While much of the country’s thoughts and prayers have been with the Jersey Shore during the last 4 weeks, and our communities are still very much in chaos. The Shore was not treated very nicely by opposing high school football teams from outside the area.

(All Shore Media)

With 11 Shore area teams playing in the semi-final round of the State Tournament, only 5 made it out to play another day.  The sting of these 6 losses has created turmoil in the Top Ten of the Shore.  5 of these teams have lived in the Top Ten for most of the season, and most in the top 5 for most of the year.   Only unbeaten Manalapan(11-0) escaped the upset barrage. They will play a very good South Brunswick team, who like Manalapan, will be looking for their first Championship ever in school history. More on the Braves latter.

RBC(10-1), everybody’s #1 since last year, proved that it still has much work to do on the State level, as they are still trying to figure out what happen in their 42-7 loss to the State’s #1 team, St. Joe Montvale.  The Casey’s who only managed 3 first downs and 71 total yards scored first, to take a 7-0 lead, but then watched as St. Joseph ran off 42 straight points in 3 quarters, before the mercy rule was put into effect during the 4th quarter. Now don’t get me wrong, RBC still may be the best team in the Shore(I myself have elevated Manalapan to that #1 spot), but this has to be a very disappointing loss for Jim Portella and the Casey’s.  Everyone thought maybe this was the year they would show the State that they can play with the St. Joe’s, the Don Bosco’s, the Bergen Catholic’s, who are considered the elite of the State of New Jersey. Back to work for the Casey’s, but a great season, none the less.

Manalapan(11-0) has been on a mission for that first Championship since last year, when they lost to a very good Sayreville team in the State finals.  The Braves defeated Hunterdon Central(5-5) 17-7, behind 179 yards and 2 TDs from RB Tyler Leonetti and a stout defense to get them to the finals. Manalapan will face South Brunswick(10-1) on Saturday night at Rutgers University(7pm).  The Braves held a 10-7 lead at halftime after a Mike Caggiano 30 yard field goal.  The second half belonged to Manalapan as they held the Red Devils vaulted running game to 32 yards  total on the night.  With players like Rec. Anthony Firkser, Rec. Saeed Blacknail , QB Mike Isabella and O/D lineman John Appice, look for the Braves to bring that Championship trophy home to a cheering crowd in Manalapan.  Get the fire trucks ready for the parade.

Middletown South(8-3) put on one of the top offensive displays you will ever see in a High School football game. The Playoff tested Eagles got career efforts from RB Ely Smith(240 yds.), QB Kyle Brey( 302 yds. and 4 TD passes) and Rec. Anthony Citarella(8 catches for 205 yds. and 2 TDs), to crush the Cougars of Colts Neck. Another trip to Rutgers for the 9 time State Champions.  The Eagles will play a very good Sayreville(11-0) team, in what will be their 19th finals appearance. Yes the Eagles are playoff tested, having won 41 playoff games.  Not many can put numbers like that on their resume.  The Eagles have not won a Championship since 2006, when they were 12-0. 2010 was their last finals appearance, when Freehold Boro beat them 14-12.

The game against Colts Neck, who were looking for the finals  for the first time, was a back and forth football game until South took control in the 3rd quarter when they took a 38-17 lead and despite some late TDs from the Cougars, this game was never in doubt. Colts Neck finishes 9-2, for the best record in school history. Mid South lives for another day at Rutgers next week.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the weekend occurred  Friday night at Point Pleasant Beach when Beach was upset by a powerful Florence team who completely shut down the vaulted Beach running game. Beach who came into the game averaging 43 points per game were held to just 90 yards rushing and 14 points.  The loss of Player of the Year candidate Danny Tighe in the 3rd quarter, did not help,  Tighe  had 18 yards rushing while he was in there.  Beach, who seemed to be on that same highway as Manalapan, heading to a State Championship, finishes the season at 10-1. It was the best they ever finished and you should take nothing away from the season they had.  It’s not easy winning a State Championship and the Gulls found that out the hard way.  The coaches and players now begin the long road to recovery in the community, without football on their  minds.  The community will be back and so will the Gull football team.  John Wagner has built a program in his 2 years and they will be a force next year.

Lacey took their unbeaten record to the field on Saturday afternoon on what was supposed to be a stepping stone to the finals. Kingsway had other thoughts and bounced the Lions 42-28 in another huge surprise in the Shore.  Now this is not a miss-print, but the Lions gave up 458 yards rushing.  You will not win many football games when that happens. “They broke a lot of tackles—a lot of tackles” said Head Coach Lou Vircillo. “They had real physical backs.  We usually defend this kind of team real well.”  Well not this afternoon and Lacey ends their season 10-1. Lacey did win the A-South, and that was an achievement in itself. It was the Lions first time in A-South and they walk away a Champion. With QB Tom Kelly back next year to lead the Lions, they will be a pre-season co favorite, along with TR South.

Southern’s thrilling 30-27 victory over Eastern puts them into the SJ-5 finals and a chance to win their first title ever. They will face a Williamstown(11-0) team who has been the pre-season favorite to win their first Championship ever.  Two teams, both hungry, both riding high.  It’s a classic match-up between 2 good football teams.  It’s so good, we are going to broadcast it on 105.7 fm, on Friday night, from Rowan University. QB Danny Higgins(143 yds. passing and 1 TD) has been playing at a very high level at the right time of the year and he has led the Rams down the stretch.  RB Abe Gonzalez(184 yds. and 4 TDs) has been the go to guy for most of the year and Rec./Safety Mike Gesicki looks like a man against boys most of the time on the field.  His all-around ability has been matured with each game he plays.  He is a major threat on offense and he controls the secondary on defense.  The offensive line has played great all year and Gonzalez has benefited from the studs up front.   Southern came in as the #6 seed and has played like the #1 seed.  One more time and they will get that much deserved State Championship.

Neptune(9-2) behind Taj Patterson’s 296 yds. passing and 4 TD game advances to their second CJ-3 Championship in a row.  They are the defending Champion and favored to win on Saturday at TCNJ.  They will face #2 seed Nottingham HS(10-1), who defeated Long Branch 7-0 on Sat. afternoon.

Shore(9-2) is in the finals for the 9th time in school history.  They have won it 5 times of the previous 8.  They beat Asbury Park 31-7 for the second time this season and will play Florence on Sat. morning at TCNJ. RB  Mark Costantino, the coaches son,  rushed for 122 yds. and 4 TDs to lead the Devils to the finals.  With the upset of Point Beach, Shore, who lost to Beach on Turkey Day, will not get the rematch they wanted. In that victory, Beach won the B-Central Title. Shores defense held the dangerous Bishop  offense, to just 129 total yards. Shore has been here before and that experience will be needed, because Florence has also(5 Championships and 13th  time in finals).


Top Ten:  Week 13

1-Manalapan(11-0)  Will I be the only one to elevate the Braves to the top spot? I have no reservation.  I think they deserve it.

2-RBC(10-1) The #2 spot will not make me a favorite in the Casey camp, but I was looking for a little more at St. Joe’s.  And I know they have not lost in the Shore in like forever!

3-Southern(9-2)  The Rams deserve this #3 spot.  The 2 losses are by 5 points and they are in the finals of SJ-5.

4-Neptune(9-2) The Fliers are also in the finals and are an exciting team to watch.  Wish I could watch this game, but I’ll be at Rutgers.

5-Lacey(10-1) The Lions are disappointed and should be.  They wanted a shot at Timber Creek.  Still a great year.

6- Point Beach(10-1) B-Central Champs and best team in school history.

7-Middletown South(8-3) Playoffs are their time of the year.  Tremendous offensive showing against a good Colts Neck defense.

8- Colts Neck(9-2) Best record in school history ends on a sour note, but nothing to be ashamed of.   Excellent football team.

9-Shore(9-2) In CJ-1 finals for 9th time.  Looking for 6th Championship.

10-Long Branch(9-2)  Loss to Nottingham drops the Wave down a little, but Danny George had them playing tough hardnosed football all year.

Just outside looking in:  Rumson(7-3), Lakewood(7-3)

Join us Thursday at the Water St. Grill in TR at 7pm for our HS Football show.  Can’t come down or can’t listen on Friday night to our game of week, check us out on the Shoresportsnetwork.com