Central Jersey Group 2 Championship Preview: Manasquan vs. Hillside
CENTRAL JERSEY GROUP 2 FINAL
WHO: 2-Manasquan (8-2) at 1-Hillside (10-0)
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Conant Park, 425 Conant Street, Hillside, NJ
MANASQUAN’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Delaware Valley, 40-21, in the quarterfinals; defeated Cinnaminson, 14-7, in the semifinals.
HILLSIDE’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated South River, 39-0, in the quarterfinals; defeated Bernards, 21-3, in the semifinals.
MANASQUAN’S BEST WIN: 14-7 over Cinnaminson in the semifinals.
HILLSIDE’S BEST WIN: 21-3 over Bernards in the semifinals.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: No Shore Conference team has won more sectional titles than Manasquan’s 12…The Warriors have made 34 playoff appearances since 1974 and reached 19 sectional finals and sport a 44-22 postseason record…Manasquan’s last title came in 2016, a 42-6 win over Bernards in the Central Jersey Group 2 championship. Manasquan won a Shore-record five straight sectional titles from 1998 through 2002…Hillside is the defending champion in the section, beating Point Boro, 20-13, in last season’s championship game…The Comets have made just nine playoff appearances in program history with an 8-7 overall record, but have reached three sectional finals and have two titles.
MANASQUAN STAT LEADERS
-Canyon Birch, Sr., RB/LB: 207 carries for 1,154 yards and 17 total TDs; 63 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 3 sacks.
-Scooby Tuddles, Sr., FB: 81 carries for 615 yards, 113 yards receiving, 8 total TDs.
-James Pendergist, Sr., WR/DB: 25 rec. for 427 yards, 6 total TDs.
-Ryan O’Leary, Sr., QB: 44-for-75, 808 yards passing, 6 TDs, 3 INTs.
-Dylan D’Anton, Sr., DE: 42 tackles, 16 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
-Shayne Leddy, So., LB: 50 tackles, 8 TFL, 1.5 sacks
HILLSIDE STAT LEADERS
-Gavin Melendez, QB: 69-for-108, 1,576 yards, 19 TDs, 5 INTs
-Brian Ugwu, RB: 54 carries for 1,000 yards and 7 TDs; 106 tackles, 8 sacks.
-James Louis, RB: 60 carries for 861 yards and 11 TDs
-Jahon Moore, RB: 58 carries for 556 yards and 4 TDs
-Shadon Willis, WR: 20 rec. for 541 yards and 9 TDs; 9 carries for 142 yards and 3 TDs; 2 INTs on defense.
-Nahree Biggins, WR: 14 rec. for 434 yards and 6 TDs; 15 carries for 233 yards and 3 TDs
-Boris Nicolas-Paul, WR: 20 rec. for 378 yards and 3 TDs; 105 tackles, 5 sacks.
-Mateus Ramos: 96 tackles, 5 sacks
-Najee Peele: 121 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 forced fumbles
Manasquan has its hands full against defending champion Hillside in Saturday’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 championship. The Warriors will try to slow down a powerful Comets’ offense and hand them their first loss of the season to claim the 13th sectional title in program history.
Hillside is loaded with talented playmakers on both sides of the ball. Brian Ugwu is averaging an unreal 18.5 yards per carry with 1,000 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and has also made 106 tackles and recorded a team-high eight sacks. James Louis has added 861 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns and Jahon Moore has 58 carries for 556 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Gavin Melendez has thrown for 1,576 yards and 19 touchdowns and has a bevy of options in the passing game. Shadon Willis has 541 yards receiving and nine touchdowns, plus three rushing touchdowns. Nahree Biggins checks in with 434 yards and six touchdowns plus 233 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Boris Nicolas-Paul has 378 yards and three touchdowns and is also a force on defense with 105 tackles and 5 sacks.
Manasquan will try to counter with a physical rushing attack and win the game in the trenches. Senior running back Canyon Birch enters the game with 1,154 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns and should see a heavy workload. Fullback Rashid ‘Scooby’ Tuddles is always a factor whether carrying the ball or delivering punishing blocks. He has 615 yards rushing and eight total touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Ryan O’Leary (808 yards, 6 TDs) is going to have to make big throws at key moments. When he does, he’ll likely look toward fellow senior James Pendergist, who has 25 catches for 427 yards and six total touchdowns. Riley Callahan and John Foreman are Manasquan’s other main options at wide receiver while Tuddles and Birch can be dangerous in the screen game.
Manasquan’s defense will have to control the line of scrimmage and tackle soundly. Senior defensive end Dylan D’Anton leads the team with 16 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Birch has a team-high 63 tackles and sophomore Shayne Leddy has had a solid season at outside linebacker. The return of senior middle linebacker Jack Fabean (injury) midway through the season has been a huge boost. Simply put, everyone on that side of the ball will have to play well.
Hillside is definitely the favorite, but Manasquan has gone on the road and defeated high-scoring teams before to win a state championship. Can the Warriors do it again and send the fire trucks rolling down Main Street? We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Manasquan 21, Hillside 20
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.