Season Recap and a Look at 2024: Constitution Division
With all but a handful of games remaining between the teams still playing on Thanksgiving and the three Shore Conference teams competing for Group titles next week, now is a good time to look back at how the season went for all 42 Shore teams and take an early look at next year.
Obviously, in the age of rampant transferring, the phrase "will return" is not an ironclad statement, but for these purposes we will work under the assumption that underclassmen will be back with their teams next fall.
Here's how it went this season for the Constitution Division, where Holmdel's stunning turnaround was the story of the fall in the division.
It was a dream season for the Hornets, who completely reversed their record from 1-8 in 2022 to 9-1 and division champions. Jeff Rainess is among the candidates for Shore Conference Coach of the Year after Holmdel’s dramatic improvement, which included starting 9-0 for the first time since 2007. The Hornets reached the sectional semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Camden in Central Jersey Group 3.
They had one of the Shore’s most dominant defenses, allowing only 34 total points all season and registering six straight shutouts. Only two teams scored more than one touchdown against the Hornets all year. They graduate an outstanding senior class from that defense, including linebackers Brayden Savage and Connor Fields, safety Gary Collyer, and defensive lineman Nick Bachman. Most of their offensive line also graduates along with several of their top rushers, including A.J. Todisco, Anthony Setteducate, and Collyer, plus top receivers Matt Tempone and Andrew Piscatelli. They also graduate a four-year varsity kicker in Connor Mendini.
However, they do return the ingredients to keep the wins coming. Jack Cannon turned in a strong season at quarterback as a sophomore with over 1,500 total yards and 17 TDs between rushing and passing. Fullback Matt Iulo returns off a 438-yard rushing season, and Cipriano Bodnar (44 tackles), defensive end Alex Reyes and Trey Critchley (2 INTs) return on defense. They won’t be sneaking up on anyone next year, so we’ll see how they handle being a team others are chasing from the start.
The Warriors were the quintessential “beat the teams they were supposed to beat, lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to” team this season. They won their five games by a combined 109-32 and lost their four games by a combined 142-14. They will have a chance to add one more win when they face rival Wall on Thanksgiving.
They broke in a bunch of new starters this season, but most of them were seniors. They graduate quarterback Frank Furfaro, top rusher Will Burns, leading tackler Noah Mammeri and top defensive lineman Jack Mead. Their receiving corps looks to be a strength heading into next year with Caden Eastmond, JD Teza and Jack O’Reilly all coming back, but there will be a new quarterback throwing to them. Their running game, usually Manasquan’s bread and butter, struggled this season, so they will look to get that back on track and try to return to their usual title mix next season after finishing second behind Holmdel this year.
St. John Vianney (3-7)
The Lancers were really young this season, starting multiple freshmen, which they hope will pay off with a big leap forward next year. They were right there with Holmdel, Long Branch and Marlboro in a trio of single-digit losses, so the potential is there given what they will return.
They played multiple quarterbacks this season, but return Ryan Vallely, who saw extensive time. They graduate leading rusher Luca Minardo, but have a potential star running back in Abdul Turay, who ran for 691 yards on an average of 7.4 yards per carry as a freshman. They also return two top receivers in Dante Campagna and Jahmere James, who combined for almost 500 of the team’s 869 receiving yards.
The biggest potential is on defense, where almost everyone returns, including budding star linebacker Donny Rocco Sosa, who had 93 tackles as a freshman. Turay also had 51 tackles as a safety. This team has some good young talent, so we’ll see if that translates into wins in 2024.
Shore Regional (6-4)
It was another workmanlike winning season in a career full of them for head coach Mark Costantino, whose Blue Devils reached the Central Jersey Group I semifinals before falling to Schalick in the final seconds.
Shore stepped up a level in competition after getting moved into this division as a Group I school and held their own despite some injuries to key players. Their best win was a 28-0 nondivisional victory over a Monmouth team that made the playoffs and contended for a division title. They graduate a standout senior class that includes Delaware-bound defensive end Jackson Whitacre, RB/LB Alex George, and RB/LB Lucas White, but they return a solid junior class that should keep them in contention in 2024.
Quarterback Josh Moeller returns along with leading rusher Brendan O’Brien, who also had 40 tackles on defense. Leading tackler Tommy Schroeder also will be back, so there’s a good foundation there.
The graduation of superstar quarterback Tyler Douglas left a void that was hard to fill on offense for the Spartans, who came up just short of a state playoff berth. They averaged 11.1 points per game and even switched their offense to the Wing-T midseason after having the Shore’s fourth-best scoring offense under Douglas a year earlier.
They graduate a veteran offensive line led by Nick Caruso, but the good news is they return James Sobieski, a wideout who moved to quarterback, and freshman running back Alex Staten, who showed flashes of playmaking ability. They lose some defensive standouts in defensive lineman Ben Girard and linebacker Willie Canavan but will have a host of returners on that side of the ball. It’s really about whether the offense can take a step forward to get them back to their usual winning ways.
Asbury Park (2-7)
No team in the Shore Conference got more of a raw deal from the schedule-makers than the Blue Bishops, yet they fought to the end. They had 24 total players on their team by the conclusion of the season yet were competing in a division filled with much bigger schools.
Their record was also deceiving, as they battled Shore Regional in an eight-point loss, lost to an eight-win Manchester team by five, and pushed St. John Vianney to overtime. You can't help but think if they had any depth they could've pulled out some of those games in the second half instead of wearing down. They also stayed the course, ending the season with two straight wins after an 0-7 start, including a 56-12 rout of Thanksgiving rival Neptune to cap the season.
The real question now is what becomes of the program next season. The bulk of this year’s tiny roster was seniors, including standout quarterback Ralee Stephens and running backs Iquann Crawford and Jah'Vell Carter. Rising sophomore WR/DB Jason Whittaker is the next star in the making for the Blue Bishops, but depth remains a serious issue. We’ll see if they get realigned back into the Patriot Division with more schools their size.