Shore Sports Network logo
Get our free mobile app

It’s easy to sound hyperbolic when describing Toms River North’s historic 2022 season, but the hype was justified by the final results. The Mariners did what no team in state history had previously accomplished by winning the inaugural NJSIAA Group 5 title with a perfect 14-0 record and setting a state record with 660 points scored.

Toms River North averaged an astounding 47.1 points per game behind a devastating rushing attack that ran for 4,352 yards and 62 touchdowns. The Mariners also had the No. 1 defense in the Shore Conference allowing 8.2 points per game with four shutouts. Their point differential was a mind-numbing 545 points. It was the definition of dominance.

Despite having to replace a handful of key players and leaders from last year’s epic squad, the 2023 Mariners remain absolutely loaded with skill, size, and experience. Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year Micah Ford is back at quarterback and safety, as is All-State offensive lineman Jaelyn Matthews, First Team All-Shore running back Josh Moore, First Team All-Shore do-it-all star Jeremiah Pruitt, First Team All-Shore defensive back Tareq Council, Second Team All-Shore linebacker Anthony Rodriguez, Third Team All-Shore offensive lineman Justin Kaye, and many other key returners.

Thomas Pantaleo
Thomas Pantaleo

This is a new year, though, and one of the keys to Toms River North defending the championships won last season will be to put all those accomplishments far in the rearview mirror. The biggest change for the Mariners will be a significantly more difficult schedule now that they’ve been moved up to the American Division with fellow powerhouse programs Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven, Donovan Catholic, Middletown South, and Wall. Toms River North pummeled Colonial Division opponents last season to the tune of a 253-13 scoring margin but they know they won’t be the case this season.

To expect Toms River North to fully duplicate last year’s slate of accolades is unrealistic but given all the Mariners return it’s hard not to peg them as the division, sectional, and state title favorites.

Eight starters return in North’s power spread offense that crushed teams in the running game and stretched the field with multiple downfield threats. Ford was a First Team All-Shore selection as a sophomore and took his game to a completely different level last year with one of the best seasons in Shore Conference history. The reigning Shore Sports Network Offensive Player of the Year ran for a conference-leading 2,360 yards and 33 touchdowns on an average of 10 yards per carry and threw for 1,203 yards with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes. He became the fourth player in New Jersey history to rush for over 2,000 yards and throw for over 1,000 yards in a season. Oh, and he did all that while only playing in 37 out of a possible 56 quarters because North had a blowout victory in hand by halftime or earlier. He was also an exceptional defensive player at safety, which we will touch on later. He is verbally committed to Stanford University.

Ray Rich Photography
Micah Ford. (Ray Rich Photography)

What makes Toms River North so dangerous is that its high-level talent and production run deeper than just Ford. Moore rushed for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns on an average of 9.7 yards per carry despite missing three games late in the season and early in the playoffs with an injury. To have that kind of impact sharing a backfield with a player like Ford, who had 236 carries last season, speaks volumes. He ran for 225 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-14 win over Kingsway in the South Jersey Group 5 final and ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in a 28-7 win over Passaic Tech in the Group 5 final. Also in the backfield will be Ford’s younger brother, junior running back Mordecai Ford (5-11, 165), who saw plenty of action last season and scored seven touchdowns. Junior Hayden Mosciunski (6-1, 235) takes over at fullback for the graduated Nick Walano, who was one of the team’s unsung heroes last season. Junior TJ Valerio is the backup quarterback for the second straight season.

All five of Toms River North’s starting-caliber wide receivers return with Council, Pruitt, junior speedster Nasir Jackson, junior Cam Thomas, and senior Trey Rinella. The latter two weren’t consistent starters but saw plenty of action, and Thomas had a big touchdown catch to open the scoring in the Group 5 final. Council ended up as an All-Shore defensive back but was also one of the Shore’s best wide receivers with 24 receptions for 516 yards and 9 touchdowns on an average of 21.5 yards per catch. Perhaps the most versatile player in the Shore, Pruitt does a little bit of everything on offense from catching passes, taking handoffs, and even lining up at quarterback. He totaled 654 yards and 10 touchdowns while also excelling on defense and returning punts. Jackson had just 11 catches but they went for 276 yards and three touchdowns.

Ray Rich Photography
Jeremiah Pruitt. (Ray Rich Photography).

The teams in the upper echelon of the state can usually match each other with skill players. What separates those teams is their offensive and defensive lines, and for Toms River North, its powerful offensive line is what put it over the top last season. Three starters return from that mauling unit, led by First Team All-State left tackle Jaelyn Matthews. The 6-foot-7, 295 junior is committed to Penn State and will be entering his third year as a starter. Next to him is 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior left guard and returning starter Hathem Hooranyi. The third returning starter is actually the biggest of them all in 6-foot-7, 305-pound senior right tackle Justin Kaye, who was a Third Team All-Shore selection last fall. The first-year starters are senior center CJ Valenti (5-11, 275) and senior right guard John Tucker (6-4, 275). Senior tight end Matt Shea could get a few looks in the passing game but the Mariners’ offense has traditionally used the tight end in more of a blocking role. His 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame certainly fits the bill.

While Toms River North’s offense stole the show, its defense was the No. 1 unit in the Shore in terms of points allowed per game and came up big when needed most. Eight starters return in the Mariners’ 3-4 alignment with stars and playmakers at all three levels.

We’ll start with a fantastic secondary that returns starters at all four positions. Council (6-3, 180) was a shutdown corner last season and posted 29 tackles, three interceptions, and one pick-six en route to First Team All-Shore honors. Moore (3 INTs) and Jackson rotated at the other cornerback spot and will do the same this season. What made Micah Ford’s junior season even more impressive is that he rarely came off the field (in competitive games) and had a tremendous year at safety with 77 tackles, 4 interceptions, 9 tackles for loss, and one defensive touchdown. He is the strong safety with senior Luke Oizerowitz (6-2, 185) returning as the starting free safety.

Matthews added consistent defensive line play to his resume last season and returns as a starting defensive end. He recorded 43 tackles, 2 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, and one interception. Hooranyi is the other defensive end while Valenti is the nose tackle.

Three starters return at linebacker with the key loss being Ty Kazanowsky, an indispensable leader who was a First Team All-Shore selection last season. Rodriguez returns to head the group after making 92 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. He is at inside linebacker alongside another returning starter in senior Christian Oliveri. Pruitt is listed as an outside linebacker but is the ultimate chess piece who can play off the ball, as an edge rusher, and in the secondary. He made 89 tackles with 13.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 6 interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery last season. Toms River North graduated linebacker Ty Boland but will replace him with another Boland in 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior Blaise Boland at outside linebacker.

On special teams, Yianni Papanikolas botted 65 extra points last season and returns as the team’s kicker and punter. Even he brings size to the table at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds.

Other newcomers who could see time are junior defensive lineman Giovanni Anglin and junior outside linebacker/tight end Ed Slosky.

Toms River North passed every test it was confronted with last season but will face an entirely different set of questions this year. As Scott Stump wrote in his season primer, the Mariners will face another Shore Conference heavyweight nearly every week, and they also open the season squaring off against defending Group 4 champion Millville at The Battle of the Beach showcase in Ocean City.

If Toms River North runs the table again this group would put itself in the conversation to be one of the greatest Shore Conference teams in history. What’s more likely is that they’ll suffer a blemish or two along the way, but none of that will matter if they can duplicate last year’s championship success. The gaudy stats and undefeated records are great, but what will define the legacy of this Toms River North team will be what happens in the state playoffs.


At a Glance

Head coach: Dave Oizerowitz, 11th year (13th overall)

Career record: 80-47 (69-38 at TRN)

2022 record: 14-0

Offense: Power Spread

Defense: 3-4

Coaching Staff: Mike Oizerowitz (Offensive Coordinator/WR); Bill Dowd (OL); Anthony Penna (QB); Nick Zaza (RB/Head Freshmen Coach); Joe Oizerowitz (Defensive Coordinator/DB); Gabe Roonan (Special Teams Coordinator/LB); Charlie Henry (ILB/FB/Freshmen); Matt Melamed (Line/Freshmen); Greg Elias (Freshmen); Jake McCartney (Athletic Trainer); Keith Stryker (Athletic Coordinator).


Circle the Date: Week 3 – Friday, Sept. 15 at Donovan Catholic

The matchup everyone yearned for last season was Toms River North vs. Red Bank Catholic but it was not in the cards since the teams played in different divisions. They will meet on Oct. 20 during the final week of the regular season, but well before that will be a gargantuan clash between the Mariners and Donovan Catholic. The schools are separated by just 2.4 miles, compete for local talent, and have a simmering rivalry that adds a wrinkle to an already intriguing matchup between top teams.


Player to Watch: Micah Ford, Sr., QB/SS

The Mariners are stocked full of talented and productive players led by Ford, who put together one of the greatest individual seasons in Shore Conference history last year by combining for 3,563 yards and 50 total touchdowns on offense and adding 77 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown. Conventional wisdom says he has improved since last season, which is frightening. He is one of the state’s most dynamic players who is a threat to do something special every time he touches the ball.


Impact Newcomer: Hayden Mosciunski, Jr., FB

Nick Walano did yeoman’s work last season as the lead blocker for Ford and Moore, winning at the point of attack while the offensive line did the rest to create massive running lanes. Mosciunski steps into that role and at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds will be a battering ram that opposing defenders will have to deal with just to get to the ball carriers.


Big Shoes to Fill: CJ Valenti, Sr., C/NT

Valenti steps into the starting center role where First Team All-Shore lineman Josh Kaye thrived last season. He’s also slated to start along the defensive line as the nose tackle.


Did you Know?

Toms River North’s seven NJSIAA sectional championships are tied for the third-most in Shore Conference history. When the Mariners reach the final they generally win it, sporting a 7-2 record in nine sectional championship game appearances.




Friday 8/25Millville (at Ocean City HS)4pm
Friday 9/1@Toms River East6pm
Friday 9/8@Rumson-Fair Haven7pm
Friday 9/15@Donovan Catholic6:30pm
Friday 9/22Middletown South6pm
Friday 9/29@Southern7pm
Friday 10/6Wall6pm
Friday 10/13Toms River South6pm
Friday 10/20Red Bank Catholic6pm


More From Shore Sports Network