Scanning the High School Football Scene With Ed Sarluca: Two Shore Champs
Three State Championship games were played this past weekend, one each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the Shore walked away with two champions. Long Branch and Rumson won, while Manasquan and Brick fell short in their quest for titles. We have one more game coming up on Saturday, November 24th at 4 p.m. at Met Life Stadium for the Non-Public Group 3 title involving Red Bank Catholic and Mater Dei Prep. We also have ‘Bowl Games” coming up the following weekend involving Long Branch and Rumson. More about those games below.
Long Branch’s Friday night victory over Brick (21-14) gave them back to back Central Jersey Group 4 Championships (the first time they have done that) and the overall 4th championship for the Green Wave. Brick (8-3) was denied their 8th title in a game where they fought hard, rallied from a two TD deficit in the 4th quarter and had a couple of chances to tie it or win it in the final minutes. It was the kind of game where both teams played their best. Brick won the time of possession battle by getting 17 first downs to the Wave’s 9 and ran 70 plays (37 runs, 33 passes) to Long Branch’s 43. Brick had come into this 11th matchup with Long Branch having never lost as they were 9-0-1 in the previous 10 games played, all before 1973 under the legendary Warren Wolf. The Wave were led by QB Marc Dennis (102 yds rushing and 1TD) and RB Jermaine Corbett (125 yds rushing including a 77 yd TD on the games second play). Brick, who was as healthy as they've been all season played with heart and perseverance and WR Cole Groschel (5 catches for 84 yds and a TD) played the best game of his injury-riddled senior season. QB Anthony Prato ran and threw against a tough LB defense. However, the game changer was provided by a 6’5” 290 lb defensive end Kevin Cerruti, who grabbed a deflected screen pass and returned it 3 yards for a third quarter touchdown. The very personable Cerruti is one of the emotional leaders of this championship team and one of Danny George’s favorite players in the 20 years he's been head coach. It was a game where neither team deserved to lose. A game played by both teams in a championship atmosphere on a cold and windy Friday night when players on both teams had nothing left when the clock hit zero. Great job by both teams and congrats to Long Branch-CJ Group 4 champions. They will play Shawnee in the newly designed ‘Bowl games” at Met Life Stadium on Dec 1st at 7:05 p.m.
Saturday afternoon I traveled to Hillside (11-0) to watch Manasquan hang tough with the defending champions who were looking for their third overall title and second in consecutive years. The 36-10 victory by Hillside was a very misleading final score as it was a 4 point game in the 4th quarter when Manasquan was faced with a 4th and inches inside the Hillside 30 yd line. Hillside stopped the attempt and took control of the game, scoring minutes later and adding two more TDs late in the 4th quarter to claim the sectional championship. Great defensive effort on the road for the Warriors, who stopped the Hillside offense for most of the day. The speed factor was a distinct advantage for the Comets who were explosive the entire year putting up fantasy-like numbers in the air and on the ground. The Squan defense had a great game plan, but ultimately the speed did the Warriors in and defensively Squan was worn down in the 4th quarter. The Warriors were looking for their 13 title overall but were denied. Squan will close their season on Thanksgiving morning against Wall in the 19th edition of this classic game in which each team has won 9 times. We at the Shore Sports Network will broadcast the game on 1160am &1310AM and also stream it on shoresportsnetwork.com a11 a.m. Thursday.
The CJ Group 3 contest on Sunday afternoon was a classic. Rumson used a 49 carry, 271 yard rushing and 4 TD performance by Alex Maldjian to take down previously unbeaten Somerville 42-35. Maldjian was a man against boys and ran up and down the field behind an offensive line that would not be denied. Usually, it’s the Rumson defense that I am talking about when championship games are played but Sunday it was an offensive explosion that propelled the Bulldogs to their 5th sectional title in the last 6 years and their 6th overall championship. Only a couple of players for Rumson touched the football on a nice cool Sunday afternoon in Somerville. QB Collin Coles did throw a 71-yard TD pass to Ian O'Connor as Rumson totaled over 400 yards of offense, but it was Maldjian who controlled this contest. Somerville (11-1) did not go down easy, after all this is a team that averaged 46 points per game led by QB Jalahn Dabney who had 3,000 yards of offense and 50 TDs on the year. Explosive would be an understatement to describe this offense. Meanwhile, Maldjian walks away with three championships in his four years at Rumson, having played in the finals every year. Not a bad resume. Rumson will now take on Woodrow Wilson of Camden (9-2) in the first ever “Bowl Game” at Met Life Stadium on Dec 1st at 1:05 p.m.
Join Matt Harmon and myself on the Jersey Mike’s Game of the Week on Thanksgiving morning at 11 a.m. as Wall travels to Manasquan in their annual holiday affair. It's the 19th time these two rivals will play on Turkey Day with each team winning 9 times. Listen on 1160AM & 1310AM and at shoresportsnetwork.com. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then watch Shore football at its best before dinner.