Thanksgiving Day Football is a dying tradition, with only 5 games being played this year on a cold sub-freezing Thursday morning. With temperatures in the teens and a wind chill near zero, 10 teams provided the entertainment for capacity crowds around the Shore. Yes, capacity crowds, which tells you there is still some interest in these games. Let’s look at a short rundown of the 5 games.

Wall (6-3) beat Manasquan 18-7 as sophomore RB Casey Larkin stamped himself as a future All-Shore candidate with a big day on the ground and QB Dylan Richey playing great on both sides of the ball to end the Knights' solid season on a winning note. Squan finishes 8-3, having lost to Hillside the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving in the CJ G 2 finals. It was a short turnaround for the Warriors, but no excuses from HC Jay Price as Wall played better on this day. The series now stands at 10-9 Wall.

Middletown South (8-3) got a 26-yard field goal from Chris Kaldrovics to beat Middletown North 10-7. Middletown South holds a 31-12-1 lead in the series, having won 18 of last 19.

Neptune (5-5) got to .500 with a tight 7-6 victory over Asbury Park. Najiere Hutchinson scored from 1 yard out to provide the game-winner. It was game # 90 in this series with Neptune holding a 49-37-4 lead.

Long Branch (11-1), who will play the last HS football game in the State at Met Life Stadium next Saturday against Shawnee (7 p.m.) in the South/Central Group 4 Bowl game, got 4 TDs from QB Marc Dennis to come roaring back after spotting the Bucs a 14-0 lead. The 33-14 victory over Red Bank (7-3) was in the 96th edition of this classic game. The Green Wave defense turned over the Bucs five times to make their comeback. LB now has a 62-31-3 lead in series.

Toms River South (3-8) used Sam Akinlolu’s monster day to crush Lakewood 59-36. Not a whole lot of defense played by these teams as Sam ran for 232 yards and 4 TDs, while Lakewood’s Dante Morris ran for 244 yards and 4 TDs and also threw a TD pass. This was the 99th game these teams have played on Turkey Day with South holding a 56-39-4 series lead.

Thanksgiving Day games will remain in play until the State decides to play off to overall State Champions. We are now at the semifinal stage of the playoffs with two winners in each group. We need to match those winners and get an overall Group winner. Stay tuned.

Saturday took me up to Met Life Stadium to cover the Non-Public Group 3 Championship between Mater Dei Prep and RBC. It was a game everyone wanted to see since day one of the season. MDP came in 10-1 and ranked #2 at the shore while RBC was 9-0 and ranked #1. It was a classic matchup that did not disappoint as the Caseys prevailed 14-10. The game was sloppy at times (6 turnovers, 4 by MDP) but strange as it sounds, well played when it counted. The RBC defense gave up 404 total yards, including 344 rushing, but when asked to turn it up they did so brilliantly.  

It was a goal-line stand with under 5 minutes left which iced this contest and gave RBC their 3rd title and an undefeated season for the first time since 1960 and the undisputed title as #1 in the Shore. So many stars for RBC:  QB Steve Lubischer (1 TD) directed the offensive attack which saw the Caseys run and pass for 256 yards while RB Billy Guidetti ran for tough yards and scored the other TD. On the defensive side, Steve Cmielewski had 17 tackles and played possessed the entire game and led the charge on the goal line stand along with Charlie Gordinier, Jake Louro, and Kevin Bauman. Punter Ryan O’Hara consistently kicked RBC out of trouble with his foot. It was a true team effort all around.  

On the other side of the ball, RB Malik Ingram ran for 250 yards and a TD. QB Rob McCoy Jr had a good game, but was 0-7 passing the 2nd half. Credit the RBC secondary for that stat. Head Coach Frank Edgerly wins his first State title in his second stint at RBC. Great game by 2 opponents fighting to the end.  One walks away as champions, but the other can stand tall with heads high as they competed with every ounce of energy they had.

This weeks Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner (Wednesday at 7 p.m. on 105.7 The Hawk) will be broadcast live from River Rock Restaurant in Brick.  We will talk with Marlboro AD Dave Ryden, who was part of the committee that established a new playoff system this year. We’ll talk pros and cons and possible changes with Dave for 2019. We will also preview the two upcoming "Bowl Games" involving Rumson and Long Branch.

Our final show will be on Wednesday, December 5th from the Gateway Toyota showroom in Toms River when we hand out our awards for the 2018 season, including players and coach of the year.

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