I feel like this could be the calm before the storm, as the final Shore Sports Network Top 10 after this weekend’s state finals could potentially be dramatically different.

Top-ranked Red Bank Catholic went out with a bang, handing No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven its first loss in a 45-0 rout to win the Class A Central championship and hit the 10-win mark. That served as the Caseys’ final argument to remain the Shore Conference’s No. 1 team for a third straight season.

Top-ranked Red Bank Catholic made its final argument to remain No. 1 with a 45-0 romp over No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven to hand the Bulldogs their first loss and win the Class A Central title. (Photo by Scott Stump)
Top-ranked Red Bank Catholic made its final argument to remain No. 1 with a 45-0 romp over No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven to hand the Bulldogs their first loss and win the Class A Central title. (Photo by Scott Stump)

Manalapan gets its chance to make a final argument on Sunday when it faces Hunterdon Central in the Central Jersey Group V final. The Braves are seeking their first state title in their third straight trip to the finals. The Red Devils are a legitimate opponent with a deceiving record (7-4) because they were without quarterback Michael Knight and Penn State recruit Jason Cabinda at running back and linebacker during a four-game losing streak but have been a threshing machine in the playoffs with a pair of blowout wins over higher-seeded teams.

Once you get past the argument for No. 1, there are plenty of other potential arguments. If Colts Neck and Rumson-Fair Haven both go 11-1 and win a state title, who is ranked higher in the end? Rumson’s loss is to No. 1 RBC, while Colts Neck’s loss is to No. 2 Manalapan. If Shore Regional finishes 11-1 and polishes off a state title, who drops out of the top 10 to make room for the Blue Devils? Do the Class A South teams have better resumes than Ocean and Manasquan and deserve to end higher in the rankings on their full body of work? If Brick wins a state title, does it jump ahead of Class A South champion Jackson Memorial despite losing to them or remain behind the Jaguars? These are all questions that could have to be answered after this weekend.

The final top 10 will appear with our All-Shore package, and the final rankings will be a collaboration between our Shore Sports Network team of myself, Bob Badders, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Matt Harmon, so it will not just be one opinion but a collective one.

1. Red Bank Catholic (10-1). Last week: No. 1.

The Caseys continued their domination of Thanksgiving rival Rumson-Fair Haven by handing the previously undefeated Bulldogs a 45-0 loss for their first loss of the season and RBC’s 11th straight win over the Bulldogs. Senior tailback Larry Redaelli polished off a great career with 159 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and rising standout Eddie Hahn had a pair of scores and two interceptions in the win. The defense limited Rumson to 109 total yards, including 47 yards by the Shore Conference’s leading rusher, junior tailback Charlie Volker. RBC ends the season on a 33-game winning streak against Shore Conference competition with four straight division titles and seven in the last nine years. Other than its 28-7 loss to St. Joseph-Montvale in the Non-Public Group III semifinals, it beat every other team it played by at least 28 points, including a potential state champion in Rumson.

2. Manalapan (11-0). Last week: No. 2.

The moment the Braves have been waiting a whole year for is now here after they dispatched of Marlboro 42-0 to wrap up their fourth straight outright Class A North title. Senior wideout Saeed Blacknall had a pair of touchdown catches to give him 15 for the season and tailback Tyler Leonetti added 140 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to help the Braves tie the school record for wins that they set last season. Now comes the big one, a showdown at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Rutgers against Hunterdon Central (7-4) for the Central Jersey Group V title, as Manalapan seeks its first state championship in its third straight trip to the finals. The Braves also could boast a win over a state champion if Colts Neck takes Central Jersey Group IV, and they also have a 31-0 win over Class A South champion Jackson Memorial.

3. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-1). Last week: No. 3.

The Bulldogs took it on the chin from the No. 1 team in the Shore in a 45-0 loss to RBC, but look to quickly put that behind them because there is a chance to make one final statement and win their second state championship in four seasons. During the loss, junior Charlie Volker became the first 2,000-yard rusher in Bulldogs history and the first 2,000-yard rusher in the Shore since Manalapan’s John Sieczkowski and Central’s Kalyph Hardy did it in 2011. Rumson faces undefeated Weequahic in the Central Jersey Group II final at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Kean University in a bid to win its first title since 2010 and the second in school history. A win over a talented, unbeaten Weequahic squad would certainly serve as a solid argument to retain this spot or maybe even argue for No. 2 if Manalapan loses to Hunterdon Central.  They also could boast a win over a state champion if Shore Regional wins Central Jersey Group I.

4. Colts Neck (10-1). Last week: No. 4.

The Cougars picked up a 40-13 win over Howell to set a single-season school record for victories, as junior quarterback Christian Sanchez accounted for 251 total yards and three touchdowns between rushing and passing to lead the way. Senior tailback Anthony Gargiulo added a pair of touchdown runs to push his single-season school record to 27 touchdowns. The Cougars will now look to bring home the program’s first state title when they face No. 8 Brick in the Central Jersey Group IV final at 4 p.m. on Saturday at The College of New Jersey. A win gives them an argument for at least the No. 3 spot.

5. Ocean (10-1). Last week: No. 5.

The Spartans cracked double digits in wins by rallying from a six-point halftime deficit to beat Monmouth 26-19 in a nondivisional game to wrap up the season. Sophomore tailback Tyler Thompson ran for three touchdowns and Frank Henry had a big 64-yard interception return for a score in the win. The Spartans’ only loss is to Hopewell Valley, which plays Lawrence this weekend in the Central Jersey Group III final. This is a tricky team to evaluate. Yes, they won 10 games, but they did it in a mediocre Class B North division and had a one-point win over Wall (3-7), a seven-point win on a fourth-quarter touchdown over Neptune (5-5) and a 7-3 comeback win in the fourth quarter over non-playoff qualifier Matawan (7-3). They also trailed Monmouth (3-7) at halftime, so it was not necessarily a dominant 10-win season. When you look at their 10-1 season and Barnegat's 10-1 season, the main difference is that Ocean did not slip up against a team it was favored against during the regular season. The Spartans' only loss may be to a state champion, so that is the argument for them to stay ranked high because they never really got that signature win over a Top 10 team.

6. Manasquan (8-3). Last week: No. 6.

The Warriors finished up their season with a 17-7 win over Wall for their second victory over the Crimson Knights this season. Senior tailback Joe Murphy ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the win to cap a strong career for the Warriors, and senior defensive lineman Monte Sinisi led a stout defensive effort. The Warriors were the quintessential “team that beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams that were ranked higher than them.” Their three losses are to No. 1 RBC, No. 3 Rumson and South Jersey Group III finalist Delsea. Their biggest win was a 38-0 victory over a .500 Middletown South team. They did take Rumson to the wire in a 22-15 loss inside the final minute. The Brick-Colts Neck game should have a bearing on their ranking because if Brick wins, the Green Dragons will not only jump in the rankings, but so will Jackson Memorial, which has a win over Brick.

7. Jackson Memorial (8-3). Last week: No. 7.

The Jaguars continued their mastery of rival Jackson Liberty, improving to 6-0 all-time against the Lions with a 34-0 nondivisional win to wrap up the season. Senior Ken Bradley concluded a stellar career with three touchdown runs and another outstanding game at linebacker. Senior tailback Khani Glover finished a brilliant senior season of his own with 180 yards and two touchdowns of his own. The Jaguars’ three losses are to No. 2 Manalapan, South Jersey Group V finalist Cherokee and No. 9 Toms River South, so they didn’t have a bad loss. Plus, they are a division champion and have a win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Brick. They may end up ranked higher when all the dust settles.

8. Brick (8-3). Last week: No. 8.

The Green Dragons did not play last week because they do not have a Thanksgiving game, so they have had two weeks to rest and prepare for Colts Neck in Saturday’s Central Jersey Group IV final at 4 p.m. at The College of New Jersey. This is Brick’s chance to put the rankings into a blender while also winning their first state title since 1994 and their seventh since the playoff system began in 1974. With a junior-laden team, this may only be the first phase of a great run for this team. They are a bit like Hunterdon Central in that one of their four losses came without junior star Carmen Sclafani at quarterback, as he missed a game against Jackson Memorial with a shoulder injury. Their other losses were to Middletown South (5-5) and Toms River East (4-6), but if they finish with a win over Colts Neck, that is a strong argument to move into the top five.

9. Toms River South (8-3). Last week: No. 9.

The Indians turned in their best season since 2002 by ending with a 53-26 win over Lakewood in their annual Thanksgiving game. Darrius Hart threw a pair of touchdown passes to Russell Messler, Otis Kearney ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns and Khaleel Greene added two touchdown runs in the win. It helped Toms River South’s argument to be ranked ahead of Barnegat because Barnegat’s only loss is to Lakewood, and not only did the Indians rout them, they did it without star quarterback Tymere Berry, who was out with an ankle injury. This team loses a great class of seniors, including Messler, Hart and Kearney, but returns Berry, Greene and more talent to make another run. Its losses are to South Jersey Group IV finalist Shawnee, which it led 24-0 at half, No. 8 Brick, and a .500 Lacey team. It also has a win over No. 7 Jackson Memorial.

10. Barnegat (10-1). Last week: No. 10.

The Bengals added to their school record for wins and clinched the outright Class B South title with a 35-14 win over Pinelands as junior Kevin Hoffman had a pair of touchdown runs in the win. Now comes the Bengals’ opportunity to rocket up the rankings when they take on defending champion Delsea (9-2) in the South Jersey Group III final at 4 p.m. at Rowan University on Saturday. It’s Barnegat’s first trip to a state final, and it comes against a Delsea team that already beat Manasquan, so Barnegat could launch itself into the top five with a win while also taking home the program’s first state championship. Its one loss is to Lakewood, and its best win is a 28-25 victory over Northern Burlington (8-3) in the semifinals.

Team to watch:

Shore Regional (10-1): The Blue Devils have now won 10 straight after a 31-0 wipeout of Point Beach (9-2) to win the Class B Central title. Senior Brian Miller ran for 101 yards and a score and also had an interception and a fumble recovery on defense, while senior quarterback Matt Muh threw a pair of touchdown passes. Now comes Round Two, as Shore will face Point Beach again at 10 a.m. on Saturday at The College of New Jersey with the Central Jersey Group I title on the line. The Blue Devils are looking to win their second championship in four seasons and first since 2010. Their only loss is to No. 3 Rumson in the season opener.


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