High school football is sport that you can't quite predict from week to week. When you are dealing with 15 through 18 year old boys, anything is possible.
What we do know is Toms River North (8-0) is clearly the #1 team around the Shore and North's QB Mike Husni is clearly the top player in the Shore. North destroyed cross town rival Toms River South 55-13 on Friday night to also make a claim for the top team in the State. They are currently ranked #2 in the State of NJ and the #1 public school, with only St. Joseph (Montvale, 6-2) being ranked ahead of them. The #1 ranking is such a controversial subject this year among the press/media. As most fight over whether it's Paramus Catholic (6-2), St. Peter's Prep (6-2), Don Bosco (4-4) or the above two, I would take Toms River North in any matchup in the State. Although it's purely subjective when you talk #1, it makes for interesting reading, and that's why we cover this great sport. There are many great teams around our State and until we change our format of the playoffs, we will still have 23 State Champs crowned on the weekend of December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Unfortunately we will never see Toms River North play any of those Non-Public schools this year, but many believe they can easily compete with them. Let's now take a closer look at last week:
Toms River North locked up the top seed in SJ 5 and will get 2 home games before a Rowan University final if they make it that far. St. John Vianney (8-0) took care of Middletown South (5-2) with a last minute goal line stand and prevailed 23-20. The Lancers look like they will get a chance at St. Joseph Montvale in the Non-Pub Group 3 playoffs. This is a very tough bracket as always, with Red Bank Catholic, DePaul, Pope John, and Camden Catholic also vying for a championship. Mater Dei Prep (8-0) took care of South River 41-0 and has locked up a spot in Non-Public 2 with teams like St. Joe Hammonton, Hudson Catholic and Holy Spirit. It's a very tough group, but Mater Dei is a very tough team and will challenge any of the above. Manalapan (8-0) won a huge game against Piscataway at Rutgers University on Saturday Morning. The Braves trailed 10-0 midway through the 3rd, before rallying to win 21-10. RB Naim Mayfield and QB Luke Corcione have led the Braves all year. They very well could meet Piscataway again in the Central Jersey Group 5 playoffs, where they are currently #1 and #3, but Piscataway has only played 7 games and should move to #2 next week. That would make for a good final back at Rutgers on championship weekend. Those are our 4 unbeaten teams left, as previously unbeaten Point Boro (7-1) was defeated by a 4-4 Ocean team 41-7.As we play into the cutoff day of November 5th, as many as 23-25 teams from the Shore will probably make the playoffs. With 8 teams in each bracket, there will be teams with 2-6 & 3-5 records that get in to fill out the field. Something is wrong with a system that allows that. The rest of the Shore (teams not making playoffs) will play "regional crossover" games to give them an extra game on the weekend of November 11-12, which is the first round of playoffs. Semi's will be on November 18th & 19th, then we break for Turkey Day games, for teams still playing them (not many). This year there are only 6 games on Thanksgiving, with 2 games being played on the night before. Teams that play in semi-finals will have an option to play those games a few days after Thanksgiving. The biggest of these games will be Middletown South at Middletown North, with both also playing in the same bracket of States (North 2 Group 4).
Teams that made a move this week toward the States:
Freehold Boro (4-4): a 31-10 winner over Edison
Freehold Twp (7-1): continues the great year with a 35-14 win over East Brunswick
Raritan (4-3): defending champ making a return beats Spotswood 42-6
Jackson (4-4): gets in to defend its crown they won last year. Be careful of the Mike Gawlick-led Jags.
Southern (4-4): beats Lacey (5-3) 25-20, but both teams are headed to playoffs
Ocean (4-4): beat previously unbeaten Point Boro (7-1) soundly. Ocean might not have enough to make it in, but Point Boro does.
Pinelands (4-4): won their 4th in a row over Jax Liberty (21-0), but has to beat Lakewood
(5-2) this week to get in. Lakewood should be in.
Point Beach (5-3): wins over Highland Park 31-0 and gets at least 1 home game.
Rumson (5-2): wins 42-0 over Monmouth, and should get in and defend their title. Although they will have to do it on the road, they have won 3 States in a row.
Manasquan (6-1): beat Matawan 29-14 and continues to play well. They are still alive in the tough B-North and will challenge in CJ Group 2. They are in the hunt (top 4) for home games.
Keyport (7-1): has played tough all year and beat Keansburg 21-15 on Saturday. They are in and believe it or not the "Burg" at 2-5 can also sneak in.
Central (7-1): season will end Friday night with a winner take all in A-South, against Toms River North. With the early season problems with ejections, they are not eligible to participate in the State playoffs.
Toms River East (0-8): also is ineligible to get a crossover game and their season will end with a game against Brick (6-2) this Friday. Brick will make it into the CJ 4 playoffs and is one of the favorites there. The health of Brick's Ja'Sir Taylor is a big question mark as Taylor was injured early in Brick's loss to Central 21-7. They need him.The Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner is at River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar in Brick as we feature Point Boro and coach Matt Cilento, along with a couple of his players. Tune in this Thursday Night at 7PM on 105.7 the Hawk, or online at ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
Our Game of the Week is a big one in B-North as Middletown South comes calling on the Wall Knights. Both are in the playoffs and both are fighting for the B-North title. Catch us this Friday night at Wall, beginning at 7PM.