Scanning the Scene: “Under The Radar” Unbeaten
I'll start this week's blog with my take on the teams that get little or no respect but carry undefeated records into week 4. In no particular order, I'm talking about Brick (3-0), Monmouth (4-0), Wall (3-0), Point Beach (3-0), Freehold Twp(3-0) and Barnegat (3-0). There are 14 schools that are undefeated as we enter this week and Brick is the only one of the group listed above will have a chance of breaking into our Shore Sports Network top 10 this week. No respect, not really, because I'm going to give them their due this week.
Brick (3-0) has played well early and has defeated three A-South teams-Brick Memorial (27-7), Jackson (17-14), and TR North (20-0). Of the three only BM has a winning record, but we all know the A-South is a rugged league and Brick's record must be respected. They are led by junior QB Jim Leblo who has been good enough throwing the football mainly to junior Cole Groschel, who looks like a star in the making. For me, Brick must run the ball better as that facet of their game has not been as good as in past years. When the weather begins to turn and the passing game becomes more difficult, teams must run the ball and play defense. Brick certainly plays defense and has proven they can throw it and if they sharpen up the run game it's back to the playoffs for the Dragons. They must travel to powerful St. John Vianney this Friday night, so they will be tested.
Point Pleasant Beach(3-0) has been a pleasant surprise this season. Playing behind QB Luke Frauenheim, RB Chris Weber and WR Josh Yates they came back from a 19-8 halftime deficit to beat arch-rival Asbury Park 22-19. Beach's other wins were Keyport (31-24) and Bishop Ahr (18-0). Coach John Wagner won it all in 2013 when they beat Shore 12-7 in the CJ Group 1 championship. There are more wins on the schedule, so look for another trip to the playoffs for the Garnet Gulls.
Freehold Twp(3-0) was helped by an opening loss to Freehold that has since been overturned via forfeit because of an ineligible player. The Freehold athletic department turned themselves in on that and parlay that with wins vs. Colts Neck (14-0) and Marlboro (24-13) and the Patriots are 3-0. Coach Cory Davies has brought much respectability to the Patriot program in the 3 years he has been there. Back to back playoff appearances for a program that only had 1 previously in their 45-year history. This year's cast centers around QB Nick Reardon (8 TD passes) and WR Pat Laricy (2 TD) and James Romero (3TD). It's no secret the Patriots like to throw it and their opponents know that but stopping it is the problem for defenses. With Neptune(0-3), Perth Amboy (1-2) and Jackson Liberty (0-3) up next the Patriots can get on a roll that would take them on another trip to the playoffs.
Wall (3-0) has been another surprise in the Shore. Coming off a championship season last year, the Knights graduated the majority of the players who took them there. They also lost their head coach Dan Curcione, who went to Donovan Catholic but one player who did return was QB Eddie Scott. Under new coach Tony Grandinetti (in his first head coaching job) Wall has been perfect. They opened up with a 20-18 victory over Ocean and in week 2 surprised some with a 21-10 win over Central (3-1) and then a 27-10 victory over Raritan got them to 3-0. The Wall schedule will get a little tougher in next few weeks with Long Branch, RBC and Middletown North. All top 10 teams.
Barnegat (3-0) looks like it's on a collision course with Point Boro(3-0) in early November for the B-South championship. The Bengals are led by their big tight end Sean Morris who has played great on both sides of the ball. Morris has 16 catches for 314 yds. and 4 TDs. Also playing great in the early season are RB Charlie Cotton (323yds. 3 TDs) and QB Brian Finucan(368 yds. 4 TDs). The scary thing about the Bengals is that all three of the above are only juniors! By the way, this just in, Morris at 6'4" 225 lbs. was offered a ride to Bucknell U, the first of what will be many in the next two years. Tough one for Barnegat this week as they travel to a very good Manasquan team on Sat afternoon.
Monmouth Regional (4-0) opened in zero week and they have not looked back since. Credit Coach Larry Nikola in having the Falcons ready in this early season run as they have gone through Ocean(28-17), Holmdel(14-3, Metuchen(37-7) and Matawan(14-13). It was Monmouth's first victory over the Huskies since 1963. QB Ian Fitzgerald has been their leader, while Devon Johnson caught a bomb for 93 yds. which got the Falcons going Friday night. A battle of unbeaten teams is up next, as the Falcons travel to Point Boro this week.
A big congrats to Coach Kyle Sandberg and the Raiders of TR East (1-2) for breaking the losing streak which dated back to 2015. The 16-8 victory over Southern has been a long time coming. After seeing East lose a close one to TR South the week before I knew there were wins coming. I believe there are more on the schedule this year. I will actually go out on the limb here and say the Raiders have a very good chance of making the SJ Group 4 playoffs. The bracket is not great this year, with only Moorestown (3-0) unbeaten after 3 weeks. The Raiders will be our guests this week at Margaritas in TR on Wednesday night at 7-8pm. Come out or listen to Raider Nation at Margaritas.
Because of Jewish holiday this week, our game of the week is on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the home of the Rebels of Howell. They play TR North in what looked like a big game of the pre-season, but North (0-3) has struggled out of the gate. It will be a chance to see Howell QB Eddie Morales and WR Naseim Brantley who are two of the better players in the Shore.
Wednesday's Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner is back at Margaritas at 7 pm when we talk with head wrestling coach at Rutgers U Scott Goodale. What is a wrestling coach doing on a football show? Well Scott was our guest selector for picks last week(didn't do a very good job I may add) and of course before his big job at Rutgers, coached both football and wrestling at Jackson. He knows quite a bit of football and it's always great to talk to him. Also on Wednesday show is Kyle Sandberg of TR East and senior standouts Tommy Ferrante and Louie Gallo IV. I put a little pressure on the Raiders, let's hear what they think. Can't get to Margaritas, listen on 105.7 The Hawk or streamed on Shore Sports Network.