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The 2022 season of Toms River High School North football was historic on so many levels. The Mariners won the inaugural Group 5 state title, became the first team in state history to go 14-0, and set numerous offensive records that wowed fans from the Shore Conference and beyond.

Toms River North set a state record with 660 points on an average of 47.1 points per game led by a devastating running game that rushed for 4,352 yards and 62 touchdowns. The Mariners also had the No. 1 defense in the Shore Conference allowing just 8.2 points per game with four shutouts and holding 10 of 14 points to seven points or less. Their final point differential was a staggering 545 points. The Mariners outscored their Colonial Division opponents by 253-13 and dominated the playoffs by outscoring their five postseason opponents by a 209-48 margin.

Many of the headliners on the team - Micah Ford, Jaelyne Matthews, Jeremiah Pruitt, Josh Moore, Tareq Council, Justin Kaye - were underclassmen and return this season with aspirations of winning a second straight state title. A lot of the chatter surrounding the team centered around the Mariners' 2024 and 2025 classes, but the group of seven 2023 seniors was just as instrumental in the Mariners' championship run.

Toms River North's Ty Kazanowsky. (Ray Rich Photography).
Toms River North's Ty Kazanowsky. (Ray Rich Photography).
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Offensive lineman Josh Kaye and linebacker Ty Kazanowsky were two of the Mariners' seven First Team All-Shore selections, while senior linebacker Anthony Rodriguez was a Second Team All-Shore pick, and defensive lineman Nick Baiocco and linebacker Ty Boland were Third Team All-Shore selections. Six of the seven seniors will take the field during Sunday's All-Shore Gridiron Classic with defensive lineman Nasir McDougald and fullback Nick Walano joining Kaye, Kazanowsky, Boland, and Baiocco on Ocean County's roster.

"We have a lot of pride as a class," said Kaye, Toms River North's All-Shore center who will play collegiately at New Haven. "We went through a lot and it started freshman year losing to Kingsway in the playoffs. That lit a fire inside of us. What we did this year was remarkable and we're super proud of it."

"We're like brothers. We've played together since we were five. We never wavered and always had each other's respect. Hard-nosed kids who were always going to work toward winning a state championship."

The task now is to try to lead Ocean County to a victory on Sunday at Monmouth University. Monmouth County set a Gridiron Classic record with its fourth straight win last season.

This game sheds light on the talent that's leaving the Shore and shows the Shore is going to produce great players," Kaye said. "Hopefully Ocean County gets the win but win or lose we're going to work and we're excited to be here."

 

Going Out on his Terms

Central Regional running back Chase Gumbrecht burst onto the scene as a junior during the 2021 season, leading the Shore Conference in rushing with 1,825 yards and 25 touchdowns on an average of eight yards per carry. Central won the Liberty Division title and Gumbrecht was selected as the Division's Offensive Player of the Year. Ultimately, he earned Second Team All-Shore distinction and entered the 2022 season as a Preseason All-Shore selection.

The excitement level surrounding Gumbrecht and Central was high, but in the first game of the season, Gumbrecht suffered a foot injury that derailed his senior season.

09/24/2021 - Central Regional / Raritan
Richard O'Donnell
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"I semi-tore a tendon in my foot that basically connects the big toe to the rest of the foot," Gumbrecht said. "I lost all my balance for about six months. It was bad but I"m back now and I feel good and I'm ready to go."

Gumbrecht left that first game of the season, a 20-7 loss to Howell, and was out for the rest of the regular season. The Golden Eagles, already trying to regroup from losing several key players to graduation, lost eight straight games to open the season. Gumbrecht was able to return for the final game of the season, however, rushing for two touchdowns in the Eagles' 33-8 victory over Toms River South.

"I definitely wasn't 100 percent but that was really important, I didn't want to end on a negative note," Gumbrecht said.

Now he gets the chance to play in one final high school game and do so while being fully healthy. Gumbrecht will not play football in college and will instead join the United States Coast Guard.

"This is the last time I'll be able to throw the pads on so it means a lot to be able to play and play at 100 percent," Gumbecht said. "I love this game so I'm glad I'll be able to go out on a good note and do it with a bunch of people who want to win."

 

Ja'Sir Taylor continues to lead by example

Ja'Sir Taylor had been brainstorming ideas to give back to the Shore Conference communities when he and Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz came up with an idea that will bring dozens of youth football players to Monmouth University on Sunday.

The first 300 kids who show up in their AYF jerseys will be granted free admission to Sunday's All-Shore Gridiron Classic at Kessler Stadium, courtesy of Taylor.

"I've been looking for ways to give back to the community and Coach Z came up with that great idea," Taylor said. "I was all for it."

Taylor, a former star at Brick Township High School, is back at the Shore this week as one of several NFL players involved in the All-Shore Gridiron Classic. With former Neptune standout and 11-year NFL veteran Vinny Curry sponsoring the game, Curry, Taylor, Keith Kirkwood (Neptune), Anthony Brown (St. John Vianney), and Bennet Jackson (Raritan) are among the former Shore Conference superstars who have reached the game's highest level and are back involved with the Shore's all-star football game, including a youth camp on Saturday at Monmouth.

After a standout career at Brick, Taylor had a record-setting tenure at Wake Forest. He is the Deamon Deacons' all-time leader in games played (62) over five years, earned numerous All-ACC accolades, and became the first player in Wake Forest history to have a kick return touchdown and an interception in the same game.

Taylor was drafted in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. The 24-year-old appeared in all 17 games for the Chargers with three starts, recording 22 tackles and one pass deflection.

Taylor didn't get a chance to play in the Gridiron Classic as a senior because he had to leave for Wake Forest.

"When I was little this is where I wanted to be," Taylor said. "I have a connection to both Ocean and Monmouth; I played Pop Warner in Neptune and Asbury and high school at Brick. It would have been my only opportunity to play against my cousins who played at Asbury Park, so I was bummed I wasn't able to play."

"Vinny Curry did a great job with this new setup so I'm excited to see it,"

The presence of Taylor, Curry, and all the former Shore Conference stars who have gone on to the NFL can serve as inspiration to the present and future high school standouts. The Shore Conference produces exceptional football players on a yearly basis and Taylor is proof of how far the game can take a local kid with lofty dreams.

"I feel like it's very important for us all to be here," Taylor said. "Coming up, there weren't too many people in the league who came back and give us that vision. It's good to have guys like myself, Vinny, Keith Kirkwood, Anthony Brown, etc. out here being faces of the Shore Conference and showing guys from the same places we're from that they can make it. I'm glad to be one of those people to represent."

 

 

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