Loizos, Fields, Bradley Earn All-Conference Honors, ‘Penn State 5′ Headed to Big Ten Title Game
Between Southern's Mike Gesicki setting another record for a Penn State team bound for the Big Ten title game, Colts Neck's Anthony Gargiulo rushing for his first collegiate touchdown for Navy and a trio of Shore grads earning all-conference honors, it was another strong week for former Shore Conference stars at the higher levels.
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---Defensive end Vinny Curry (Neptune) had a season-high 5 tackles, one for a loss, and a quarterback hit for the Eagles in a 27-13 loss to the Packers on Monday night.
---Defensive end Shilique Calhoun (Middletown North) missed the Oakland Raiders' 35-32 thriller over the Carolina Panthers that moved them to 9-2 after suffering a knee injury in Oakland's win in Mexico City a week earlier. Tight end Scott Simonson (Middletown South) is on the practice squad for the Panthers.
---Tight end Neal Sterling (Manasquan/Monmouth Univ.) had his first multi-catch game as a pro with two grabs for 16 yards in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 28-21 loss to the Bills.
---Long-snapper Clark Harris (Southern/Rutgers) and the Bengals fell 19-14 to the Ravens.
---Tight end Tim Wright (Wall/Rutgers) and wide receiver Ryan Spadola (Freehold Twp.) remain on injured reserve for the Lions, who pulled out a 16-13 win over the Vikings on Thanksgiving to take over first place in the NFC North.
---Tight end Garrett Graham (Brick Memorial) remains on injured reserve for the Broncos, who lost 30-27 in overtime to the Chiefs on Sunday night.
---The "Shore Five" on Penn State are going to the Big Ten title game after a 45-12 rout of Michigan State, coupled with Michigan's double-overtime loss to Ohio State, propelled them into Saturday's 8 p.m. showdown against Wisconsin in Indianapolis. In the win over the Spartans to clinch a share of the Big Ten East division title, tight end Mike Gesicki (Southern) continued his breakout season with 2 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. His 610 yards are a Penn State record for tight ends, and he also has the single-season record for catches. He showed off the leaping ability that made him Southern's all-time leading scorer in basketball with his touchdown catch.
Also, wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan) had 3 catches for 29 yards, defensive end Garrett Sickels (Red Bank) had 8 tackles, one for a loss, and linebacker Manny Bowen (Barnegat) was second on the team with 9 tackles along with a sack and a tackle for a loss.
It was also a nice birthday present for Chris Gulla (Toms River North), who did not see action in the win but has served as the holder on special teams for multiple games this season.
---It was a day to remember for Navy fullback Anthony Gargiulo (Colts Neck), who had 2 carries for 4 yards that included his first collegiate touchdown in a 75-31 shellacking of SMU by the No. 25 team in the country. Navy will now play Temple on Saturday in Annapolis in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
---Temple polished off an impressive 9-3 regular season with a 37-10 win over East Carolina as wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (Neptune) had one catch for two yards and also ran for 20 yards in the victory. The Owls, who also include linebacker Chapelle Russell (Lakewood), will play Navy in the AAC championship game on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
---It was a tough end to the season for starting offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (Red Bank Catholic) and Notre Dame, who lost 45-27 to USC to finish 4-8, the second-worst season in five decades for the Fighting Irish. Nelson is now eligible for the NFL Draft, where he could be a potential first-round pick if he decides to come out after this season.
---Eastern Michigan, which features defensive back Ikie Calderon (Neptune), is headed to the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau on Dec. 23 after a 26-21 win over Central Michigan to finish the regular season 7-5. Calderon did not see time in the win, while defensive back Otis Kearney (Toms River South) had 8 tackles in the loss for the Chippewas, who finished 6-6 and are bowl-eligible.
---Calderon is not the only Shore grad who will be chilling on the beach in the Bahamas next month as Old Dominion will play Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl after a 42-28 win over Florida International moved them to 9-3. Defensive tackle Pat Toal (Raritan) had 2 tackles for the Monarchs, who are playing in their first bowl game in program history.
---Long-snapper Frank Gabriel (Red Bank Catholic) and Miami wrapped up the regular season at 8-4 after a 40-21 win over Duke and will wait to find out what bowl they will play in next month.
---Kicker Mike Caggiano (Manalapan) was 4-for-5 on extra points and also handled nine kickoffs as UMass ended the season with a 46-40 loss to Hawaii to finish 2-10. Wide receiver Sadiq Palmer (Red Bank) also saw time in the loss and finished the season with 9 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman.
---Central Connecticut State wide receiver Joey Fields (Donovan Catholic) earned second-team All-Northeast Conference honors after leading the team in catches, yards and touchdown catches.
---Villanova advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs with a 31-21 win over St. Francis (Pa.), as running back Matt Gudzak (Toms River East) had 14 carries for 63 yards and also had 5 catches for 55 yards for a team-high 118 total yards in the win. Defensive end Datrell Reed (Lakewood) added a tackle, and tight end Simon Bingelis (Brick) saw time for the Wildcats, who advance to face perennial power South Dakota State on Saturday. In the loss for St. Francis, defensive end Shawn McCord (Red Bank Catholic) finished with 3 tackles.
---Tight end Jordan Powell (Lacey) had 6 catches for 64 yards as New Hampshire detonated Patriot League champion Lehigh, 64-21, in the FCS playoffs to advance to face James Madison on Saturday. Defensive back Nick Lubischer (Red Bank Catholic) added a tackle and wide receiver Anthony Pante (St. John Vianney) saw time in the win. In the loss for Lehigh, Tim O'Hara (Red Bank Catholic) started at left tackle, and linemen Evan Sweeney (Wall) and Justin Gille (St. John Vianney) both saw time.
---Ithaca junior linebacker Dan Loizos (Ocean) was named first-team All-Empire 8 Conference after finishing fourth in the conference with 104 tackles. Earning second-team Empire 8 honors was Loizos's teammate and fellow linebacker, Ken Bradley (Jackson Memorial), whose 90 tackles ranked eighth in the conference.
---Tight end Tory Robinson (Howell) had 2 catches for 14 yards as Wesley's season ended in the Division III playoffs with a 20-17 loss to John Carroll.
---Johns Hopkins' undefeated season came to an end at the hands of defending Division III champion and perennial powerhouse Mount Union in a hard-fought, 28-21 loss in the playoffs. While they didn't see time in the loss, wideout Kyle Morris (Barnegat) and lineman James Oncea (Rumson-FH) saw regular time for Johns Hopkins this season.