We all know that Labor Day marks both an end and a beginning and that is certainly the case when it comes to sports right here in the shore area.

BlueClaws General Manager Chris Tafrow (LakewoodBlueClaws)

The Lakewood BlueClaws 15th season comes to an end on Monday and there are four more chances to see the team before FirstEnergy Park goes dark. The BlueClaws have clinched their first winning season since 2010 and they will lead the South Atlantic League in attendance for the 15th consecutive season averaging just over 5,600 fans per game.

In a related development the team announced Thursday that Chris Tafrow had been elevated to the position of General Manager after serving as the acting GM for much of the season. Tafrow, who has been with the organization since 2001, most recently served as Senior Vice President of Business Operations. A graduate of Toms River East, Chris lives in Hazlet with his wife Christine and daughter Skye.

Central Regional's Mike Bickford (Bill Normile)

Tonight marks the start of the Shore Conference high school football season, although there are only two games on the schedule in what is referred to as “Week Zero”. Both are in southern Ocean County as Central Regional visits Southern Regional in a nondivisional games between schools who were Thanksgiving Day rivals for many years. The Golden Eagles are coming off a surprising 8-3 season and they return junior running back Mike Bickford, who ran for a school-record 2,052 yards and 25 touchdowns.

The Rams were 5-5 last year in the tough A South division and are led by senior Pat Walker, who will play running back and linebacker. Down in Tuckerton, Pinelands will host Donovan Catholic in a Class B South matchup of teams searching for wins and respect. The Wildcats won two games last fall while the Griffins went winless.

The Shore Sports Network has released its preseason top ten with Middletown South occupying the catbird seat followed by perennial power Red Bank Catholic.
Toms River North, with a host of returning talented players, is in the third spot with St. John Vianney fourth and last year’s No. 1 team, Jackson Memorial, rounding out the top five. You can check out the remainder of the top ten and read previews of all 43 teams by going to shoresportsnetwork.com

Monmouth University opens its football season tomorrow at home against Holy Cross with kickoff at 1 p.m. Redshirt freshman Cody Williams is the Hawks' new starting quarterback and among the co-captains is senior defensive back Joe Johnson of Manchester. I’ll be back as the public address announcer.