Shore Sports Network Football Top 10 Rankings, 10/8/13
Nothing earth-shaking in this week’s Shore Sports Network Top 10, although a new squad has joined the rankings and has a huge game this week.
Red Bank Catholic and Manalapan continue to roll against Shore Conference competition, as Manalapan has not lost to a Shore team since the season opener in 2011, and the Caseys have not been stopped by a local squad since 2010.
The buzz is growing about RBC’s schedule and whether it is holding the Caseys back when it comes to preparing for the Non-Public Group III bracket, where defending champion and nationally-ranked St. Joseph-Montvale is the 800-pound gorilla. As Shore Sports Network’s Ed Sarluca has pointed out, St. Joe’s and RBC are both 4-0, but the Green Knights have 79 power points and the Caseys have 48, which illustrates the glaring disparity in strength of schedule between the teams.
The Green Knights play a national schedule against out-of-state teams in addition to testing themselves against North Jersey non-public powers like St. Peter’s Prep, Don Bosco Prep, Paramus Catholic and DePaul. They are almost taking a step down in the level of competition by the time they hit the state playoffs. Meanwhile, RBC’s schedule is determined by the computer program that produces the Shore Conference schedule, so the Caseys get what they get. They lost 42-7 to St. Joe’s in last year’s Non-Public Group III semifinals, and it could’ve been 63-7 if the Green Knights didn’t call off the dogs in the fourth quarter. It was clear that RBC struggled with that quantum leap in the level of competition.
RBC’s rise in the past decade has been remarkable, going from a .500 team to a dominant powerhouse in the Shore Conference. Taking this next step would be hard for any team in New Jersey considering the Green Knights are the No. 1 team in the state and a perennial juggernaut. However, as I understand it, if RBC wanted to break away from the Shore Conference and start scheduling the Bergen Catholics and Don Boscos of the world to prepare for St. Joe’s, all of the Caseys’ sports would have to leave the Shore Conference and play an independent schedule.
That’s an arrangement that most likely wouldn’t work for RBC, while also increasing travel costs. It also would be ironic given that in 1980, RBC was part of a group of parochial schools that took the Shore Conference to court in order to be included in the conference with the public schools. Now 33 years later, the question is whether RBC football has grown beyond the Shore Conference and should go back to the type of schedule it played in the 1970s against parochial programs from around the state.
My suggestion would be that the Caseys are granted carte blanche to schedule who they want in their nondivisional games, so if they want to go play St. Peter’s Prep, Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco instead of the nondivisional teams they have this year like Red Bank, Freehold and Middletown South, they can go do that. I’ve spoken with the RBC players numerous times over the past few seasons during their rise, and believe me, they want to take on the best of the best. Even if it means some dings on their record, they know the main way to get to the next level is to face those tough non-publics on a regular basis. It also would help alleviate the growing chorus of public schools who feel that RBC should only be playing other non-publics at this point.
However, I also understand that could create a loophole that other top teams might try to exploit if they are unhappy with who they draw outside the division on their schedule. It’s a tough situation to reconcile, but it’s clear that 63-7 games over Raritan don’t really seem beneficial to either team.
Shore Sports Network Top 10
1. Red Bank Catholic (4-0). Last week: No. 1.
The Caseys made it 28 in a row against Shore Conference competition with a 63-7 win over Raritan in Class A Central, as senior tailback Larry Redaelli continued a strong season with 223 yards and four touchdowns on only seven carries, including a 91-yard touchdown run. Sophomore quarterback Eddie Hahn added a pair of touchdown passes, and junior running back Mike Cordova also scored twice. The Caseys have now outscored their opponents 198-13 this season, and the 63 points may be a single-game school record. Next up is Freehold (0-3), which incidentally is the last Shore Conference team to beat RBC, in a nondivisional game on the road on Saturday.
2. Manalapan (3-0). Last week: No. 2.
The Braves have their own impressive streak against the Shore Conference going, as they made it 19 in a row with a 29-14 victory over No. 4 Middletown South in Class A North. They became the rare team to beat Middletown South four straight times, as junior tailback Imamu Mayfield stepped in for injured starter Tyler Leonetti and ran for a career-high 109 yards and a touchdown. Rutgers recruit Saeed Blacknall added a touchdown catch, and junior John Cheung had a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The defense registered six sacks, including one in the end zone for a safety by senior R.J. Krause. The Braves will be tested again this week by No. 10 Jackson Memorial (3-0), which also happens to be the last Shore team to beat them, in a nondivisional game on Friday at home. This was scheduled to be the season opener, but was postponed until this weekend because of inclement weather on Sept. 12.
3. Lacey (4-0). Last week: No. 3.
The Lions, who have their own 14-game winning streak against Shore Conference competition, fought through adversity to pick up a hard-fought 32-24 win over Toms River South in Class A South. Junior Conor Davies stepped in at quarterback and was outstanding in 2 ½ quarters of work. Senior standout Tom Kelly left the game in the first half with a concussion, and Davies stepped in and threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns on 15-for-20 passing to power the win. Junior George Sayre was also outstanding with a touchdown run, a touchdown catch, an interception that set up one of his own scores, and a fumble recovery. Senior Chris Jensen also had a pair of touchdowns as the Lions posted 30 or more points for the fourth time in four games. The Lions head to winless Manchester (0-4) for a nondivisional game on Friday.
4. Middletown South (2-1). Last week: No. 4.
The Eagles fell 29-14 to Manalapan, but considering the Braves are ranked ahead of them and they were right in the game most of the way, they keep the No. 4 spot. They also boast a 21-point win over No. 8 Brick, which is tied for first in Class A South, on their resume. Senior Kyle Brey threw touchdown passes to Pat Crowe and Andrew Wisialko in the loss to Manalapan. Next up is a nondivisional game on the road on Saturday against Manasquan (3-1) in a match-up of programs that rank 1-2 in Shore Conference history in total NJSIAA titles.
5. Colts Neck (4-0). Last week: No. 5.
The number is pretty ridiculous: 174-0. That has been Colts Neck’s domination over its first four opponents. The nitpick is that those opponents are a combined 0-15, so it’s hard to gauge just how good this team is yet because it hasn’t been seriously tested by a winning team. Still, four shutouts to start the season is impressive. They took care of Middletown North 42-0 this past week, with senior tailback Anthony Gargiulo rolling up 184 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Running back Abdul Quddus added 111 yards and two touchdowns on only five carries in the win. The Cougars are now on their bye week and come back with a nondivisional home game against St. John Vianney (1-3) on Oct. 19.
6. Ocean (4-0). Last week: No. 6.
The Spartans got their offense back in gear with a 42-7 nonconference win over JFK-Iselin powered by sophomore tailback Tyler Thompson, who rolled up 162 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 18 carries. The defense also limited the opponent to seven or less points for the third straight week. They host Red Bank (0-3) on Friday night as they look to continue a march toward a Class B North title.
7. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0). Last week: No. 7.
The Bulldogs continue to dominate “The Battle of Ridge Road” rivalry with Red Bank as they picked up a 27-0 win and now have beaten the Bucs by a combined 75-6 in the four years since the rivalry has been renewed. Quarterback Chase Caruso threw a pair of touchdown passes, and the defense recorded its first shutout of the season. The Bulldogs have not allowed more than seven points in any game all season under veteran defensive coordinator Jerry Schulte. They are now on their bye week and return with a division game at Raritan (0-4) on Oct. 18.
8. Barnegat (4-0). Last week: No. 8.
I think this team will continue to rise in the rankings if it handles its business, because the Bengals will be favored in every non-playoff game remaining on their schedule. They could run the table on their nine-game regular-season schedule and have a shot to do some unprecedented things for their program in the playoffs. They are coming off a 42-3 victory over Jackson Liberty in which junior quarterback Cinjun Erskine threw for a career-high 301 yards and four touchdowns, and junior wideout Manny Bowen had a pair of touchdown grabs. With that passing attack complementing a punishing running game led by tailback A.J. Opre, this looks to be the best team Barnegat has ever had, and the scary part is that a large chunk of the roster returns next season. They are on their bye week and return with a big home game on Oct. 18 against Central (3-1) that will give the winner sole possession of first place in Class B South.
9. Brick (3-1). Last week: No. 9.
The Green Dragons grinded out a 13-7 win over a tough Southern team in Class A South thanks to more heroics from juniors Carmen Sclafani and Ray Fattaruso. Sclafani ran for the game-winning 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Fattaruso made an interception at Brick’s 12-yard line with 15 seconds left in the game to seal the win. The victory kept Brick unbeaten in Class A South play and marked its first win over Southern since 2007. The Green Dragons welcome Wall (3-1) for a nondivisional test on Friday night.
10. Jackson Memorial (3-0). Last week: Not ranked.
The Jaguars have already tied their win total from last season and have outscored their first three opponents 116-14. They are coming off a 40-7 win over Toms River North, which included a pair of touchdown runs by Khani Glover, a touchdown pass from Joe DeMaio to Marcus Ademilola and a 64-yard touchdown run by DeMaio. Their first three opponents are a combined 2-10, so this is the week to shock the Shore and make the biggest statement of all when they travel to No. 2 Manalapan on Friday night. The Jaguars are the last Shore Conference team to beat the Braves, which they did in the 2011 season opener. They have been a thorn in Manalapan’s side over the past 10 years, and they hope to continue that tradition.
Teams to watch:
Manasquan (3-1): That win over Long Branch in the season opener is looking better by the week, and the Warriors’ only loss is to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic. They held on for a 21-14 win over St. John Vianney thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by junior James McAlary, and now have a golden opportunity to break into the Top 10. They will host No. 4 Middletown South in a nondivisional game on Saturday.
Long Branch (3-1): The Green Wave knocked Wall from the unbeaten ranks in convincing fashion with a 28-3 win thanks to another outstanding defensive effort and an improved offense led by seniors Deon Williams, T.J. Covin and Shabazz Shuler. The defense has only allowed one touchdown all season, and that was in a 13-7 overtime win over Neptune, so that has been a dominant unit. The Green Wave take the long trip south to face Pinelands (1-3) in a nondivisional game on Friday.
Toms River South (2-2): The Indians have lost two straight against ranked opponents in Brick and Lacey after a 32-24 setback against the Lions. This team needs to get healthy, with star running back/linebacker Otis Kearney banged up and senior standout Russell Messler returning full time from a knee injury after just serving as the kicker in the Lacey game. Their bye week has come at a good time to get some rest, and they return with a big home game against No. 10 Jackson Memorial on Oct. 19 in Class A South.
Shore Regional (3-1): The Blue Devils romped to a 45-0 victory over a previously unbeaten South River team, helped by a pair of touchdown passes from Matt Muh to Cole Barrale. Mike Moore also had his third interception of the season and returned it for a touchdown. Their only loss is to No. 7 Rumson-Fair Haven, and they are right at the front in the race for the Class B Central and Central Jersey Group I titles. They host Holmdel (1-3) in a nondivisional game on Friday night.
Point Beach (3-1): The Garnet Gulls shook off a loss to Spotswood to pick up a 40-14 win over previously unbeaten Mater Dei Prep in Class B Central for their ninth straight divisional win. Junior Joe Wegrzyniak had a career-high 175 yards rushing and four touchdowns for the defending Class B Central champions. They travel to Asbury Park on Friday night for a key divisional game.
Central (3-1): The Golden Eagles have tied their win total from last season after a 42-20 victory over Pinelands in which they produced a pair of 100-yard rushers. Their loss is to Toms River South, and their chance to break into the Top 10 comes in two weeks when they travel to No. 8 Barnegat for a big Class B South game on Oct. 18 after their bye week.