Shore Sports Network Most Valuable Player: Freehold’s Ashante Worthy
This season Shore Sports Network is handing out its first-ever Shore Conference football Most Valuable Player award, and what better player to receive such an honor than one who accomplished things that had never been done in the history of New Jersey high school football.
Freehold quarterback Ashante Worthy put together a legendary season in 2017, turning the Shore Conference and state record books into his autobiography with the single greatest statistical season in New Jersey high school football history. The next few paragraphs will make it easy to see why Worthy was our unanimous selection as inaugural Shore Conference MVP.
Worthy set several Shore Conference and state records this season, led by breaking the state single-season modern rushing record with 2,860 yards to eclipse the mark of 2,815 set last season by Salem’s Jonathan Taylor, who is currently the starting running back for the University of Wisconsin as a true freshman. Worthy ran for 41 touchdowns, which would have been the Shore Conference record if not for the 46 rushing touchdowns scored by the SSN Offensive Player of the Year, Manalapan running back Naim Mayfield.
Those numbers alone make for an incredible season, but the fact Worthy was also second in the Shore in passing yards brings it all to a level that is almost unfathomable. Worthy threw for 2,106 yards and 20 touchdowns with a 70 percent completion rate, becoming the first player in state history to rush and throw for 2,000 yards each in a single season. His 4,966 combined yards shattered the previous record of 4,150 set by Old Tappan quarterback Devin Fuller in 2010. His 61 combined touchdowns between rushing and passing also set a state single-season record and surpassed the 55 touchdowns by Pennsville quarterback Dylan Cummings in 2013.
Additionally, Worthy set the Shore Conference record for combined yards in a single game when he erupted for 635 yards and scored seven touchdowns in a 51-34 win over Nottingham in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. He ran for 419 yards and seven touchdowns on 32 carries and threw for 216 yards that afternoon. He already owns the Shore Conference single-game rushing record with 465 set in a 2016 playoff win over Pennsauken.
Diving deeper into the absurdity of Worthy’s offensive numbers, he had a ridiculous 550 offensive touches this season with 345 carries and 205 passing attempts. In a 27-20 win over Long Branch in Week 9 Worthy had 72 touches with 50 carries for 253 yards and 22 passing attempts for 252 yards. Worthy also had a 624-yard game against Howell when he ran for 338 yards and threw for 286. He had over 240 combined yards in every game, went over 300 combined yards nine times, over 400 seven times, over 500 three times and had two games of over 600 combined yards.
Freehold’s offense is unique in that it uses an empty backfield look nearly 100 percent of the time. Worthy is the quarterback but is essentially the Colonials’ running back, as well. His skill set as a running back and his ability to throw the ball downfield led Freehold coach Dave Ellis to switch to the offense four games into the 2016 season. Worthy refined his passing game during the offseason and the result was an unbelievable and record-setting season.
Worthy was also Freehold’s punter and a good one at that. His mere presence and ability to turn any punt into a fake made life a nightmare for opposing special teams coaches.
If it wasn’t for his massive workload on offense he would have played defense too. He was used sparingly at linebacker and defensive back, but when he was he made an impact. He had two interceptions in a 35-28 win over Brick in the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals and made some big plays in the sectional final against Long Branch.
Freehold started the season 1-3 with losses to Howell and Manalapan and a forfeit loss to Freehold Township (a 46-20 win on the field) after the Colonials self-reported using an ineligible player. They rebounded to win seven straight games and advance to the Central Jersey Group IV sectional final against Long Branch. The Green Wave ended Freehold’s hope for a state title with a dramatic 43-42 overtime victory on a successful 2-point conversion, but Worthy was sensational in his final high school game with 271 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 39 carries and 141 yards passing.
Worthy saw playing time as a freshman running back and took over as the starting running back as a sophomore. The position change to quarterback as a junior changed the course of his career and unlocked the potential of one of the greatest players in Shore Conference history. He finished his career with 6,400 yards rushing, 2,963 yards passing, 826 return yards and 403 receiving yards for a staggering 10,592 all-purpose yards. He scored 119 touchdowns and added four interceptions on defense. His 6,400 yards rushing is No. 2 in Shore Conference history behind Keyport’s Ken Cattouse, who had 6,676 yards in the early 2000s, and ahead of Middletown South legend and NFL first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno.
Worthy is hoping his legendary senior season and improved work in the classroom will land him an FBS or FCS offer. He’s on the right track as Rutgers has reportedly re-opened its recruitment of him.
Records have been falling at a steady rate over the last few seasons in the Shore Conference, but it’s hard to imagine anyone coming close to what Worthy did. His 2017 season will go down in history as one of the greatest athletic feats, regardless of sport, in state history.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.