Football – Gridiron Classic: Ocean 27, Monmouth 7
LONG BRANCH – With three of the top passers in the Shore Conference on the same roster with them, receivers Matt Castronuova of Jackson Memorial and Karl Kumm of Brick Memorial knew they or any other Ocean County receiver could have a big game Thursday in the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic.
As it turned out, both had big games as Castronuova caught two touchdown passes and Kumm caught a touchdown, hit a 43-yard field goal and a 25-yard field goal and was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points to lead Ocean County to a convincing 27-7 win over Monmouth County at Long Branch High School.
“We have that mentality that no one can beat us and we came out here and made sure that everybody else was on the same page,” Castronuova said, referring to the six players from Jackson Memorial’s state championship team on the roster and the coaching staff led by Jaguars head coach Walt Krystopik. “We had six guys from our team and we all clicked, and it was a great thing to see happen in five days.”
Castronuova was named the Ocean County Offensive Most Valuable Player, while Toms River South defensive lineman Joe Odebode took home defensive Most Valuable Player honors with a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Kumm, meanwhile, was awarded the Sam Mills Award for leadership after the third quarter, shortly after he caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Jackson Memorial quarterback Joe DeMaio to give Ocean a 17-0 lead with 9:10 left in the 3rd quarter.
“I just heard (Mills’) story on the sideline and it’s a great honor to win this award,” said Kumm, who will play at Carnegie Mellon in the fall. “The things he did and the life that he lived was just tremendous and to be awarded an award in his honor is the greatest honor.”
To cap his standout night, Kumm booted a career-long 43-yard field goal that capped the scoring with 3:08 left in the game. Kumm was not even the kicker at Brick Memorial this year and with no other option at kicker on the roster, Kumm was the choice.
“Coach told me, 30 (yards) or in, we are going to go for it (the kick),” Kumm said “I read Scott Stump’s preview again and I was smiling because he said that Ocean doesn’t have a kicker. Clearly, the roles were reversed for me and I just had a good time out there. My holder, my snapper, the line – everybody did the job.”
After Kumm’s touchdown, Lacey quarterback Conor Davies then found Castronuova for a 42-yard touchdown strike to make it 24-0, with Davies starting the play in the slot and taking a toss from Brick Memorial running back Connor Owen, who had taken a handoff from Jackson Memorial quarterback Joe DeMaio, before hitting Castronuova in stride on a fly pattern.
“We practiced that a lot over the week and it worked every single time we ran it,” Davies said. “I was actually in at quarterback when it happened and they told me before the series that we might do it. They’d put DeMaio in and I was going to go to the slot. I was surprised the defense didn’t pick up on it and I’m glad they didn’t. Castronuova, with his speed, got wide open and I just slung it out there to him.”
Davies and Castronuova also starred together in the Phil Simms’ North-South State All-Star Game at Kean University in late June and got a chance to shine on the same team one more time.
“I played with Conor in the all-state game last week and seeing what he can do with the type of skill level he has when he gets the blocking was impressive,” Castronuova said. “I didn’t break stride on that pass he threw to me. He’s a great kid, he can play multiple positions, and it was awesome just seeing us click right from the start.”
Castronuova caught five passes for 63 yards and Davies went 4-for-5 for 89 yards and a touchdown. Brick quarterback Carmen Sclafani hit Castronuova for a one-yard touchdown pass to cap the opening drive of the game. Sclafani finished 6-for-10 with 27 yards and a touchdown, as well as 51 yards on 10 carries.
Ocean began the game with a 13-play, 74-yard drive that Sclafani capped when he rolled out to his left on second-and-goal from the one yard-line and flipped a shovel pass over a host of converging defenders, which Castronuova caught for the game’s first score. Kumm’s extra point capped the drive, which burned 7:09 off the clock before Monmouth even had a possession.
Kumm was on the receiving end of one of two completions by Davies on a second-quarter drive that gave Ocean a 10-0 lead, ending with Kumm’s 25-yard field goal from the right hash. Monmouth gave Ocean new life on the drive when a long snap sailed over the head of Davies – serving as the punter – and Monmouth was called for roughing the punter on the play to give Ocean a first down after a fourth-and-6.
DeMaio helped ignite the drive with 27 yards on four carries before Davies took over under center following the personal foul. Davies also hit Southern tight end Olufemi Palmer for a 14-yard completion to set Ocean up at the four yard-line before the drive stalled inside the 10.
DeMaio’s third-quarter touchdown pass to Kumm was his only pass attempt of the game and it came on a play-action fake that both DeMaio and Kumm sold to perfection. No player was within 20 yards of Kumm, who backpedalled into the end zone after catching the pass from DeMaio over the top of the defense.
“Going out for that play, I knew the play was going towards me and I just had to fake the run block, and when the cornerback bit, I knew I was gone,” Kumm said.
In all, the three Ocean County quarterbacks combined to go 11-for-16 for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ocean County defense, meanwhile, contained Monmouth County’s running game over the first three quarters before allowing Rumson-Fair Haven back Charlie Volker to lead a scoring drive in the fourth quarter, one that the Princeton University recruit capped with a nine-yard touchdown run to trim the deficit to 24-7.
Ocean’s defense also completely shut down the Monmouth passing attack, which was limited to 1-for-8 passing, with Volker catching a 12-yard screen pass from Mater Dei Prep quarterback Christian Palmer in the second quarter.
Monmouth also committed the game’s lone turnover, a fumbled exchange between Raritan quarterback Riley Sullivan and Volker that Jackson Memorial linebacker Zach Tetro recovered on the Ocean 19 and returned 10 yards to the 20 late in the second quarter, with Ocean still leading 10-0.
Odebode led the defensive charge by serving as disruptive force behind an effective defensive line. The unit held Long Branch standout and Shore Conference single-season-rushing record-holder Dahmiere Willis to 61 yards on 14 carries, including 14 yards on six touches in the second half.
“Our guys inside – (Adam) Kakar, Xavier Young, Brad Greenway – just kept pushing them outside and letting me eat, just do what I have to do,” Odebode said.
Odebode shined for Ocean despite not being named to the team until this past weekend, when he was bumped up from the list of alternates to the game roster.
“I got a call from coach (Matt) Martin and I was elated,” Odebode said. “My sophomore year, I came to the game and I said ‘I want to play in that game.’ I didn’t get the call until the night before (the first) practice, so it was the best thing to hear.
“It means a lot (to win MVP) because I wasn’t selected at first. I was a reserve and when I got the call, I knew I had to come here and represent for Toms River South and Ocean County.”
Volker was the Monmouth County Offensive MVP with 84 yards on 14 carries and one catch for 12 yards to go with his rushing touchdown. Holmdel linebacker Frank Condito was the Monmouth defensive MVP, while Palmer and Red Bank Catholic defensive back Mike Cordova were the Leadership Award winners for their respective counties.
Willis was selected as the Sam Mills Award winner for the Monmouth County squad, accepting the award on his home field, as well at the alma mater of Mills.
Ocean County 27, Monmouth County 7
O – Matt Castronuova 1-yard pass from Carmen Sclafani (Karl Kumm kick)
O – Karl Kumm 25-yard field goal
O – Karl Kumm 45-yard pass from Joe DeMaio (Kumm kick)
O – Matt Castronuova 42-yard pass from Davies (Kumm kick)
M – Volker 9-yard run (Monteiro kick)
O – Kumm 43-yard field goal
Rushing – O: Carmen Sclafani 10-51, Khaleel Greene 9-28, Joe DeMaio 5-28, Connor Owen 6-20, Jeff Wood 2-4, Conor Davies 2-1, Jaylin Roman 1-(-1); M: Charlie Volker 14-84, Dahmiere Willis 14-61, Jarvis Leaks 2-6, Riley Sullivan 2-5, Tysaun White 1-2, Christian Palmer 4-(-9)
Passing – O: Carmen Sclafani 6-10-0 27, Conor Davies 4-5-0 89, Joe DeMaio 1-1-0 45; M: Christian Palmer: 1-6-0 12, Riley Sullivan 0-2-0 0
Receiving – O: Castronuova 5-63, Karl Kumm 2-53, Brett Ribellino 2-6, Sean Cahalane 1-25, Olufemi Palmer 1-14; M: Charlie Volker 1-12