Two of the top returning football players in the Shore Conference will miss the 2016 season with major injuries.

Middletown South rising senior linebacker/running back James McCarthy and Rumson-Fair Haven rising junior wide receiver/tight end Elijah McAllister both suffered knee injuries during the offseason that will render them unable to play this season.

McCarthy, a Shore Sports Network first-team All-Shore linebacker, tore his ACL while at a camp at Syracuse University, according to Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. As a junior, McCarthy helped Middletown South win the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group IV state title and finish 12-0. The Eagles finished No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and also No. 1 in New Jersey by The Star-Ledger. McCarthy made 85 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles for the No. 1 scoring defense in the Shore Conference. The Eagles recorded four shutouts and allowed just 7.4 points per game.

Middletown South junior running back James McCarthy. (Photo by Ray Richardson).
Middletown South rising senior James McCarthy will miss the 2016 season with a knee injury. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

McCarthy, who is committed to the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the top returning players in the Shore and was a preseason candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Also a punishing runner, he would have seen time in the offensive backfield for the Eagles.

“It’s a huge void, obviously,” Antonucci said. “We lose his leadership and he’s been on the field as a starter for two seasons. He’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, so from the standpoint of a fan you lose the opportunity to watch him play. For us it’s a big loss on both sides.”

Antonucci said McCarthy had surgery in mid-July and the process went well. He said McCarthy hopes to be ready for track season and would advise against him trying to make a quick comeback this season.

“He’s a scholarship player so I wouldn’t recommend him coming back,” Antonucci said.

Middletown South will be looking to keep its grip atop the Shore Conference this season behind a standout senior class that, even without McCarthy, is one of the top groups in the conference. Among the returning standouts are rising seniors Maxx Imsho, a first-team All-Shore selection at safety, second-team defensive lineman Will Gulick and second-team linebacker Kevin Higgins, along with rising junior defensive lineman Jake Krellin.

Rumson’s McAllister tore his ACL, as well, while playing AAU basketball over the summer and will miss what was expected to be a breakout season. A 6-foot-6, 215-pound matchup nightmare who played wide receiver, tight end and defensive end for the Central Jersey Group III champion Bulldogs as a sophomore, McAllister has multiple FBS scholarship offers, including a recent offer from Maryland, and is being recruited as a tight end. Last season McAllister caught four touchdown passes in helping Rumson win its third straight state title.

Photo by Rob Samuels.
Rumson-Fair Haven rising junior Elijah McAllister will miss the 2016 season with a knee injury. (Photo by Robert Samuels).

McAllister had full reconstructive surgery and is currently rehabilitating the knee, according to Rumson head coach Jerry Schulte.

"Obviously we had some plans for Elijah and some packages centered around him which we can't do now, but we have other players that are stepping up," Schulte said. "It's just a matter of us tweaking things."

"You feel for any kid, Elijah and McCarthy, who are both good kids from good programs," Schulte said. "You never want to see a kid lose a season or a career. We're very disappointed for Elijah but he comes around and helps with the wide receivers, so he's been able to stay with the program. That can make him even better next year. You have to look at the positives with everything and we think down the road this will help him."

Now under Schulte, the team’s former defensive coordinator, Rumson will look to become just the third Shore Conference team to win four straight state championships. Rumson is one of just five Shore Conference teams to win three straight championships, joining Manasquan, Middletown South, Asbury Park and Brick. Manasquan won a record five straight state titles from 1998-2002 under hall of fame coach Vic Kubu. Middletown South won four straight from 2003-2006 under Antonucci, who is also a Shore Conference Hall of Famer.

The Bulldogs’ top returners include first-team All-Shore linebacker Mike Ruane and first-team All-Shore safety Mike Murdock, both rising seniors. Ruane is committed to the University of Massachusetts. Rising senior quarterback Mike O’Connor (committed to Colgate) and rising senior offensive lineman Tim Leonard also return after seasons that garnered second-team All-Shore selections.


Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at 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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