Jersey Mike’s Week 0 Shore Conference Football Team of the Week: Manalapan
Every week this fall, Jersey Mike’s and Shore Sports Network will be teaming up to select a Shore Conference Football Team of the Week based on its performance over the past weekend.
The Jersey Mike’s Team of the Week for Week 0 is Manalapan, which opened up a two-score halftime lead and kept its foot on the gas in the fourth quarter for an important season-opening 35-13 victory over Wall on an emotional night on Church Lane. Shore Sports Network stopped by practice on Tuesday to present the Braves and head coach Dom Lepore with a special game ball and a $500 Jersey Mike's gift card for the program.
The Braves began the season ranked No. 14 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Shore 16 and welcomed a 13th-ranked Wall team led by former Manalapan head coach Ed Gurrieri, who guided the program to great heights during his 13-year tenure. The Crimson Knights also defeated Manalapan last season. Additionally, the team honored former standout Kyle Mullen and hosted some of his former teammates at Yale who presented the school with a bronze plaque memorializing Mullen, who tragically died during Navy SEAL training in 2022.
Manalapan's 21-6 halftime lead was cut to 21-13 with 10:05 remaining in the fourth quarter when Wall quarterback Andrew Olsen ran for a 30-yard touchdown, but the Braves punched back on a 14-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jason Rodriguez and added two more touchdowns to put the game away.
Rodriguez ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns and senior wide receiver Anthony Macchio caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Ryan Dougherty threw for 122 yards and a touchdown and A'shere Woolfolk ran for 37 yards and a touchdown to pace the offense.
It was a strong three-phase victory for Manalapan as Vin DiFillipo recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and senior Jake Horowitz went 5-for-5 on extra points and had a 62-yard punt from his own end zone. Senior linebacker Aidan Wilmot recorded 10 total tackles with one tackle for loss and junior defensive lineman Reggie Bennett had two tackles for loss as part of eight hits behind the line of scrimmage by the Braves' defense.
Given all the factors leading up to the game, the victory was a massive one for Manalapan coming off a 3-7 season. A big reason why the Braves suffered seven losses last season was that they had trouble closing out games. They were right there with some of the top-ranked teams in the Shore last season, losing by three to Middletown South, by four to Rumson-Fair Haven, by three to Marlboro, and by three to Jackson Memorial in the state playoffs. Finding ways to win in the fourth quarter was a major point of emphasis throughout the offseason and Manalapan showed it is a different team in that regard and ready to challenge for the Colonial Division title.
Another big game awaits the Manalapan this week when it travels to The Jungle, Jackson Memorial's John J. Munley Field, for a Thursday night showdown vs. the No. 7 Jaguars. The two teams met last season in the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs with Jackson scraping by with a 10-7 victory. The programs have developed a nice rivalry over the years as former rivals in the old American Division of the mid-2000s, frequent nondivisional opponents in season openers like this season, and with playoff matchups.