Scanning the High School Football Scene: Championship Weekend
The weather was perfect, the stands were packed and the 9 Shore area teams were ready to play for a championship across the state of New Jersey this past weekend. Since 4 teams were playing each other, we had the opportunity to win 7 titles - we won 6!
The winners were:
Mid South-35-7 over P-Burg (North 2 Group 4)
Jackson-42-14 over Brick Mem. (CJ Group 4)
Rumson-21-0 over Red Bank (CJ Group 3)
Raritan-28-26 over Lincoln (CJ Group 2)
Shore-56-28 over Palmyra (CJ Group 1)
TR North-14-7 over Williamstown (SJ Group 5)
Congratulations to the coaching staffs, the fans who came out in record numbers, the NJSIAA for running a smooth operation across 4 sites around the state, the media for outstanding coverage and of course the players of both the winners and losers. It's tough to lose in the finals, but the accomplishment of getting there far out ways the loss. Years later you will look back at the season with many fond memories of a great season. The games have been written about and broken down by multiple media outlets (full coverage on Shore Sports Network website) so I'm not going to do that, but I'll give you some of my thoughts on championship Saturday.
The 2 games which we covered turned out to be one sided. Jackson used a tremendous offensive game plan designed and run perfectly by coordinator Corey Lavin to put 42 points on the board against Brick Memorial. All the pages of the play book were used in this contest. Using an offensive line, who played great, Junior RB Mike Gawlik ran for 208 yards, caught a huge throwback screen for 58 yards and threw a 49 yard halfback option pass to QB Kyle Johnson to finish off the Mustangs. The scary part is Gawlik returns for his senior year. Lavin, who 10 years earlier threw a last second TD pass to beat Brick Memorial in the 2005 finals on the same field at Rutgers, was masterful with his play calling. He's an assistant, soon to be a head coach, somewhere. By the way, how tough was the A-South? Jackson wins a state title and is not part of the trio (BM, TRN, Brick) who shared the A-South championship.
The Rumson game featured another masterful assistant coaching job by defensive coordinator Jerry Schulte. I love the way Schulte coaches on the sidelines during a game. His calm demeanor, always under control attitude, has brought 3 championships in a row to this program. Let's credit HC Bryan Batchler for winning 3 in a row in his first 3 years of being a head coach. Nobody has ever done that in the shore.
Middletown South finished off another unbeaten season (8 times they have done it), went wire to wire as the #1 team in the shore, and will probably be named the #1 team in the state. All this was accomplished while winning their 10th title. Their 46-17 record in playoffs is an unbelievable number. What a program Steve Antonucci has continued at Middletown South. By the way, their D-coordinator is Al Bigos, who deserves alot of credit for what the Eagles do on defense.
Toms River North won their 6th championship in 6 tries. That alone tells you the strength of this program. Get there and we will win it. They won a tough section in South Jersey and QB Mike Husni will return, who may be the best player in the shore. He will only get better next year. Dave Oizerowitz wins his first as a head coach. Previously Bob Fioco, Bob Nanni (3) and Chip LaBarca Jr. have won titles at North.
Raritan, the longest shot on the playoff weekend, beat an unbeaten Lincoln team in dramatic fashion 28-26. Much credit goes to HC Anthony Petruzzi for getting the Rockets back on track after 5 losses in a row in the middle of the season. Derek Ernst ran for 144 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Rockets, as he has done all year. Marc Carnivale, the Raritan QB, hit Nick Pasquin for the game winner with 10 seconds left. Title number 2 for the Rockets.
Last, but certainly not least, is Shore Regional. The Blue Devils finish 2015 with a school record 12 wins. The 1981 team was 11-0 and this year's unbeaten team went 12-0. In winning back to back titles, Shore ran for just under 500 yards. 2 backs (Doug Goldsmith and Jack Britton) both ran for over 200 yards. Shore's program must be mentioned with Middletown South, if we are talking domination. For a group 1 program that's not loaded with numbers, Mark Costantino does amazing things at Shore. The win was Shore's 7th title.
All the above can call themselves champions. It was a great Saturday for Shore football. See you next year.