Final 2023 Shore Sports Network Shore 16 Football Rankings
We say this every year, but it really does feel like it was just August and we were all primed and hopeful for an exciting 2023 Shore Conference football season.
Fifteen weeks later we wrap up another memorable season that featured two overall state champions, record-setting performances and careers, a few instant classics, and so much more. As for the No. 1 team in the Shore, there isn't much drama regarding which team is the Shore Sports Network Team of the Year.
Red Bank Catholic stamped itself as Shore Conference's top-ranked team at the end of the regular season with consecutive victories over Toms River North and Donovan Catholic. Perhaps a playoff misstep could have opened the door for another team, but the Caseys took care of business and ultimately defeated DePaul, 14-7, to capture the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship and conclude a 10-1 season.
For the second time in the last three seasons, RBC is the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16.
The Caseys opened the season with a 24-6 loss to Bergen Catholic, New Jersey's No. 1 team and eventual Non-Public A state champions for the third straight year. From there, RBC won 10 straight games, including wins over Group 5 champion Toms River North, Non-Public A semifinalists Donovan Catholic and Seton Hall Prep, Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven, and Colonial Division co-champion Colts Neck during the regular season. The Caseys secured their fifth state title by defeating Holy Spirit in the semifinal and DePaul in the state championship game at MetLife Stadium.
Here is the rest of our final Shore 16 of the 2023 season. Thanks again for following our coverage.
The Caseys defeated DePaul, 14-7, to win the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship for their second title in the last three seasons, third in the last six seasons, and fifth overall. Along the way, RBC went undefeated through the powerful Shore Conference American Division with victories over Group 5 champion Toms River North, Non-Public A semifinalist Donovan Catholic, and Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven. The Caseys also had a win over Non-Public A semifinalist Seton Hall Prep. Their only loss was a season-opening 24-6 defeat to Non-Public A champion and state No. 1 Bergen Catholic. They finished the season No. 8 in the Shore in scoring offense at 27.1 points per game and sixth in defensive points per game at 13.1. RBC had multiple All-Shore selections, including Offensive Player of the Year Emanuel Ross, Defensive Player of the Year Davin Brewton, quarterback Frankie Williams, offensive lineman Lorenzo Portella, and defensive lineman Logan Graham.
The Griffins finished second to Red Bank Catholic in the American Division and reached the Non-Public A semifinals for the first time in program history where an injury-riddled team fell to eventual champion Bergen Catholic. Donovan snapped Group 5 champion Toms River North's 17-game winning streak with a 21-7 victory in Week 3, defeated Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven, beat St. Augustine twice including once in the playoffs, and topped Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Long Branch to highlight the season. Donovan's three losses were to Bergen Catholic, Non-Public B champion Red Bank Catholic, and perennial powerhouse St. Joseph (Montvale). The Griffins were No. 9 in the Shore with 24.2 points per game and 11th on defense at 16.7 points per game. Senior defensive lineman Zaier Day was voted as a co-Defensive Player of the Year in the American Division to headline multiple All-Shore selections for Donovan.
It wasn't a perfect season but it was another championship campaign for the powerful Mariners as they continued their two-year run of dominance against fellow public schools by repeating as NJSIAA Group 5 state champions with a 23-13 win over Passaic Tech. Toms River North posted wins over Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven and South Jersey Group 4 finalist Millville during the regular season before pummeling Southern, Freehold Township, and Washington Township to win the Central Jersey Group 5 title, the program's eighth sectional title in its history. A 33-6 wipeout of Cherokee in the Group 5 semifinals set the stage for the Mariners to defeat previously unbeaten Passaic Tech at Rutgers to become the first public school to win two group state championships. The Mariners' offense was No. 2 in the Shore averaging 35.9 points per game and its defense was No. 3 at 10.7 points per game. Senior quarterback Micah Ford was selected as Shore Sports Network's Most Valuable Player and headlined a large group of All-Shore selections that includes seniors Jeremiah Pruitt, Tareq Council, Josh Moore, Justin Kaye, Anthony Rodriguez, and Christian Oliveri, and juniors Jaelyne Matthews, and Blaise Boland.
The Bulldogs put together another memorable postseason run before falling in overtime to Westwood in the Group 2 state championship game. Rumson beat Haddonfield 14-7 with a late defensive stand to repeat as South Jersey Group 2 champions and claim the program's eighth sectional title in the last 13 years. Rumson defeated Middletown South and Matawan to start the season before suffering four straight losses at the hands of Group 5 champion Toms River North, Non-Pubilc B champion Red Bank Catholic, Central Jersey Group 2 finalist Point Boro, and Non-Public A semifinalist Donovan Catholic. The Bulldogs regrouped to win their final two regular-season games and then beat Delaware Valley, Haddon Heights, and Haddonfield to win the South Jersey Group 2 crown. They then outlasted Willingboro, 35-28, in the Group 2 semifinals before losing in the Group 2 final for the second straight season. Rumson was No. 10 in the Shore in offense at 23.4 points per game and 14th on defense at 18.2 points per game. Junior quarterback Owen O'Toole was third in the Shore in passing yards and earned an All-Shore selection along with several of his teammates.
The Panthers had another remarkable season that ended just short of a championship. Point Boro got the rematch it wanted with Willingboro but fell to the Chimeras, 26-21, in the Central Jersey Group 2 section final. Their only regular-season blemish was a 24-23 loss to Manalapan. Along the way they defeated Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven, Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Long Branch, and South Jersey Group 4 semifinalist Colts Neck. Point Boro shared the Colonial Division championship with Colts Neck. Senior running back Jake Croce ran for 1,002 yards to become the program's all-time leading rusher and senior quarterback Matt Oliphant was third in the Shore with 1,705 yards and 24 touchdowns. They are the first Point Boro duo to run for 1,000 yards in the same season and piloted the Panthers to the Shore's No. 1 scoring offense at 41.1 points per game. The defense, led by junior linebacker Colin Obser, the Colonial Division co-Defensive Player of the Year, was No. 9 at 15.2 points per game.
It was a down year by Middletown South standards as the Eagles finished with a .500 record and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but a convincing 30-14 victory over Colonial Division co-champion Colts Neck solidified their spot at No. 6. Injuries early in the season to quarterback/safety/kicker Jake Czwakiel, running back Donovan Summey, and others were tough to overcome against a schedule that included Non-Public B champion Red Bank Catholic, Group 5 champion Toms River North, Non-Public A semifinalist Donovan Catholic, and Group 2 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven. After three straight losses to close the regular season and the playoffs, Middletown South capped the year with wins over Plainfield in a consolation game and Middletown North on Thanksgiving. Senior Colin Gallagher had another First Team All-Shore season with 120 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 18.5 tackles for loss at linebacker and 808 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.
The Mustangs had their best season in 25 years by going 8-3, earning a share of the Freedom Division title, and advancing to the South Jersey Group 5 sectional final. Marlboro started 6-0 and defeated Jackson Memorial, 11-2, to clinch its first division title since 1994. Following two losses to close the regular season, the Mustangs regrouped with playoff wins over South Brunswick and Hillsborough to advance to their first sectional final since 1994. Marlboro fell to Cherokee, 19-13 in double overtime. The team's 8-3 record gave it three straight winning seasons for the first time in program history. Marlboro had one of the Shore's best defenses and finished fourth in points per game allowed at 11.3. Head coach Jason Dagato was selected as the Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year while seniors Matt Cassidy and Mike Consolazio headlined the team's All-Shore recipients.
The Cougars shared the Colonial Division championship with Point Boro and advanced to the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals where they were eliminated by eventual Group 4 champion Mainland. Colts Neck's three conference losses came to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, No. 5 Point Boro, and No. 6 Middletown South. The Cougars defeated Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Long Branch (57-20), shut out Liberty Division champion Toms River South 41-0 in the playoffs, and scored a 35-0 win over an up-and-down yet dangerous Manalapan team. Senior running back Chris Scully was fourth in the Shore in rushing yards and tops among running backs with a school single-season record 1,702 yards and 25 touchdowns and also set Colts Neck's career rushing mark with 3,820 yards.
The Hornets won the Constitution Division championship and advanced to the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals to complete a drastic turnaround from a 1-8 season the year before. Holmdel had the No. 1 scoring defense in the Shore that allowed a paltry 4.8 points per game and recorded six straight shutouts from Week 3 to Week 8. St. John Vianney (20-14 OT win) and Camden (21-7 loss in the playoffs) were the only teams to score more than one touchdown on the Hornets this season. The team began the year 9-0 before the postseason loss to Camden and had a 42-6 win over Liberty Division champion Toms River South and shutout victories over playoff teams Manasquan (23-0) and Shore Regional (39-0). Sophomore quarterback Jack Cannon had an excellent debut season with 1,049 yards passing and 10 touchdowns plus 508 yards rushing and seven touchdowns for an offense that was No. 7 in the Shore at 28.4 points per game. Senior defensive lineman Nick Bachmann helped lead a balanced defense and was one of several All-Shore selections for the Hornets.
An injury to senior quarterback Earnest Reevey derailed Long Branch's season early, but he was able to return to playing quarterback late in the season to spur the Green Wave's run to the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional championship game. After a 4-4 regular season, Long Branch caught fire in the playoffs with a 13-0 shutout victory over Freedom Division co-champion Jackson Memorial before handing Brick Memorial its only loss with a 21-7 victory in the semifinals. Long Branch fell to Winslow in the sectional final, 41-7, before closing its season with a 41-20 win over Red Bank in the 100th Thanksgiving meeting between the schools. Reevey was a standout on both sides of the ball to earn All-Shore honors, senior running back Da'Von Craft made an immediate impact after transferring from Neptune in the offseason, and junior linebacker Joseph Corley emerged as a top defensive playmaker.
The Mustangs had one of the best seasons in program history by starting 10-0 and winning the Independence Division championship for their first outright division title since 2012. Ranked wins over Middletown North and Freehold Township headlined their regular season schedule along with a thrilling, final-minute victory over rival Brick in a game dubbed "The Miracle in the Mud". Brick Memorial's season came to an end with a 21-7 loss to Long Branch in the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals. The Mustangs had the No. 3 scoring offense in the Shore at 34.8 points per game with senior record-breaking quarterback Connor Dietz leading the way. He ran for 1,797 yards and 25 touchdowns to finish second in the Shore and also threw for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns. He holds nearly every Brick Memorial offensive record and sits sixth on the Shore Conference's all-time rushing list with 5,040 career yards. Dietz and teammates Trey Tallmadge, Kevin Andrews, and Austin Edwards earned All-Shore selections.
The Jaguars shared the Freedom Division championship with Marlboro and qualified for the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs before falling to Long Branch, 13-0, in the first round. A stout defense and a potent rushing attack remained the formula for success for Jackson as the Jags were second in the Shore in points allowed per game at 9.3 with two shutouts. Sophomore running back Jonah Glenn announced himself as a budding star by rushing for 1,454 yards and 14 touchdowns to lead an offense that averaged 19.7 points per game. Glenn, senior defensive backs Albert D'Alessandro and Jaiden Hernandez, and senior defensive end Shaun Hubbard were among the Jaguars' All-Shore recipients.
One of the few changes from the final in-season rankings has Middletown North moving ahead of Freehold Township. A puzzling loss to Southern held the Lions back but when evaluating their full season it was important to factor in their 45-21 head-to-head victory over the Patriots in Week 0. Middletown North also had a 28-21 win over No. 7 Marlboro in the final week of the regular season. The Lions were eliminated from the Noth 2, Group 4 playoffs by Irvington but rebounded to win a consolation game versus Ocean City before falling to No. 6 Middletown South, 45-21, on Thanksgiving. Middletown North's other losses were to No. 11 Brick Memorial and No. 12 Jackson Memorial. Senior quarterback Luke Sheehan had an excellent season to finish second in the Shore in passing yards with 2,220 while throwing 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Senior wideout Dylan Briggs also had a huge year with 53 catches for 959 yards and six touchdowns.
The Patriots won seven games for the first time since 2008 and won the second playoff game in program history with a thrilling 21-20 win over North Brunswick in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 5 playoffs. They finished second behind Brick Memorial in the Independence Division. Junior quarterback Nick Cardone had a breakout season to lead the Shore in passing yards with 2,327 and passing touchdowns with 24, while receivers GianPaul Cortes (30-669-9), Jaylen Gill-Anderson (30-567-4), and Nick Carnevale (37-475-8) all finished in the top 11 in the Shore in receiving yards. Senior linebacker Sebastian Andujar led the way on defense.
The Indians won the Liberty Division title for their first division championship since 2002 and qualified for the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs in a resurgent season after winning just four games over the previous two years. After a season-opening loss to No. 9 Holmdel, Toms River South won its next five games - all against divisional opponents - to secure the division crown. Their other losses came to No. 3 Toms River North and No. 8 Colts Neck. Senior quarterback/linebacker Jimmy Alexander led the way along with junior running back Jake Henehan and junior linebacker Laolu Akinlolu.
The final change in the rankings comes in the 16th and final spot where Howell has overtaken Manalapan. Our reasoning here lies first with Howell's 30-27 head-to-head win over the Braves. Manalapan did have the best win between the two teams by defeating No. 5 Point Boro, 24-23, in a huge Week 6 upset but also lost to a two-win Raritan team that had the lowest-scoring offense in the Shore. Howell's conference losses came to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic, No. 7 Marlboro, No. 12 Jackson Memorial, No. 13 Middletown North, and Wall before a 14-0 playoff loss to Hillsborough. The losses to Wall, Marlboro, Jackson, and Middletown North came by a combined 19 points. Senior wideout Kevin Maloney concluded his career with his third All-Shore selection and junior running back Juan DeJesus scored 10 touchdowns after taking over for injured starter Brandon Wright.