Face of the Franchise: Raritan 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?
With that in mind, we came up with a football feature called Face of the Franchise.
We reached out to all 43 football programs in the Shore Conference and in conjunction came up with nominees for each school. The 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.
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.
D’Iorio was a first-team All-Shore selection and the conference’s leading rusher in 1998 when Raritan made its second NJSIAA sectional final appearance and first since 1980. A powerful runner, D’Iorio ran for 1,522 to lead the Rockets to an 8-4 record and a spot in the Central Jersey Group 2 championship game. He played collegiately at Montclair State.
Joseph J. DeVirgilio
An important figure in the history and growth of Raritan's football program, DeVirgilio started the team's booster club in 1967 and ran it through 2000. He raised over $23,000 so that lights could be installed at the Rockets home field and the team could play on Friday nights. He also helped raise thousands of dollars for equipment to start the Rockets' weight room and also assisted other sports. Raritan's home field is named after him.
An injury to Raritan’s starter thrust Ernst into the No. 1 running back position early in his junior year and he seized the moment with a fantastic two-year stretch in which he rushed for over 3,000 yards and 47 touchdowns. As a junior, Ernst ran for 1,505 yards and 24 touchdowns to lead Raritan to a playoff berth in Central Jersey Group 3. As a senior in 2005, Ernst set a school single-season record with 1,777 yards rushing while scoring 23 touchdowns to help Raritan win the Central Jersey Group 2 title. Raritan was the No. 6 seed and entered the playoffs with a 4-5 record but won three straight, including a 28-26 upset of top-seeded and previously-undefeated Lincoln in the championship game, to win the program’s second sectional title.
The most successful coach in Raritan High School history, “The General” amassed a 75-44 record in 11 seasons across two separate stints, won three division titles and led the Rockets to a state title and the program’s only undefeated season. The Rockets won the program’s first NJSIAA sectional title in history in 2004 when they beat Carteret in Central Jersey Group II and finished 12-0 behind first-team All-State quarterback Andrew Mandeville. The Rockets won division titles in 2004, 2005 and 2008 and reached sectional championship games in 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
In 2008, Generelli was inducted into the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, In 2012 he was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame and in 2014 was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame. Generelli starred as an offensive lineman under Vic Kubu, the late legend whose 10 NJSIAA titles are a Shore Conference record, from 1979-81 at Middletown North. He then went on to play at Montclair State, earning All-New Jersey Athletic Conference honors as an offensive guard in 1985. In 1995, he was inducted into the Middletown North Lion Hall of Fame. He also coached a combined four years at the collegiate level – two years under current University of Texas coach Mack Brown at the University of North Carolina, and two years under longtime Monmouth University coach Kevin Callahan.
Generelli also had two undefeated seasons at Middletown South in 1990 and 1992, which included finishing ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press in 1992. He went 30-5 in four years at Middletown South from 1990-1993. Generelli is part an illustrious group that includes SFCF Hall of Famers like Vic Kubu, John Amabile, George Conti and Chip LaBarca Sr., who led multiple Shore Conference teams to undefeated seasons.
A two-way star for the Rockets, Jackson enjoyed a stellar career at Notre Dame where he was a two-year starter, a senior captain and helped the Fighting Irish reach the BCS National Championship in 2012. He was then drafted by the Giants and is currently a safety for the New York Jets.
Jackson was a two-time first-team All-Shore selection for Raritan as a wide receiver. As a junior, he caught 34 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns, threw two touchdown passes, ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, returned two punts for a touchdown and kicked four field goals. As a senior, Jackson had 40 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns, ran for 314 yards and six touchdowns and totaled 47 kicking points. He committed to Notre Dame over offers from Michigan State, Northwestern and Rutgers, among others.
Jackson began his college career as a wide receiver and played mostly special teams as a freshman. He was converted to defensive back during spring practice before his sophomore season and it was in the defensive backfield where he would become a standout on one of the best teams in the country. After serving as a backup in 2011, Jackson started all 13 games despite a shoulder injury that would require surgery after the season. He made 65 tackles, intercepted four passes and had four additional pass breakups as Notre Dame went 12-1 and reached the BCS National Championship Game where it was defeated by Alabama. As a senior Jackson was named one of Notre Dame’s captains along with future NFL draftees Zach Martin and T.J. Jones. Jackson recorded 64 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, two interceptions and three pass breakups.
Following his career at Notre Dame, Jackson was selected by the New York Giants in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Jackson moved from cornerback to safety while with the Giants but a torn ACL suffered in the second preseason game of 2015 led to his eventual release in 2016. Jackson then signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2018 and spent some time on the practice squad before signing with the Jets in 2019. He then went back to the Ravens before once again landing with the Jets as a free-agent signing in March 2020. He appeared in four games with the Jets this season.
The best quarterback in Raritan history and one of the best quarterbacks in Shore Conference history, Mandeville was a sensational dual-threat quarterback who piloted the Rockets offense during the most successful run in school history. He finished his career with 6,049 yards passing and 40 touchdowns 50 touchdowns along with 1,216 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns. Raritan went 34-10 during Mandeville’s career, including reaching consecutive Central Jersey Group 2 title games in 2004 and 2005 and finishing a perfect 12-0 in 2004.
Mandeville took over the starting job as a freshman and made 44 career starters during a career in which he was a three-time first-team All-Shore selection and a two-time first-team All-State selection. As a sophomore, Mandeville threw for 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns before a breakout junior season. In 2004, Mandeville led Raritan to a 12-0 season and the program’s first state sectional title with a 35-12 victory over Carteret. He threw for 1,859 yards and 20 touchdowns with only one interception and ran for 309 yards and nine touchdowns as Raritan had the No. 1 offense in the Shore averaging 40 points and 385 yards per game. He concluded his illustrious career by throwing for 1,475 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for 751 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead the Rockets to a share of their third straight division title and their second straight appearance in the Central Jersey Group 2 final.
Mandeville played collegiately at Monmouth University where he saw action at punter and quarterback. Injuries derailed his college career, however, as a shoulder injury ended his sophomore season after a brief but promising showing against Delaware in his first career appearance at quarterback. He was the Hawks' backup quarterback in 2008 and then won a share of the starting job as a senior in 2009. He started four games at quarterback before suffering a season-ending leg injury.
Oxley was the first coach in school history and coached the Rockets for a total of 20 years across two separate tenures. He first coached Raritan from 1962-1973 and compiled a 48-54 record with two division titles. Raritan went 6-2-1 and won the B Division title in 1967 and went 7-2 and won the A Division title in 1970. He then coached Raritan from 1983-1990 and finished with a career record of 71-103.
Semenza was a two-time All-Shore selection – second team as a defensive back in 1993 and first team as a tight end in 2003 – and an all-state selection as a senior who went on to play linebacker at East Carolina. Semenza caught 24 passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
He was a two-year starter at East Carolina and as a sophomore was a member of the 1995 team that finished No. 23 in the nation and defeated Stanford in the Liberty Bowl.
SSN Selection: Bob Generelli
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.
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