Face of the Franchise – Toms River North 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.
TOMS RIVER NORTH
Toms River North was a young, struggling program until Foacco took the reigns as head coach in 1977 and lead the Mariners to a 6-3 season, the program’s first winning record since the school began playing football in 1969. Fiocco only coached North for three seasons but compiled a 20-9 and in 1979 guided the Mariners to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 title, the first sectional championship in program history. The Mariners had a memorable win over powerhouse Brick Township when, following a Mariners’ touchdown, Fiocco decided to go for a two-point conversion with no time left. North converted and scored the upset in a game played at Giants Stadium.
Among the top linemen in Shore Conference history, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Ellis helped lead the Mariners to their first state sectional title as a senior in 1979 when they won the South Jersey Group 4 title. He was a first-team All-County, first-team All-Shore and first-team All-State selection as a senior. He was also a two-time district champion wrestler at heavyweight. After high school, Ellis played collegiately at Clemson University where he was a four-year starter and a member of the Tigers national championship team in 1981. He was also named to the Sporting News All-American team as a right tackle during his senior year. Ellis signed with the Dallas Cowboys following his career at Clemson.
Toms River North was a force in the Shore Conference and statewide from 1989-2004 under the direction of Nani, whose teams won three NJSIAA titles during that span. Known for explosive offenses and punishing defense, Nani’s teams went 105-55 during his tenure, which also including winning Shore Conference division titles in 1991, 1994, 1995 and 2002. In 1991, the Mariners also won the South Jersey Group 4 title, the program’s first state championship since 1979. Nani then led them to a second South Jersey Group 4 title in 1994 behind star tailback Aamir Dew to cap a 10-1 season. He entered the rarefied air of Shore Conference coaches with three NJSIAA titles when the Mariners again took home the South Jersey Group 4 crown in 1997.
A bruising running back, Barnes was the captain of the Mariners’ 1997 South Jersey Group 4 championship team. He was an all-state running back in 1997, as well, when he led Ocean County in rushing. Barnes played in just eight games as a senior but rushed for 1,163 yards and 15 touchdowns. He accepted a scholarship to Rutgers University but did not play as a freshman. After minimal action as a sophomore, he transferred to Hampton University to finish out his college career. Despite going undrafted in the 2002 NFL Draft, Barnes would go on to enjoy a 9-year career as a fullback in the NFL. As a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Barnes earned a Super Bowl Ring when the Bucs beat the Oakland Raiders to win Super Bowl XXXVII.
The 2016 Shore Sports Network Offensive Player of the Year, Husni turned in what was, at the time, the greatest statistical season by a quarterback in Shore Conference history to lead the Mariners to the Class A South division title, help them reach the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 5 final and capture the final No. 1 ranking in the SSN Top 10. Husni threw for 2,027 yards and 25 touchdowns while also running for 1,618 yards and 19 touchdowns on an average of 8.6 yards per carry. He was the first quarterback in Shore Conference history to throw for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a season, and is believed to be the first quarterback in state history to throw and run for 1,000 yards each in three different seasons. His 44 total touchdowns in 2016 tied what was then a conference record. Husni threw for over 5,000 yards and rushed for nearly 4,500 yards in his career while combing for over 100 touchdowns passing and rushing to set multiple program records. As a junior, Husni threw for 1,400 yards with 13 touchdowns and ran for 1,240 yards and 18 touchdowns as the Mariners captured the South Jersey Group 5 state title
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