2021 South Jersey Group 5 NJSIAA Championship Preview: Toms River North vs. Kingsway
SOUTH JERSEY GROUP 5 CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: 4-Kingsway (6-4) at 3-Toms River North (7-3)
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Gernerd Field - 1245 Old Freehold Road, Toms River, NJ 08753
TOMS RIVER NORTH'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated East Brunswick, 28-14, in the quarterfinals; defeated Edison, 48-7, in the semifinals.
KINGSWAY'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Old Bridge, 51-49, in the quarterfinals; defeated Lenape, 20-17, in the semifinals.
TOMS RIVER NORTH'S BEST WINS: 17-0 over Southern Regional; 25-22 over St. John Vianney; 48-7 over Edison.
KINGSWAY'S BEST WINS: 21-14 over Washington Township; 51-49 over Old Bridge; 20-17 over Lenape.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Toms River North will be making its eighth appearance in an NJSIAA sectional final and has a 6-1 record all-time in title games with the only loss coming in 2016. The Mariners' six sectional championships are tied for fourth all-time in Shore Conference history. They own a 19-13 record across 19 playoff appearances. The Mariners' last title came in 2015. In 2019, Kingsway knocked Toms River North out of the playoffs with a 19-14 win...Kingsway's first and only sectional title came in 2001. The Dragons will be making their sixth appearance in a sectional final and its first since 2012. They have a 14-16 record across 17 playoff appearances all time.
TOMS RIVER NORTH STAT LEADERS
-Micah Ford, So., QB: 1,349 yards rushing, 16 TDs; 809 yards passing, 7 TDs; 67 tackles, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 3 FF.
-Josh Moore, So., RB: 653 yards rushing, 3 total TDs
-Tareq Council, So., WR: 19 rec., 415 yards, 5 TDs
-Jeremiah Pruitt, So., WR/DB: 15 rec for 243 yards, 2 TDs; 120 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 78 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 2 fumble return TDs.
-Ty Boland, Jr., LB: 89 tackles 5 TFL, 1 sack
-Ty Kazanowsky, Jr., LB: 74 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT
-Anthony Rodriguez, So.: 75 tackles, 4 TFL
-Michael Dowd, Sr., OL/DL: 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 1.5 sacks
KINGSWAY STAT LEADERS
-Nate Maiers, Jr., QB: 662 yards passing, 3 TDs, 4 INTs; 111 carries for 433 yards and 5 TDs; 40 tackles, 1 INT on defense.
-Joseph Lyons III, So., QB: 679 yards passing, 3 TDs, 4 INTs;
-Darrell Brown Jr., Jr., RB/DB: 109 carries for 443 yards and 4 TDs; 19 rec. for 391 yards and 2 TDs; 2 INTs on defense
-David DiPietro, Jr.: 45 tackles, 6 TFL
-Luke Van Brill, So., WR: 24 rec. for 322 yards and 1 TD; 65 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 forced fumbles on defense.
-Brady Whitzell, Fr., DL: 58 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 TFL
-Carter Williams, Jr.: 44 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 TFL, 5 fumble recoveries
-Benny Liles III, Jr., WR: 22 rec. for 229 yards and 1 TD
Toms River North was dead and buried after the first four games and defeats at the hands of Colts Neck, Donovan Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven, and Wall (although the Donovan game was later changed to a forfeit victory). But a young Mariners team turned the corner with wins over rivals Toms River East and Toms River South and a month later find themselves on a six-game winning streak and one win away from winning a state sectional championship.
Toms River North is a team light on seniors but loaded with talented underclassmen. Those players have blossomed down the stretch and that could not have been more evident in the Mariners 48-7 wipeout of Edison in the semifinals. Sophomore quarterback Micah Ford has been electric and is on the verge of a 1,000-yard passing season to go along with the 1,349 yards rushing he already has. Fellow sophomores Tareq Council, Josh Moore, and Jeremiah Pruitt are also major contributors to North's power spread offense and have produced big plays throughout the season. Toms River North is also very big up front, including 6-foot-5, 270-pound sophomore Justin Kaye, and 6-foo-6, 300-pound freshman Jaelyne Matthews.
Toms River North's defense has quietly been very solid with junior linebackers Ty Kazanowsky and Ty Boland leading the way. Not only have they been getting the ball back to their explosive offense, but they've also been turning in game-changing plays.
These two teams are eerily similar in terms of youth and perhaps arriving a bit ahead of schedule. Kingsway plays a challenging schedule like Toms River North does and both teams have clearly reaped the benefits of being battle-tested. Kingsway has a dynamic offense that will use multiple formations but it bodes well for Toms River North that it has faced a wide variety of offenses this season. Something else to watch out for is Kingsway's ability to force turnovers. They had eight interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries on the season, including six turnovers in the semifinal win over Lenape.
The last time Toms River North was in a sectional final it was a heavy favorite that got upset to spoil a perfect season. This season is almost the complete opposite, a team that was nearly written off that has found a way to get hot at the right time. Of course, it all comes down to execution during the actual game, but there's something to be said for peaking at the perfect time.
The pick: Toms River North 28-21
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