The Jeep Store Final 2017 Football Top 10
It took three months and all 13 weeks of the season, but for the first time all season there is a change at the top of the Shore Sports Network Top 10, and this time it’s for good.
St. John Vianney, owners of a 38-game Shore Conference winning streak, will end the season as the No. 1 team in the Shore following a 10-1 season where the Lancers won a fourth straight Class A Central, beat the No. 3 and No. 4 teams and reached the Non-Public Group III semifinals.
Manalapan had occupied the No. 1 spot since the preseason, but with the Braves losing to South Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group V final it opened the door for the Lancers to leapfrog into the top spot.
Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank Catholic and the lone sectional champion from the Shore Conference, Long Branch, round out the top five spots in the final top 10.
Head-to-head results are certainly a factor, but body of work, quality wins and pretty much every other aspect of each team’s season were carefully taken into consideration by the Shore Sports Network football staff. With so many moving parts It’s never easy to rank the best 10 teams in a 43-team league, but without further adieu, we present the final edition of the Shore Sports Network Football Top 10.
Special thanks to the Jeep Store in Ocean Township for sponsoring the rankings all season.
1. St. John Vianney (10-1)
The Lancers end the season atop the Shore Sports Network Top 10 for the first time after a fourth straight 10-win season where they extended their Shore Conference winning streak to 38 games. St. John Vianney won the Class A Central division title for the fourth straight season thanks in large part to a thrilling 31-28 overtime victory over Rumson-Fair Haven. The Lancers other major regular-season victory came in Week 7 when they defeated rival Red Bank Catholic, 35-17. SJV also posted victories over playoff qualifiers Brick, Holmdel, Middletown South and Monmouth. They reached the semifinals of the Non-Public Group III state playoffs where they fell to eventual-champion DePaul, 42-21. The Lancers finished with the No. 1 offense in the Shore averaging 43.7 points per game. Senior Johnny Buchanan, the SSN Defensive Player of the Year, starred on both sides of the ball with 121 tackles, 1,393 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. The Lancers graduate a tremendous senior class that includes Buchanan, quarterback Haaziq Daniels, all-purpose threat Zyaire Sterling, wideout Sam East, linebacker Josiah Walker, kicker Will Forman and more, and will try keep their run going with a new core in 2018.
2. Manalapan (11-1)
The Braves had another great season in winning the Class A North division title and advancing to a state sectional final for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. However, their bid for a perfect season and the program’s second state title was thwarted by South Brunswick, 18-14, in the Central Jersey Group V final to knock them from the top of the rankings for the first time all season. Along the way to winning the division title for the second straight year and seventh time in the last eight seasons, Manalapan also extended its regular-season winning streak to 19 games. Included in the Braves’ 11 victories was a 55-22 win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Freehold and a 49-28 win over South Jersey Group V semifinalist Howell. Manalapan finished with the Shore’s No. 2 offense averaging 42.4 points per game. Senior running back Naim Mayfield had the greatest statistical season by a running back in Shore Conference history, rushing for 2,681 yards, the second-best single-season mark in state history, and scoring 48 total touchdowns. His 282 points scored also set a new state single-season record. The Braves also had the No. 1 scoring defense in the Shore allowing just 11.5 points per game. Junior linebacker Tommy Pearce led the way with 143 tackles, three sacks and four interceptions. A large and important senior class that includes Mayfield, quarterback Luke Corcione, fullback Chris Maksimik, guard Trevor Radosevich, linebacker Sal Tardogno, wide receivers Scott Scherzer and Symir Blacknall and defensive lineman Antonio Deieso, among others means the Braves will need several players to step forward next year to keep them competing for championships.
3. Rumson-Fair Haven (10-2)
The Bulldogs won 10 games for the fourth time in program history and reached their fifth consecutive NJSIAA state final. Their state-title streak was ended at four, however, by Somerville in a 20-15 defeat in the Central Jersey Group III championship. Rumson finished second in Class A Central behind No. 1 St. John Vianney and had wins over playoff qualifiers Holmdel, Middletown South, Monmouth, Carteret and Shore Regional during the regular season. Senior running back Peter Lucas had an outstanding season by rushing for a school single-season record 2,196 yards and scoring 33 total touchdowns to lead the Shore’s No. 6 offense. Junior linebacker Keegan Woods set the school single-season record for tackles with a Shore-best 155 stops plus four sacks for a defense that was No. 5 in the Shore allowing 13.8 points per game. Woods, fellow linebacker Christian Lanzalotto, defensive lineman Henry Sullivan and fullback Alex Maldjian lead the cast of returners next season.
4. Red Bank Catholic (8-2)
The Caseys returned as one of the top teams in the Shore this season by winning eight games and taking the Class B North division title for their sixth division championship in the last eight seasons. Among RBC’s victories was a 42-28 victory over Central Jersey Group IV champion Long Branch, as well as wins over playoff qualifiers Middletown South, Wall and Manasquan. The Caseys’ lone regular-season loss was a 35-17 defeat at the hands of top-ranked St. John Vianney. Their season came to an end with a 49-13 loss to St. Joseph (Montvale) in the Non-Public Group III quarterfinals. RBC finished with the No. 3 offense in the Shore at 39.8 points per game. Senior running back Zack Bair had his season cut short via an ankle injury in Week 7 but was spectacular in rushing for 1,087 yards on an average of 13.8 yards per carry and scoring 18 total touchdowns. Junior quarterback Steve Lubischer also had a standout season with 1,810 yards passing and 18 touchdowns plus 496 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. The Caseys graduate keys seniors such as Bair, safety Matt Ansell, wideout Brandon Lombana offensive linemen Michael Griggs and Conor Smith and defensive end Emmett McNamara, but have one of the best nucleuses in the Shore returning led by Lubischer, wideout/defensive back Jaden Key, tight end Kevin Bauman and linebackers John Columbia, Gino Tartamella and Charlie Gordinier.
5. Long Branch (9-3)
The Green Wave were the lone Shore Conference team to win a sectional championship this season and did so in thrilling fashion by beating Freehold, 43-42 in overtime on a 2-point conversion, to claim the Central Jersey Group IV championship. The classic win at Rutgers gave Long Branch its first sectional championship since 1999 and marked a complete turnaround from a team that went 2-8 last season. It also avenged a 27-20 loss to Freehold in Week 9. In the regular season Long Branch had wins over playoff qualifiers Manasquan, Middletown South and Wall. They blanked Middletown South in the first round of the playoffs and defeated Jackson Memorial, 28-3, in the semifinals. Long Branch’s defeats were to No. 4 Red Bank Catholic, Freehold and Red Bank. The Thanksgiving Eve loss to the 2-8 Bucs is puzzling, but Long Branch made that merely a footnote by coming back the following week to win the CJ-IV title. Long Branch’s offense (27.5 ppg) and defense (18 ppg) finished ranked in the top quarter of the Shore. Balance on offense was the difference for Long Branch as senior quarterback Juwan Wilkins threw for 2,053 yards and 22 touchdowns and sophomore running back Jermaine Corbett ran for 1,422 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior wideout T.J. Fosque had 37 receptions for 704 yards and seven touchdowns and fellow senior Pasa Fields had 50 catches for 585 yards and six touchdowns. Junior linebacker Luke Arnold made 131 tackles and senior defensive end Kaymar Mimes had 10 sacks. Wideout Matt Clark is the only returner from a very productive passing game but with Corbett, Arnold, quarterback/defensive back Marc Dennis, two-way lineman Kevin Cerruti and linebacker Jah’Kwan Gordon back next year the Green Wave should be back in contention.
6. Howell (9-2)
The Rebels’ best season in nine years saw them win nine games, reach the South Jersey Group V semifinals and finish second in Class A North behind No. 2 Manalapan. Howell had a 55-35 win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Freehold in the regular season, and also posted a 37-10 win over a Freehold Township team that won eight games. The Rebels defeated Cherokee, 31-17, in the first round of the state playoffs before falling to eventual champion Lenape, 63-28, in the semifinals. Howell’s other loss was a 49-28 defeat to Manalapan. Howell had the No. 5 offense in the Shore Conference at 36.1 points per game and were led by the Shore’s top quarterback-wide receiver duo. Senior Eddie Morales threw for a Shore Conference-leading 2,156 yards and 24 touchdowns while also rushing for 725 yards and 10 touchdowns, while senior wideout Naseim Brantley hauled in 48 passes for 785 yards and 13 touchdowns (19 total). Senior Ryan Mazik also had a great year with 33 catches for 710 yards and five touchdowns plus four interceptions on defense. The Rebels made great strides to go 15-7 in the last two years after five straight losing seasons, but with most of their top players graduating the challenge will be to keep the momentum going.
7. Freehold (8-4)
An unforgettable season by senior quarterback Ashante Worthy nearly culminated with a state title, but the Colonials lost a heartbreaker to Long Branch in the Central Jersey Group IV final when the Green Wave converted a 2-point conversion in overtime to win, 43-42. Freehold started the season 1-3 with losses to No. 2 Manalapan and No. 6 Howell, plus a forfeit loss to Freehold Township (a 46-20 win on the field) for using an ineligible player. The Colonials rebounded to win seven straight games to qualify for the playoffs and reach the sectional championship game. Included in that run was a 27-20 win over Long Branch in Week 9 and postseason victories over Nottingham and Brick. Worthy had the greatest statistical season in state history by rushing for a state-record 2,860 yards and 41 touchdowns while also throwing for 2,106 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 61 combined touchdowns between rushing and passing is also a state record and he is the first player in state history to rush and throw for 2,000 yards each in a single season. He also set the Shore Conference-record for combined yards in a game when he accounted for 635 yards and seven touchdowns in a 51-34 win over Nottingham. He had 624 combined yards in a loss to Howell during the regular season. Junior wideout Matt Krauss had a big year with 53 catches for 713 yards and six touchdowns. Worthy is an irreplaceable player but Freehold does bring back a strong group next season that includes Krauss, wideout Quincy Davis, linebacker Knox Stokes, top lineman Alex Verardi, defensive end Qua’jon Everett and running back Ahmad Dixon.
8. Mater Dei (8-2)
An unprecedented two-year run saw Mater Dei win the Class B Central division title and reach the Non-Public Group II championship game. Coming off the program’s first state title and 12-0 season last year, the Seraphs won eight games in a shortened season and reached a second straight state final. Mater Dei’s season was surrounded by controversy, however, as head coach Dino Mangiero and athletic director/offensive coordinator Lance Bennett were suspended from game-day coaching for the final five weeks of the season for failing to abide by the NJSIAA transfer rule. Mater Dei had its 17-game winning streak snapped in a 28-26 loss to Delbarton, but bounced back to win three straight games to reach the final. The Seraphs rallied to defeat Holy Spirit, 35-34, in the semifinals before falling to St. Joseph (Hammonton), 30-14, in the state final. Senior quarterback George Pearson threw for 1,786 and 18 touchdowns and also ran for 464 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Shore’s No. 8 offense (30.2 ppg). Sophomore running back Malik Ingram ran for 1,251 yards and 15 touchdowns and senior wideout Kyle Devaney had 50 catches for 667 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior linebacker Shittah Sillah had 83 tackles and four sacks and junior defensive end Izaiah Henderson had six sacks to lead a defense that yielded just 15.9 points per game to finish No. 9 in the Shore. Isaiah Noguera was sensational on special teams with a Shore Conference-best seven total kick return touchdowns. Pearson, a Central Michigan recruit, leads the list of graduation seniors but Mater Dei brings back several of its top players and should once again be the favorite in B Central and a contender for the Non-Public Group II title in 2018.
9. Point Boro (11-1)
The Panthers put together the program’s best season in a decade and fell only one game short of a perfect season. Point Boro won the Class B South division title for the third season in a row, the first time it’s done that since 1977-1979, and its 11 wins were the program’s most since 2005. The Panthers rallied to defeat Lakewood, 35-28, in in Week 6 in a game that essentially decided the division championship, and the Panthers also had a 13-3 win over a Monmouth Regional team spent two weeks ranked in the top 10. Their biggest win came in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals when they took down defending champion Manasquan with a thorough 27-6 victory. Their season ended with a 20-13 loss to Hillside in the sectional championship game, however. Point Boro’s triple-option offense put up an average of 32.5 points per game, No. 7 in the Shore, led by senior quarterback James Fara and his 1,628 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. Fara also threw for 611 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior running back Brandon Cipriano ran for 825 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 451 yards and five touchdowns. Junior linebacker Garrett Romer made 107 tackles to lead a defense that was fourth in the Shore allowing 12.9 points per game. Most of the Panthers’ top players are seniors so the challenge in 2018 will be to rebuild on the fly and defend their division title.
10. Brick Memorial (7-3)
After much debate for the 10th and final spot in the rankings we settled on the Mustangs, who won seven games and claimed a share of the Class A South division title. Following a season-opening loss to rival Brick, the Mustangs won six games in a row to earn the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. During the winning streak Brick Memorial beat Sayreville, 22-21 in double overtime, and topped co-division champ Central, 21-7. Brick Memorial also had a 35-14 regular-season loss to Central Jersey Group V champion South Brunswick. The Mustangs defeated Jackson Memorial, 27-21, in Week 9 to clinch their share of the division crown, but fell to the Jaguars the following week in the first round of the playoffs. Senior running back Tony Thorpe led a Mustangs offense that averaged 25.8 points per game by rushing for 1,372 yards and 14 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Tyler Sindel added 618 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and senior running back Blaine Netterman ran for 602 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior linebacker Grant McKelvey led the defense with 101 tackles while Netterman made 79 stops from his safety position. Brick Memorial graduates Thorpe, the program’s all-time leading rusher and scorer, along with Netterman, McKelvey and lineman Joe Castellano, but returns Sindel, linebackers Najiere Hutchinson and Alex Vonderlinden, lineman Jamison Whaley and running backs Ja Billingsley and Jeff Lavarin.
Just Missed the Cut
Middletown South (5-5)
Jackson Memorial (6-5)
Freehold Township (8-3)