Scanning the High School Football Scene With Ed Sarluca: The Elite Dozen
24 teams started the quest to win a State Championship and a dozen are left after the first round. Leading the pack of 12 are #1 seeds Long Branch and Red Bank Catholic. The Green Wave are the defending champions in CJ Group 4 and look to be cruising to another title. They dismantled Middletown North 42-0 to gain a semi-final matchup with Brick Memorial, who avenged an earlier season loss to Freehold Boro. The Stangs won 21-13 in a come from behind contest on a cool, very windy Saturday afternoon in Freehold. Long Branch and Brick Memorial met just a few weeks ago and Long Branch easily handled the Stangs 40-14. In Long Branch's first-round romp, the usual suspects RB Jermaine Corbett (3 TDs) and QB Marc Dennis (2 TD passes) were the statistical leaders. Four interceptions helped the Green Wave (8-1) on defense as this one was over early with the “mercy rule” in effect the entire second half. Meanwhile, Brick Memorial (4-5) fell behind Freehold 13-0 before coming back behind QB Tyler Sindel (161 yds-2 TDs) and Jeff Lavarin (90 yds-1TD). The flexbone offense is tough to deal with and Sindel runs it well. When he’s reading the defense well it can be an offense that gives opponents fits and if Brick Memorial can control the clock they will stay in the game. They didn’t do that in the first contest against Long Branch. The Stang defense also played a big part in the comeback shutting out the Colonials the last three quarters. They will have to play well again.
By the way, I attended the Long Branch-Middletown North 1st round game Friday night since our radio game was postponed to Saturday night. As the rain began to fall I made my way to the press box to stay dry and had the pleasure to sit next to longtime PA announcer Bruce Clay of Long Branch. He’s one of the best at doing what he does and this Thanksgiving he will be calling his 50th Long Branch-Red Bank game. Congrats Bruce on that accomplishment. Bruce adds bits and pieces to his announcing and makes the game interesting.
Manasquan (7-1) played their game against Delaware Valley just days after the death of former Squan player and coach Donny Klein, who was killed in an early morning car accident on his way to football practice at TCNJ, where he was coaching. Playing with the decal #73 on their helmets, the Warriors won 40-21 to advance to a matchup with Cinnaminson (7-2) at home next Saturday afternoon. RB Canyon Birch (186 yds-2TDs) has been the mainstay of the offense this year and as he goes, so does Squan. It was close to being an All-Shore matchup as Shore Regional lost to Cinnaminson 7-0 on the last play of the game. Game effort by the Blue Devils playing in the Group 2 bracket this year.
Other impressive winners were Brick (17-3 over Jackson), Holmdel (40-0 over Nottingham), Middletown South over Northern Burlington (35-14), and Red Bank (30-13 over Allentown). Let’s look at these 4 games.
Brick (7-2) has played great defense the entire season and now has Joey Carchio back at RB full time and the dynamics on offense have changed drastically. Add him to the mix of Leblo, Prato, Groschel, and Williams, and you have an offense to go with that great defense to win a championship. They will play on the road against playoff tough Middletown South (7-2). The Eagles have won 10 State titles while Brick has won 7. That’s 17 championships on the field in this tremendous matchup. QB Trevor Brey leads the Eagles who have HOF coach Steve Antonucci calling the shots. Probably the game of the week at Middletown South on Friday night.
Holmdel (8-1) has been my surprise team of the year so far. Their only loss was to Red Bank 28-26 way back on Sept. 14. They have won 7 straight since and now get #1 Somerville. The way the Hornets are playing now there is no reason they can't make it to the finals. Dean Gallo has been a horse all year and had 185 yards rushing and 3 TDs to go with Jeff DeCicco’s 3TDs in the 35-14 win. A win gets them a home game in finals.
Red Bank (7-1) beat Allentown 30-13 as the M&M boys (Mickens and Mitchell) had a huge game. Those of you old enough remember the Yankees M&M boys (Mantle and Maris). Well, this is the Shore version on the gridiron. Each had 2 TDs and both were over 100 yards. Rumson is up next for Bucs.
Mater Dei Prep (9-1) was pushed to the limit by upstart Donovan Catholic (5-3). The Griffs had the lead with 4 minutes left, but two turnovers in the last 4 minutes did them in. Good teams take advantage of those late turnovers. This, in my opinion, is a major step up the ladder for DC. They now have proven to not only themselves but to everyone in the Shore that they are ready to contend for a championship. It won’t be easy in the Non-Public division, but HC Dan Curcione has them prepared to win each week. They will play a consolation game this week against Gloucester Catholic (2-7) and then Manchester (4-4) on November 16. With virtually everyone back (3 seniors) 2019 could be the Griffs' year.
The remaining winners were Manalapan (6-3), Rumson (7-2), Asbury Park (4-4) and undefeated RBC who had a bye in first round. Asbury was one of only three teams seeded 6th that won. Those are the elite 12. We are now guaranteed at least 1 Championship as CJ Group 4 has four Shore schools left. CJ Group 3 has three Shore teams left, however, the top seed in that bracket is Somerville who is 10-0. Non-Public 3 has MDP and RBC on opposite sides of the bracket, so an All-Shore matchup is possible if both win this week. The Seraphs will be challenged by DePaul (7-3) and RBC has Pope John (2-8). That’s correct, 2-8! The Caseys are well aware of the teams Pope John have played. They beat St. John Vianney 33-12 in the 1st round.
This Wednesday on the Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner the Green Wave of Long Branch will be our guests at River Rock Restaurant and Marina Bar in Brick. Joining HC Danny George will be Marc Dennis and Luke Arnold, two of the many stars of this Green Wave squad looking to defend its sectional title. Join us from 7-8 p.m. or listen on 105.7 The Hawk. The show is also streamed live at shoresportsnetwork.com.
Our Jersey Mike’s Game of the Week will be Brick Memorial at Long Branch in a CJ G4 semifinals matchup. It will be on 92.7 WOBM and streamed live at shoresportsnetwork.com.