🎶 It’s the most wonderful time of the year  🎶

No, we’re not talking about the holiday season. Relax with that thought. We’ve still got a month of sunshine and warm weather left. We’re talking about the start of football season.

The 2019 Shore Conference high school football season has arrived.

On Friday, Sept. 6 and Saturday, Sept. 7, 32 of the Shore Conference’s 43 football programs will take the field to kick off what is sure to be another thrilling season of high school football. The Shore is chock full of talent with some of the best teams and individuals in the Garden State. Last season, the Shore Conference saw three teams – Red Bank Catholic, Long Branch, and Rumson-Fair Haven – win NJISAA state titles. Can those three teams repeat? Who else will win a state championship? Who will be the best team in the Shore? Answers to those questions and more will be answered over the next three months.

One of the big stories of the offseason was divisional realignment. The divisions are more even now in terms of being competitive from top to bottom, but that means the top two divisions feature the heavy hitters of the Shore. It will be a grind for those 12 teams, but it will also be a treat for fans to see the best teams duke it out on a weekly basis.

It should also make ranking the teams a bit easier since it will all be settled on the field. Before we can make our judgments based on actual results, however, we’ll use data gathered from previewing all 43 teams to present the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10.

1. Red Bank Catholic (10-0). Final 2018 ranking: No. 1

After going 10-0 and winning the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 title last season to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the Shore, the Caseys will once again begin the season as the conference’s top-ranked squad. Notre Dame-bound tight end/defensive end Kevin Bauman and Boston College-bound linebacker/tight end Charlie Gordinier lead an all-star group that also includes running backs Billy Guidetti, Kevin Degnan and Elijah Jules, lineman Chris Hart, wide receiver Sean Rossback and quarterback Ryan Edgerly. The entire Shore will be gunning for RBC, but the Caseys are up to the challenge as they aim for a repeat.

 

2. Mater Dei Prep (10-2). Final 2018 ranking: No. 2 

The Seraphs have been an elite team in the Shore for the last three seasons and that figures to stay the same in 2019. One year after going 10-2 and reaching the Non-Public Group 3 final, the Seraphs bring back talent on both sides of the ball and welcome some impact transfers. Mater Dei also has a new offensive coordinator in former Freehold/Neptune/St. John Vianney state-championship coach Mark Ciccotelli. Running back Malik Ingram leads the way after a monster junior year along with Notre Dame-bound defensive back/wide receiver Clarence Lewis, versatile playmaker Isaiah Noguera and lineman Khurram Simpson.

 

3. Long Branch (12-1). Final 2018 ranking: No. 3 

The Green have won consecutive NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 titles and last season won the inaugural Central-South Group 4 bowl game. Long Branch lost many impact players to graduation but the program is ripe with talented players ready to step in and keep the train rolling. State rushing champion Jermaine Corbett returns along with lineman Tracey Taylor, wide receiver Jayon Farrar, linebacker Jah’kwan Gordon, and defensive end Jayson Glaspar. The Green Wave also have an impact transfer in the form of quarterback Kyle Davidson, who started in California last season.

 

4. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-2). Final 2018 ranking: No. 4 

Despite having to break in several new starters on both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs have championship expectations once again after winning their fifth state sectional title in the last six years and also claiming the Central-South Group 3 bowl game. Quarterback Collin Coles, running backs John Volker and Pete Crowley, wide receiver Patrick Jamin, defensive lineman Von Factor, linebacker Gordon Forsyth and defensive backs Drew Frankel and Ryan Ruane lead the way. How a brand-new offensive line comes together will likely be the key to the season, but Rumson has earned respect and trust by finding ways to get it done every season.

 

5. Toms River North (6-3). Final 2018 ranking: not ranked

While the Mariners finished outside of the top 10 last season, they bring back an impressive core of starters that looks to have them competing for division and state championships. Junior quarterback Jake Kazanowsky leads a talented offense that also includes running back Jarrod Pruitt, and wide receivers Dominick Jacob and Zach Goodale. Hulking 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive lineman Najae Hallenbeck leads the way in the trenches. Defensively, linebacker Vinny Palmieri, defensive lineman C.J. Niedzielski, and defensive back Ray Carlson lead the way.

 

6. Manalapan (6-4). Final 2018 ranking: not ranked 

The Braves are primed to return to championship form in 2019 with multiple starters returning on both sides of the ball. Senior quarterback Sean Kehley, running backs Nico Santorelli and Andre Johnson, and an offensive line that returns four of five starters guide Manalapan’s pro-style offense while linebacker Matt Benedetti and defensive backs Justin Reilly and Anthony Matrone lead the defense.

 

7. Middletown South (8-3). Final 2018 ranking: No. 6 

The Eagles are always in the discussion – their last losing season was in 1984 – so having them in the top 10 to start the season is a pretty safe bet. The reigning American Division champions return senior defensive lineman Vinny Condito versatile two-way standouts Matt Krellin and Chris Lotito, and defensive back Tyler Cuccia as they attack a schedule that head coach Steve Antonucci says is the program’s most difficult in his 22 years at the helm.

 

8. Jackson Memorial (6-4). Final 2018 ranking: not ranked

The Jaguars captured the Constitution Division title last year and bring back a talented squad that will look to make waves in the new-look Colonial Division. Defensive end Collin McCarthy, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound beast, is back after wreaking havoc on opposing offenses as a junior. Defensive end Sean Laverty, linebackers Nick Ford and Brian Zapata and defensive backs Christian Pellone and Wally Doman join McCarthy to lead a physical defense. Junior Will Towns has breakout potential at running back, Jake McKown is back at wide receiver and senior Lonnie Cebulski takes over at quarterback.

 

9. Wall (6-3). Final 2018 ranking: No. 10

After an encouraging season with a young roster, Wall returns many of its starters as it looks to take the next step under third-year head coach Tony Grandinetti. Running backs Casey Larkin, Matt DeSarno, and Dale McNally and quarterback Logan Peters lead an offense that has the chance to be very dangerous. Many of those same players will contribute on the defensive side of the ball along with standout sophomore linebackers Charlie Sasso and Colin Riley.

 

10. Donovan Catholic (7-3). Final 2018 ranking: not ranked 

The Griffins have the most returning starters of any team in the Shore with 10 players back on both sides of the ball. This could be the year they break into the upper echelon of the conference. Senior quarterback Ryan Clark leads the offense along with running backs Nasir Calhoun, Damian Johnson, and Jahdir Loftland, wide receivers Andre Laney and James Bivins, tight ends Ethan Capone and Levi Wilkins and an offensive line spearheaded by FBS recruit Cam McNair (6-5, 320). On the defensive side, linebackers Quamire Green, Dominick Nocero, and Xavier Ellis lead a unit that has improved by leaps and bounds over the past two years.

 

Keep an eye on:

St. John Vianney

Freehold

Brick Memorial

Manasquan

Ocean

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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