16 entered the weekend with a chance to reach their dream, a trip to the finals and play for a State Championship. 7 remain, including at least one participant in each of the five Central Jersey groups.

Heading our contingent is #1 Manalapan (11-0), who are in the finals the 6th time in the last 7 years. Led by All-State RB Naim Mayfield the Braves are destined to win championship #2 in their 46 year history. The Braves program has been consistently one of the best in the Shore Conference and Head Coach Ed Gurrieri has a staff that can take them to the title they deserve this year. This year they meet South Brunswick, the team they beat 21-7 in 2014 for their only other Championship. The Vikings are 9-1 and will play this Wednesday night in their annual Turkey Game with North Brunswick. That will give Manalapan an up close look at their finals opponent when they scout them that night. In th last six years South Brunswick has 56 wins and two Championships. Rutgers University will be the site on December 2nd.

The Group 4 title will be a rematch between Long Branch (8-2) and Freehold Boro (8-3). Freehold beat Long Branch 27-20 on November 3rd which catapulted the Colonials into the playoffs as the #8 seed. Long Branch used a swarming defense which had 6 sacks and two turnovers to beat Jackson 28-3 to reach the finals, while Freehold beat Brick 35-28 with QB Ashante Worthy again leading the Colonials to the finals. Long Branch can beat you on the ground (Jermaine Corbett) or in the air (Juwan Wilkins) and is a well rounded team. Freehold relies heavily on Worthy, but does have a surrounding cast that can hurt you if you focus too much on the player of the year candidate. Players like Matt Krause, Ahmad Dixon and Quincy Davis can hurt you if you're only watching Worthy. This one will also be part of a great day at Rutgers University on December 2nd.

The Group 2 finals will be Point Pleasant Boro’s chance to finish off an undefeated season and win their 4th title. It will be Hillside who stands in their way. Hillside (8-3) avenged an early season loss to A L Johnson 19-16 in the semifinals to secure their 3rd trip to the finals and is aiming for their 2nd championship. Boro (11-0) is flying on all cylinders with QB James Fara, RB Tanner Gordon and Slot/WR Brandon Cipriano playing their best at the right time. This is Hillside’s first winning season since 2008 and first time Boro has played them. Another game scheduled for Rutgers University on December 2nd.

Mater Dei Prep (8-1) used a George Pearson to Clarence Lewis TD pass with 56 seconds left and a winning extra point from Gavin Roth to reach the finals. The season has been plagued with controversy, but one thing we know is the Seraphs are an excellent football team and are seeking their second consecutive state title when they face St Joseph, Hammington (11-0) at Rowan University on Sunday, December 3rd. It will not be easy for Mater Dei as St. Joe's will be making their 34th trip to the finals and they will look for their 26th title. You can’t sit on Mater Dei as they seem to always find a way to get to the finish line. Last year on their way to the Championship, Mater Dei beat St. Joe Hammington 26-0 at home in the semifinals.

Rumson (9-1) will go for the 5-peat. Only one other Shore team has done that: Manasquan (1998-2002). RB Peter Lucas has had a tremendous year for the Bulldogs and is the leader of this ground oriented team. QB Dan Harby has directed the offense and HC Jerry Schulte’s defense is always one of the best in the Shore and the State. They get a pretty good team in Somerville (10-1) who has won seven sectional titles of their own.

The 7th and final team in the finals is none other than Point Pleasant Beach (7-4). For the second week in a row Beach came from behind in the 2nd half to take down a higher seed. This week it was Bound Brook 22-19. QB Luke Frauenheim threw two long TD passes of 53 and 79 yards to overcome the 12 point deficit that Bound Brook had built up. HC John Wagner's club will face Middlesex in the finals, a team that beat them earlier in the season.

So there you have it, the “Magnificent Seven”. Expect quite a few Championships to be brought back to the Shore from Rutgers University, Kean University, and Rowan University.

While 7 move on to the finals, we cannot fail to mention the teams that came up short, but had great years, led by Howell( 9-2) and Freehold Twp (8-3) in Class A North. Both fell to #1 seeds and both had tremendous seasons. Monmouth Regional (7-4) had their best year in quite some time and they gave Rumson all they could handle before falling 28-13. Brick (6-5) fought injuries all year, but made a nice run in the playoffs before coming up short to Freehold, 35-28. Brick returns the best player on the team, RB/WR Cole Groschel and QB Jimmy Leblo and is the preseason favorite in the A-South next year. Jackson (6-5) was another team who made a nice playoff run only to come up short vs. Long Branch by a 28-3 score. They upset Brick Memorial in round one which got them the semifinals matchup with the Green Wave. St. John Vianney (10-1) lost to top seeded DePaul 42-21, but finish their season with a Class A-Central Championship. Lakewood (5-5) lost to Woodrow Wilson 46-25 on Saturday afternoon down in Camden.The Piners have one more left on Turkey Day as they entertain the Indians of Toms River South at 11 a.m. Wall (5-5) as stated above, lost to Rumson 28-13, but has the biggest of all Thanksgiving Day games to look ahead to when they entertain Manasquan at 11 a.m. We will broadcast that game on 1160/1310am at 10:50 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

This and That:

Manalapan’s Naim Mayfield has 2,546 yards rushing, 44 away from the Shore Conference record held by Long Branch’s Dahmiere Willis in 2014 (2,589 yards) and tied by Ashante Worthy in Friday night's game. Worthy and Mayfield both have a shot at the State record of 2,816 yards held by Johnathan Taylor from Salem High School. Taylor is a Freshman at Wisconsin and considered a Heisman Trophy candidate. Worthy needs just 35 yards passing to become the first ever 2,000 yard passing and rushing player in same season. Crazy numbers put up by some great players this year.

Speaking of yards rushing, Rumson’s Peter Lucas went over the 2,000 yard mark in the semifinals. In any other year that would lead the Shore. Rumson has won 14 straight playoff games.

Mater Dei’s QB George Pearson looks for his 3rd State Championship: 2 at MDP and one at Matawan.

Rumson, Long Branch, and Manasquan must play this week before their championship games on December 2nd and 3rd.

This is the first time in history that both Beach and Boro have been in finals in same year.

Holy Spirit wants no part of Mater Dei Prep. Last year, they lost on the last play of the sectional final on a hook and ladder play. This year, they lost in last 50 seconds.

Long Branch’s last championship was in 1999, which ironically was HC Dan George's first year. Dan is also a graduate of Long Branch.

No Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner this week due to the holiday. We’ll be back next week from River Rock to preview the Championship finals.

Our Jersey Mikes Game of week is Manasquan at Wall. Tune in at 11 a.m. Thanksgiving morning on 1160/1310AM or on the Shore Sports Network app.

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