks-Rey. Central’s Shane Black will serve as both the kicker and punter.
While Monmouth County’s offense has an undeniable collection of talent, Ocean County believes its unit is perfectly tailored to its traditional style of play. Ocean County is going to run the ball early and often and will do so with Point Boro quarterback James Fara, Brick Memorial running back Tony Thorpe and Manchester running back Jalen Glenn leading the way.
Fara was a first-team All-Shore selection after a year where he ran for 1,628 yards and 24 touchdowns and also threw for 611 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Panthers to an 11-1 record, the Class B South division title and a spot in the Central Jersey Group 2 championship game. Thorpe graduated as Brick Memorial’s all-time leading rusher and all-time leading scorer and is coming off a year in which he ran for 1,372 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead the Mustangs to a share of the Class A South division title. There’s also Lacey’s Jason Giresi, who ran for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Also playing quarterback will be Lacey’s Coleton Klaus, who threw for 1,372 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 63 percent completion rate.
The wide receivers are Point Boro’s Brandon Cipriano and Lacey’s Tanner Miick, and Cipriano would certainly see some time at running back considering he was a standout slot back in Point Boro’s triple-option offense. Cipriano ran for 825 yards and 12 touchdowns on an average of 11.9 yards per carry and also caught 25 passes for 451 yards and five touchdowns. Miick hauled in 38 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
The unit asked with opening the holes up front has Point Boro’s Gabe Fattizzi at center, Toms River South’s Nick Florio at left tackle, Central’s Brandon Voss at left guard, Lacey’s John Carr at right guard and Brick Memorial’s Joe Castellano at right tackle. Brick’s Chris Hirtes is the tight end.
Prediction: Last year I went with Ocean County because everything seemed to be leaning Monmouth County’s way and that’s usually a good indicator the opposite result is coming. It’s more of the same this year but given the collection of talent on Monmouth’s offense is hard to go against them this year. It would be surprising, but not shocking, to see Ocean County’s defense get enough stops against a juggernaut offense to lead to a win because it’s happened before. Ocean County’s offense is better than people are probably giving it credit for, so we could be in for a high-scoring game.
The pick: Monmouth County.
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.