Monday Rewind: Brick, RBC, Keyport Headline Week Two
The races in several divisions got a little bit clearer and the competitiveness of a tough Class B North was highlighted once again to headline Week Two in Shore Conference football.
In the only match-up of Shore Sports Network Top 10 teams, No. 9 Brick looked impressive in shutting down No. 5 Jackson Memorial, 29-6, to set up a huge game on the road against No. 2 Toms River North on Saturday night that looks to go a long way toward deciding the Class A South title.
The Green Dragons' defense, led by senior defensive lineman Jack Finelli and senior linebacker Dean Helstowski, held Jackson star Mike Gawlik to a deceiving 115 yards rushing, considering the bulk of it came on two of his 18 carries. Nick Malta and Jay Obenauer also each had a fumble recovery, and junior Josh Garrett was sensational on special teams with two blocked punts.
That performance came a week after slowing down Brick Memorial's triple option rushing attack, giving the Green Dragons two impressive performances right out of the gate. It also helps to have do-it-all senior Ja'Sir Taylor, who showed he not only can run it and catch it but also throw it. He started the game with a 54-yard bomb on an option pass to John Prato to set up a touchdown, and Jackson was on its heels for the rest of the night.
Not only that, but Taylor showed his athleticism on defense. How many players in the Shore Conference would have the ability to run down Gawlik from behind after he's broken into the open field? You could probably count them on one hand, and Taylor is one of them. His tackle helped save a touchdown, and then the Brick defense got a stop on downs.
Under Rob Dahl and now head coach Len Zdanowicz, Brick appears to have built the type of solid foundation at the youth and sub-varsity levels that was taken for granted all those years under Hall of Famer Warren Wolf. They are getting back to the days as a program where no matter who graduates, you always have to consider Brick a Top 10 team and a title contender. Now we'll see if they can give a loaded Toms River North team a game and seize the Class A South race by the throat.
The most entertaining game of the weekend involved unranked Red Bank Catholic pulling out a 30-27 thriller that handed No. 7 Middletown North its first loss in a Class B North showdown.
The Caseys were coming off a lop-sided loss to No. 1 Middletown South in which the offense struggled, but they exploded for nearly 300 yards behind a career-high 155-yard effort by junior Zach Bair against the Lions. Sophomore kicker Ryan O'Hara was the hero with a 24-yard field goal with under a minute left in regulation that broke a 27-27 tie. Junior quarterback Tommy Lang also had a pair of touchdown passes.
It was the first win in Frank Edgerly's second stint as head coach of the Caseys and served notice that this team has the potential to reclaim its customary spot in the Top 10 after finishing last season unranked. There's no time to pat themselves on the back, however, as they face a hungry Ocean team looking to work its way out of a 1-2 hole on Friday night.
As for Middletown North, its defense against quality opponents continues to be an issue, putting pressure on its prolific offense under senior quarterback Donald Glenn to win shootouts in big games. While the loss puts a dent in the Lions' hopes of forcing a division title showdown with rival Middletown South on Thanksgiving, it's a long season and a competitive division, so you don't know what could happen between now and Turkey Day to get them right back in it.
Keyport made Asbury Park's stay in the Top 10 a brief one with a hard-fought 14-7 victory to move to 2-0 in Class B Central under new coach Jay Graham.
The Red Raiders have only allowed 14 points in two games against a pair of quality opponents in Point Beach and Asbury Park, thanks to a defense led by Jay Hansen, Greg Robinson and Brandon Tate, who each have 14 tackles through two games. The Red Raiders also registered four interceptions in the win over the Blue Bishops to show their defense is about more than stopping the run game.
Offensively, the revelation has been sophomore Devin Wallner, who has 268 yards rushing and a touchdown in the first two games. He has become Keyport's workhorse back, while quarterback Chris Hogrefe showed Saturday that if teams crowd the box, he will hurt them downfield.
Now comes the ultimate test for the Red Raiders. While Point Beach is a solid program and Asbury Park was coming off a win over defending division champion Shore Regional, the most loaded team in the division looks to be Mater Dei Prep. Keyport faces the Seraphs and their high-octane offense, which has scored 77 points in two games, on Saturday.
Still Got It
Check out Southern Regional grad Mike Gesicki with the sick one-handed catch in Penn State's win over Temple on Saturday. Neptune grad Keith Kirkwood also had 5 catches for 57 yards in the loss for the Owls.
Aneesh Agrawal was one of the Shore Conference's most underrated quarterbacks while playing for a struggling Holmdel team the last two years. Now that he is in the spotlight after transferring to No. 1 Middletown South, it's a secret no longer.
The Eagles were locked in a dogfight with Ocean in Class B North, but Agrawal helped them ultimately pull away by throwing for 265 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-22 win. The graduation of Matt Mosquera from last year's 12-0 squad left a hole at that spot, but it's clear that Agrawal has filled it capably.
Three of his four touchdown tosses were for scores of 40 yards or longer, including two to senior Maxx Imsho, showing his ability to hurt teams downfield that gear up to stop sophomore Anthony Summey and the running game.
Not Going Anywhere
Point Boro showed on Friday night that despite heavy graduation losses and a new head coach, the Panthers plan to pick up right where they left off after winning a share of the Class B South title last year.
Lacey moved down to B South from the large-school A South, making them a team thought to be a serious title contender, but the Panthers handed them a 28-12 loss for a key early-season win in the division. Junior quarterback James Fara continues to be a playmaker in his first year as the starter, running for a pair of touchdowns in the win. See him talk about his performance here with SSN's Ed Sarluca.
It looks like the primary team in Point Boro's path is the same team it shared the title with last season, Lakewood, which routed Donovan Catholic 52-14 to move to 2-0. The two teams meet on Oct. 14 at Al Saner Field in Point Pleasant.
---Read about Wall's resurgence after four straight losing seasons.
---One season after going 1-9, Manchester has matched its win total after a 32-21 victory over Jackson Liberty. That's a good sign of improvement under coach Bill Furlong for a team that did not score more than 21 points in any game last year. Running back Jalen Glenn had three touchdowns to lead the way.
---Senior Cameron Caorsi had a career-high four touchdowns as Marlboro beat Pinelands 41-27, snapping a 24-game losing streak against Shore Conference competition for its first win over a local opponent since beating Freehold Township 19-17 in 2012. That's also the most points the Mustangs have scored in a game since beating Steinert 47-41 in an NJSIAA consolation game in 2005.
---Shore Regional bounced back strong after a season-opening loss to Asbury Park by putting up 41 points in a win over Barnegat behind senior quarterback Matt Pennell, who ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass.
---Manasquan is off to its first 2-0 start in five years after a 7-6 win over Woodbridge.
---St. John Vianney has now won 22 straight games against Shore Conference opponents after rolling to a 41-14 win over Raritan. Chris Chukwuneke continued his big season with 171 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns.
---Nice win for Group I Point Beach to go on the road following a season-opening loss and knock off a Non-Public Group III team in Bishop Ahr with a 20-14 victory.
---Two of the most improved offenses in the Shore look to be in Class A North, where Freehold Township and Howell have taken a leap forward in the first two weeks. Considering Patriots coach Cory Davies engineered some explosive units in Howell and Lacey, it's not a surprise that his team is putting up points in his second season at the helm. They beat Colts Neck 44-7 as senior quarterback Charles Sabbagh erupted for a career-high 340 yards passing and three touchdowns. Freehold Township also has one of the Shore's best kickers in senior Tyler Schulman, who hit three field goals in the win, including a 41-yarder.
As for Howell, junior quarterback Eddie Morales has over 500 yards passing in two weeks after a 41-21 win over Freehold. He threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns in the win for the Rebels. Junior wideout Nasiem Brantley had a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns on five catches in the victory.
---Red Bank picked up its first win of the season with a 17-14 victory over Matawan. Standout defensive end Chris Outterbridge had 12 tackles and 2 sacks to lead the way.