South Jersey Group V Championship Preview
SOUTH JERSEY GROUP V CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday at 6 p.m. at Rowan University
(4) Toms River North (10-1) vs. (3) Williamstown (9-2)
Toms River North's best wins: 33-23 over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Jackson Memorial; 26-14 over Brick; 14-0 over Lenape in the semifinals.
Williamstown's best wins: 49-17 over South Jersey Group IV finalist Shawnee; 36-21 over Hammonton; 27-21 (OT) over Cherokee in the semifinals.
Toms River North keys to the game
1. Live in Williamstown's backfield
Williamstown runs a spread offense with Delaware Wing-T running principles, utilizing quarterback Rich Stanzione and running backs Tyrick Glenn and Joe Early behind a junior-laden standout offensive line. The battle in the trenches will be fierce, but it's one Toms River North has to win - and can with authority. The Mariners' defense has been great in the playoffs, allowing just seven points in two games. Senior defensive tackle Dashon Copes is a Shore Conference Defensive Player of the Year candidate with 97 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. He will command a double-team and still be able to make plays. That should opens things up for the rest of the defensive line and linebackers Pete Laquaglia, Christian Lynch, Tommy Donovan and Anthony Storino to fill the holes and stuff the run. Williamstown isn't built to win the game through the air, so it all starts up front for Toms River North.
2. Unleash Asante Moorer
Toms River North's senior running back got off to a slow start this season, but since a 221-yard, three-touchdown performance against rival Jackson Memorial he has been among the best in the Shore. If Copes is the immovable object on defense, Moorer is the unstoppable force on offense. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Moorer is one of the most physical running backs in all of New Jersey. He wears defenses down and is a bear to bring down one-on-one. Toms River North's offensive line has been great all season, but against a very good Williamstown defense line Moorer may have to be at his tackle-breaking best.
3. Make Williamstown defend the whole field
In addition to Moorer, a 1,400-yard rusher, Toms River North has one of the most dynamic quarterbacks around in junior Mike Husni. In his second year as the starter, Husni has accounted for 2,481 yards and 30 touchdowns, going over 1,000 yards both rushing and passing for the second straight season. He looks and plays like the Texas A&M version of Johnny Manziel, and is a wizard outside the pocket. Toms River North's players know to never give up on a play when he scrambles, and good things usually happen. He can make plays with his arm and legs at any spot on the field, and if Moorer is on point it makes Husni lethal in the Mariners' read-option game.
4. Play with poise
Williamstown will bring plenty of emotion to the game, but Toms River North can't get caught up in that. The championship games are all played at neutral sites but this is essentially a home game for Williamstown, which is just six miles down Route 322 from Rowan. When Williamstown beat Southern in the 2012 title game it had a massive crowd that seemed to make an impact.
5. Put Williamstown in obvious passing downs
If the Braves are constantly facing second- and third-and-long it will play right into Toms River North's gameplan. That means winning on first down and putting Williamstown in situations it is not comfortable with.
Have to stop: Williamstown's defensive line
On our Thursday Night Football Show, Toms River North head coach Dave Oizerowitz said Williamstown's defensive line will be the best his team has faced all season. That's saying a lot considering the Mariners faced excellent units from Brick Memorial, Brick and Jackson Memorial during the season. If Toms River North's offensive line can win that battle it will swing the tide in favor of the Mariners.
Underrated player: Pete Laquaglia, Jr., LB
Husni, Moorer and Copes are three of the biggest names in the Shore Conference, but Laquaglia, a first-year starter, has emerged as a top defender with 92 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. If he is flying to the ball and making solo tackles, of which he has a team-high 58, that will be huge for the Mariners.
X-factor: Darrion Carrington, Jr., WR/DB
Carrington is the Mariners' leading receiver and a big-play threat with 660 yards and five touchdowns, and is also a solid defensive back. Toms River North need its offense to be balanced, and Carrington hauling in passes from Husni is part of the plan.
Notes: Toms River North is seeking its sixth sectional title and first since going 12-0 in 2007...The Mariners are a perfect 5-for-5 in state finals...Williamstown has 50 wins over the past six seasons...Williamstown's only sectional title came in a 43-20 win over Southern in 2012...Toms River North enters on a nine-game winning streak...This is the fifth time in program history Toms River North has won 10 or more games.