Face of the Franchise: Central Regional Football
When a Shore Conference football program is mentioned there are certain people that always come to mind. For some, it’s unanimous no matter what era you are from. For others, it’s a fun debate comparing all-time greats from different eras whether they roamed the sidelines as coaches or broke records between the lines.
That got us at the Shore Sports Network wondering: when you think of Shore Conference football, who are the most prominent figures in each program’s history? And if there was a mountain nearby and we knew a sculptor, whose faces should be carved on its side to be forever honored?
With that in mind, we came up with a football feature that will run throughout this summer, and it’s called Face of the Franchise.
We reached out to all 43 football programs in the Shore Conference and in conjunction came up with five nominees for each school. The five names and their accomplishments will be listed and fans will have a chance to cast their votes to select who they feel is the Face of the Franchise for each program. Our SSN football crew of Bob Badders, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Matt Harmon will also put their heads together to make a selection. The polls will run for one week each.
At the end of the summer when the Face of the Franchise has been determined for all 43 programs, we’ll run one final poll to see who the fans think should go on top of the mountain; five legends to represent the history of Shore Conference football.
Keyes quarterbacked Central’s football team during an epic 1971 season when the Golden Eagles went 9-0 and were voted as Shore Conference champions and as the No. 1 team in New Jersey (the NJSIAA playoffs did not begin until 1974). Keyes led an offense that averaged 44.9 points per game and won all but one game by at least 15 points. He was a first-team All-State selection as well as the Shore Conference player of the year. Central won 16 straight games with him under center. Keyes was also a four-year varsity letter-winner in basketball and a 1,000-point scorer. Keyes received a scholarship to Florida State where he was a member of the Seminoles’ football program.
On the receiving end of many of Keyes’ passes was Kilmurray, an outstanding All-State receiver who also starred in the defensive backfield. He was an integral member of Central’s 1971 team that went 9-0 and was voted Shore Conference champions and the No. 1 team in New Jersey. Kilmurray was also an outstanding basketball and baseball player for the Golden Eagles. Along with Keyes, Kilmurray also received a football scholarship to Florida State.
Tice played quarterback and safety to lead the 1994 Golden Eagles football team to the Shore Conference Class B South title and to the cusp of a state title when they fell to Brick, 28-24, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 sectional final. Tice was also a standout basketball player who finished his career with 1,337 points. He played collegiately at Fairfield University and then at Central Connecticut State, helping each program win conference championships.
An outstanding running back who was a first-team All-Shore selection as a senior, Hardy had a record-setting 2011 season when he ran for 2,050 yards and 28 touchdowns to become the first 2,000-yard rusher in Central Regional history. He averaged 206.2 yards per game and 8.4 yards per carry. In a game against Brick, Hardy set an Ocean County record by rushing for 417 yards and scoring five touchdowns in a 35-20 victory. When he finished up his career he was Central’s all-time leading rusher with over 5,000 yards. Hardy was also a standout wrestler who won a Region 6 title and finished third in the state at 160 pounds.
Boyd was Central’s first football coach and athletic director when the school opened in 1956 and during his 16-year tenure compiled a record of 84-52-3 with four Shore Conference division titles and two state sectional titles. In Central’s first season, the Golden Eagles went 4-3 and were voted as the Central Jersey Group 1 champions. The following season, Central went 8-0. Boyd’s final season was also the greatest in program history. Led by quarterback Robbie Keyes, wide receiver John Kilmurray, running back Peter Bell plus standouts Rich Breitenbach, Mike Curry, Steve Ditchkus, Pete Callahan, Mike Boyd and John MacIntosh, the Golden Eagles went 9-0, dominating their competition en route to being voted Shore Conference champions and as the No. 1 team in the state. Tragically, Boyd died just months after the season ended. The Central Regional Football Complex was dedicated to him in the fall of 1972.
Central’s all-time leading rusher and touchdown scorer, Bickford exploded onto to the scene in his first varsity senior as a sophomore in 2014 by rushing for a school single-season record 2,052 yards and scoring 25 touchdowns on an average of 7.2 yards per carry. He was a first-team All-Shore selection and was named the Class B South Offensive Player of the Year by the coaches. His performance led Central to its best season in 20 year as it went 8-3 and won a share of the Class B South title for their first division title since 1994. They also won their first state playoff game since 1994 with a 28-14 win over Oakcrest in which Bickford ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
As a junior, Bickford ran for 1,582 yards and 21 touchdowns on an average of 8.4 yards per carry. He was a second-team All-Shore selection and the Class B South co-Offensive Player of the Year.
Bickford polished off his record-breaking career with 1,737 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 8.2 yards per carry in just nine games, leading Central to a 7-2 record. His signature game came in a win over Brick Memorial when he accounted for 433 total yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for 363 yards and six touchdowns on 21 carries and catching a 70-yard touchdown.
Bickford finished with a school-record 5,371 yards and scored 64 touchdowns.
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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.