We nearly had a major shakeup in the top 10 during the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs, as No. 2 Manalapan escaped an upset at the hands of unranked Brick Memorial with a 14-13 comeback win with no time left in regulation.

The top-seeded Braves survived to face another formidable challenge in three-time defending sectional champion Sayreville in the Central Jersey Group V semifinals on Friday night. The near-upset loss also solidifies the argument for Red Bank Catholic as the No. 1 team, as the Caseys rolled to an impressive 42-14 win over Immaculata in the Non-Public Group III playoffs.

Tyler Thompson and Ocean remained unbeaten with a 35-13 win over Warren Hills to reach the Central Jersey Group III semifinals. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB).

RBC goes from Goliath to David this week when it faces a taller order than any other team in the state. The Caseys play at defending champion St. Joseph-Montvale, the No. 1 team in the state and the No. 1 team in the country in some rankings, in the Non-Public Group III semifinals after losing 42-7 to the Green Knights in this spot last year. Even with a loss there, the Caseys still will play a top-five team in No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven on the day after Thanksgiving with the Class A Central title on the line in an opportunity for a final statement.

Manalapan’s one-point win also potentially opens the door for Ocean or Rumson to argue to jump the Braves if all of those teams win state titles. Ocean has had plenty of its own close calls, so right now the argument would be more in favor of Rumson. However, there’s still way too many big games to go before any of those arguments can really coalesce.

Shore Sports Network Top 10

1. Red Bank Catholic (9-0). Last week: No. 1.

After facing questions about their schedule strength all season, the Caseys drilled a quality Immaculata team 42-14 in the Non-Public Group III quarterfinals. Senior tailback Larry Redaelli continued an outstanding year with 166 yards rushing and a pair of scores to give him a Shore Conference-high 25 touchdowns this season. Mike Cordova, Connor Smith, Dylan Murphy and Frank Olmo each added touchdowns, and Shawn McCord and Jamie Gordinier led a stellar defensive effort. Now comes the 800-pound gorilla – St. Joseph’s-Montvale. The Caseys will take a plane flight north to Montvale on Saturday for the Non-Public Group III semifinals against the defending champions, who have won 16 state titles in their history and are currently on a 14-game winning streak. No team has been closer than 13 points against the Green Knights all season, but the Caseys will give it their best shot and see what happens.

 

2. Manalapan (9-0). Last week: No. 2.

This is a shaky No. 2 spot for the Braves, but the good news is that their chance to win the program’s first NJSIAA title is still alive after a wild, 14-13 comeback win over eighth-seeded Brick Memorial in Central Jersey Group V. Senior tailback Tyler Leonetti ran for a game-tying, 1-yard touchdown as time expired in regulation, and junior kicker Mike Caggiano added the extra point for the win. The Braves scored twice inside the final four minutes, including a touchdown run by junior tailback Imamu Mayfield, after trailing 13-0 to pull out the win, helped by some clutch throws by junior quarterback Dan Anerella and big catches by Rutgers-bound wideout Saeed Blacknall. Now comes the daunting challenge of Sayreville, which was realigned into CJ Group V after winning three straight CJ Group IV titles. The Bombers (8-2) are 16-0 against the Shore Conference since losing to Brick Memorial in the 2008 CJ Group IV final, including two playoff wins over Manalapan. The Bombers enter on a seven-game winning streak after a 1-2 start, although they barely got out alive in their own first-round game with a 35-34 win over Monroe. Still, if Manalapan wants to reach a third straight sectional final, it will have to do it the hard way by taking out a team that no one has solved in the playoffs since 2009.

 

3. Ocean (9-0). Last week: No. 3.

The second-seeded Spartans cruised into the Central Jersey Group III semifinals with a 35-13 win over seventh-seeded Warren Hills thanks to 215 yards rushing and three touchdowns by sophomore tailback Tyler Thompson as well as 22 tackles and a forced fumble by senior linebacker Dan Loizos to lead the defense. Ocean now welcomes third-seeded Hopewell Valley (8-1) on Friday night in a bid to reach its first sectional final since winning the Central Jersey Group III title in 2005.

4. Rumson-FH (9-0). Last week: No. 4.

The top-seeded Bulldogs continue to make their case as perhaps the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference as they rolled into the Central Jersey Group II semifinals with a 41-8 win over eighth-seeded Bordentown. Junior tailback Charlie Volker continued a monster season with 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns, senior quarterback Chase Caruso threw a pair of touchdown passes, senior Sam Shaud had two touchdown catches, and the defense allowed only one touchdown or less for the eighth time in nine games. Rumson welcomes fourth-seeded Rahway (7-2) in the semifinals on Friday night as it tries to reach its fourth sectional final since 2007 and third in the last four seasons.

5. Colts Neck (8-1). Last week: No. 5.

The third-seeded Cougars took care of sixth-seeded Neptune, 35-14, to pick up the third state playoff win in program history and the second in two years and advance to the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals. Senior tailback Anthony Gargiulo ran for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns, becoming Colts Neck’s all-time leading rusher in the process and tying the single-season school record with 21 touchdowns. Junior Abdul Quddus added a career-high 150 yards rushing and a touchdown in the win. The Cougars will head to second-seeded Nottingham (7-2) on Saturday as they try to reach their first sectional championship game in school history.

6. Manasquan (7-2). Last week: No. 6.

The top-seeded Warriors dispatched of Wall, the No. 8 seed, with a 29-7 win in South Jersey Group III behind a career-high 228 yards rushing and three touchdowns from senior tailback Joe Murphy in the first playoff meeting ever between the old rivals. Manasquan will now get a stern test from defending sectional champion Delsea (8-2) in the semifinals on Saturday. The Warriors are looking to make their first state final since 2009 and their 18th final appearance overall in their illustrious history.

7. Jackson Memorial (7-2). Last week: No. 7.

The third-seeded Jaguars edged sixth-seeded Rancocas Valley, 24-21, in South Jersey Group V to win their first state playoff game since 2006. Senior running back Khani Glover ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns to give Jackson Memorial a 1,000-yard rusher in 16 of the last 18 seasons, according to team historian Jim Colbert. Before this streak, there was only one other rusher in school history to go over 1,000 – Julius Blackwell in 1988. The defense registered five interceptions, one shy of the school record, including two by sophomore defensive back Kyle Johnson. Kicker Jared Calhoun also booted his second game-winning field goal in two games. The Jaguars now enter the semifinals as the underdog on the road against bracket favorite Cherokee, the No. 2 seed. The Class A South champions are looking to reach their first state final since going undefeated in 2005.

8. Toms River South (7-2). Last week: No. 8.

The second-seeded Indians won their first state playoff game in 10 years when they knocked off seventh-seeded Moorestown, 35-21, in South Jersey Group IV. Junior quarterback Tymere Berry had a career day with 213 yards rushing and two touchdowns to help lead the way. Toms River South will now host sixth-seeded Shawnee (6-3) in the semifinals as the Indians try to reach their first state final since 1998.

9. Brick (7-3). Last week: No. 9.

The top-seeded Green Dragons survived a scare to pull away from eighth-seeded West Windsor North for a 35-26 win in Central Jersey Group IV for their first playoff victory since 2000. Junior running back Ray Fattaruso led the way with three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani also ran for a score in his first game back after missing two games with a shoulder injury. The Green Dragons will host fifth-seeded Burlington Township, which beat Middletown South 52-45, in the semifinals on Friday night. Brick is gunning for its first state final appearance since winning the South Jersey Group III title in 1994.

10. Barnegat (8-1). Last week: Unranked.

The third-seeded Bengals are back in the top 10 after they set a school single-season record for wins by routing sixth-seeded Pemberton,  41-13, thanks to a career-high 223 yards rushing by junior Tyler McGuinness, two touchdown runs by junior quarterback Cinjun Erkine, and two touchdown passes from Erskine to junior Manny Bowen. The Bengals will travel to second-seeded Northern Burlington (7-2) on Friday as they try to reach their first sectional championship game in program history.

Dropped out:

Long Branch (6-3): The Green Wave’s offensive woes in big games cost them dearly, as they fell 13-3 to Carteret in Central Jersey Group III to end their playoff hopes. They look to finish strong with a win over Red Bank (1-8) in their annual Thanksgiving match-up next week.

Teams to watch:

Shore (8-1): The top-seeded Blue Devils survived a major scare from eighth-seeded Palmyra in a 10-7 win as they built a 10-0 lead on a Jake Monteiro field goal and a Brian Miller touchdown run and held on for their eighth straight win. They will host Asbury Park (7-2) in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals on Friday night in a rematch of a regular-season game they won 10-0. Shore is trying to reach its second straight sectional final.

Point Beach (8-1): The Garnet Gulls dethroned defending Central Jersey Group I champion Florence and avenged a loss to the Flashes from last year with a 21-7 comeback win in which they scored all 21 points in the fourth quarter. Senior Noah Yates had a touchdown catch, a two-point conversion catch, and his Shore Conference-leading ninth interception on defense. Juniors Joe Wegrzyniak and Mike Frauenheim added touchdown runs in the win. They will now host seventh-seeded Burlington City on Friday night as they try to reach their first state final since 1982 and the second one in program history.

Asbury Park (7-2): Here come the Blue Bishops, as Asbury Park has won five straight and dramatically picked up its offense in the process. They went on the road and buried fourth-seeded South River, 42-7, to set up a rematch at top-seeded Shore Regional in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals. Senior quarterback Robert Barksdale threw four touchdown passes and senior running back Daquane Bland-Bennett had a pair of touchdowns in the win over the Rams. The offense has averaged 33 points per game during the winning streak. The addition of sophomore running back Charles Sanders and four other contributors who became eligible after a loss against Point Beach has made this team a threat to win the CJ Group I title for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.

Lakewood (6-3): The Piners went from losing to previously winless Point Boro two weeks ago to upsetting third-seeded Delran 20-12 on the road in Central Jersey Group II for the Piners’ first playoff win since 1986 and just the third in school history. Junior Chapelle Cook ran for the game-winning touchdown with three seconds left and finished with 114 yards rushing to help Lakewood end the longest drought of playoff victories for any Shore team involved in this year’s playoffs. The Piners can really make a statement this week when they travel to second-seeded Weequahic (9-0) for the semifinals as they try to reach their second state final in school history and first since winning their only title in 1986.