The battle for the top spot in the Shore Conference is nearly its completion with just three weeks left in the 2015 season. But with 15 area teams in seven different sections still playing for a sectional title, the race is far from over.

Among the 15 teams playing in 11 games this weekend in the sectional semifinals of the NJSIAA playoffs are four head-to-head matchups between Shore Conference teams. Middletown North and Middletown South meet in North Jersey Section 2, Group IV while St. John Vianney hosts Red Bank Catholic in Non-Public Group III.

The bracket that could really produce changes to the Shore Sports Network Top 10 is Central Jersey Group III. The all-Shore Conference final four features Rumson hosting Matawan and Ocean taking on Red Bank.

The higher seeds mostly prevailed in the opening round, but a pair of Shore Conference teams pulled upsets as No. 7 seeds. In Central Jersey Group I, Keyport edged Asbury Park 21-18 for its first playoff win since 2010. In Central Jersey Group IV, defending champion Jackson Memorial rose up to beat second-seeded Brick 21-7.

Raritan also went on the road to beat Point Boro 17-7 as the No. 6 seed in Central Jersey Group II, snapping a five-game losing streak and winning its first playoff game in six years. Manalapan also won a road game at Trenton, 20-7, but was hardly a big underdog as the No. 5 seed in Central Jersey Group V.

With four head-to-head matchups, there will be at least four Shore Conference teams playing for a sectional title in two weeks, and a guaranteed champion in Central Jersey Group III.


Barnabas top ten



1. Middletown South (9-0). Last week: No. 1

Senior running back Cole Rogers ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries and junior James McCarthy scored three total touchdowns as the Eagles wiped out West Windsor-Plainsboro North 55-0 in the quarterfinals of the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV playoffs. Senior quarterback Matt Mosquera added two passing touchdowns and senior Eddie Pinto ran for 80 yards and a score. The unbeaten Eagles will host rival Middletown North in the sectional semifinals on Friday night.


2. St. John Vianney (10-0). Last week: No. 2

Senior quarterback Anthony Brown threw two touchdowns and ran for another to give him 37 total touchdowns on the season in the Lancers’ 41-0 win over Donovan Catholic in the first round of the Non-Public Group III playoffs. Brown fired touchdown passes to Mike Stapert and Khalil Haskins while senior Calvin Beaty scored twice on the ground and junior Chris Chukwuneke also scored a rushing touchdown. St. John Vianney’s defense recorded its third straight shutout and fifth overall. The top-seeded Lancers will host defending-champion Red Bank Catholic in the semifinals on Friday night.


3. Red Bank (9-0). Last week: No. 3

Senior Sadiq Palmer ran for a pair of touchdowns and returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Bucs shut out South Plainfield 30-0 in the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals. Senior running back Alim Godsey also ran for a touchdown and Jack O’Connor connected on a 30-yard field goal. The win was Red Bank’s first playoff victory since 2003. The Bucs will next travel to second-seeded Ocean on Friday night where they will try to reach their first sectional final since 2003.


4. Toms River North (9-1). Last week: No. 4

Junior quarterback Mike Husni threw for 227 yards and a touchdown and ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mariners to a 35-7 victory over Kingsway in the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Group V playoff. Senior running back Asante Moorer added 125 yards rushing as Toms River North rolled up 513 yards of offense. Senior defensive tackle Dashon Copes led the defensive effort with 12 tackles and two sacks. The Mariners, who have won eight straight games, will play at top-seeded Lenape in the semifinals on Friday night.


5. Brick Memorial (8-2). Last week: No. 6

Sophomore fullback Tony Thorpe ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns and senior quarterback Tim Santiago rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown in the top-seeded Mustangs’ 38-6 victory over Jackson Liberty in the first round of the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. Senior Elie Lavarin added 61 yards and a touchdown as Brick Memorial ran for 387 yards. The Mustangs will host fifth-seeded Allentown in the semifinals on Friday night.


6. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-1). Last week: No. 7

After falling behind 6-0 at halftime to 3-5 Rahway, the Bulldogs exploded for 43 points in the second half, including 36 in the third quarter, to cruise into the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Junior quarterback Mike O’Connor ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass, and Matt Vecchiarelli, Peter Lucas and Mike Ruane also scored rushing touchdowns. Ruane led the defense with 14 tackles and a sack, and Ian Clarke came up with a clutch interception that led to a score. Rumson is seeking its third straight sectional title after winning the last two Central Jersey Group II titles, and will host Matawan, the champion in CJ-III last season, in the semifinals on Friday night.


7. Ocean (8-1). Last week: No. 8

Senior running back Tyler Thompson ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns and junior quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for two scores and ran for another in a 35-0 win over Hamilton West in the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals. Pickett finished with 187 yards passing and a 28-yard touchdown to Ruquan Dean. Ocean’s defense recorded its second straight shutout. The Spartans will host undefeated Red Bank on Friday night in the semifinals. Red Bank won the regular season meeting between the Class B North rivals, 16-6.


8. Shore (9-0). Last week: No. 9

Senior Doug Goldsmith returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and added a pair of touchdown runs for the defending-champion Blue Devils in their 36-0 win over Burlington City in Central Jersey Group I. Seniors Jack Britton and Alex Johnson also scored rushing touchdowns and the defense recorded its first shutout of the season. Shore will host fourth-seeded Florence in the semifinals on Friday night.


9. Red Bank Catholic (8-2). Last week: No. 10

Senior Dylan Murphy ran for 77 yards and three touchdowns and also made 16 tackles at linebacker to lead the Caseys to a 21-14 win over Pope John in the Non-Public Group III quarterfinals. Senior running back Mike Wilen ran for a game-high 101 yards on just eight carries and also made 15 tackles on defense. The Caseys are the defending group champions, but have a huge test in the semifinals against top-seeded and undefeated St. John Vianney on Friday night.


10. Jackson Memorial (6-4). Last week: not ranked

Junior running back Mike Gawlik ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries and senior Tyler Towns led the defense with four tackles for loss as the Jaguars beat Brick 21-7 in the Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. Jackson had lost to Brick, 2-0, in the regular season. The defending-champion Jaguars will travel to sixth-seeded Steinert on Friday in the semifinals.


Dropped out: No. 5 Brick (8-2).


Teams to watch:

Matawan (7-3): The Huskies won a thriller over Hopewell Valley, 24-18 in triple overtime, in the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinals for their seventh straight win after an 0-3 start. Sophomore quarterback George Pearson’s touchdown pass to senior Isaiah Phillip stood as the game-winner. The Huskies are the Central Jersey Group III defending champions, and will play at top-seeded Rumson, which won the last two Central Jersey Group II titles, on Friday night in the semifinals.

Middletown North (7-2): Senior running back Chad Freshnock ran for 162 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 71 yards to lead the Lions to a 31-6 win over Sayreville in North Jersey 2, Group IV. It was Middletown North’s first playoff win since 2000. Sophomore running back Connor Welsh added two rushing touchdowns and junior quarterback Donald Glenn threw a touchdown pass to junior Dwight Wilkerson. The Lions will try to shock the state when they travel to top-ranked and rival Middletown South for a semifinal game on Friday night.

Manalapan (6-4): The Braves used 157 yards rushing and a touchdown from senior running back Marcus Salinas to upend Trenton 20-7 in the Central Jersey Group V quarterfinals. Cody Weiner kicked a pair of field goals and Luke Corcione tossed a touchdown pass to Reily Radosevich. The Braves are the defending sectional champions, but will be a big underdog against top-seeded South Brunswick in the semifinals.

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