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We made it.

It was not without setbacks along the way but despite a global pandemic, the 2020 Shore Conference football season was completed. Considering the doubt which enveloped the preseason to how almost one-third of the teams had to shut down during the final weeks, finishing the season with several impactful games is an accomplishment in its own right.

Fortunately, none of the major games were impacted by COVID-19 and that meant, for the first time ever, an undisputed Shore Conference champion was crowned, even if not officially recognized by the Shore Conference of High School.

The consensus top four teams in the Shore were placed in a championship pod for the postseason and a winner emerged in an epic contest to cement itself as the conference’s very best. From start to finish, Wall carried the banner as the Shore Conference’s No. 1 team and with an 18-15 victory over Donovan Catholic in an instant classic, the Crimson Knights clinched the top spot in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10 for the second season in a row.

Conference honors are just the beginning for Wall, however. The Crimson Knights also finished as the consensus No. 1 team in all of New Jersey, finishing at the top of the NJ.com, USA Today NJ and News 12 New Jersey final rankings.

The rest of the rankings fell into place rather easily and were certainly helped by the results of the postseason pods. The final one or two spots are always difficult because there are usually several teams that can make a case there, and this season was no different in that regard. Head-to-head results played a major impact but are not the only metric used in determining our final rankings. Body of work, strength of schedule and more all factor in.

With that said, we are proud to present the final 2020 Shore Sports Network Football Top 10 and crown our 2020 Team of the Year. Thanks for following our coverage all season.

 

Photo by Ray Richardson

 

1. Wall (7-0). Preseason rank: No. 1

The Crimson Knights authored an unforgettable season that saw them finish undefeated for the first time since 1983, capture an unofficial Shore Conference championship with an epic 18-15 win over Donovan Catholic and secure the No. 1 ranking in New Jersey. Wall had the No. 1 defense in the Shore and one of the great defenses in Shore Conference history as it allowed just 38 points all season (5.4 points per game) and recorded four shutouts. It’s offense finished No. 2 in scoring average at 33.3 points per game. Several standouts led the way, including senior running back/cornerback Casey Larkin, senior quarterback/safety Logan Peters, senior lineman Grant Puharic, junior linebackers Charlie Sasso and Colin Riley, junior tight end/defensive end Blake Rezk and junior center Brian Byrne, but Wall was truly the sum of its parts. The stars did what stars do, but the Crimson Knights receiving impactful contributions from their entire lineup on both sides of the ball secured their legacy. Larkin ran for 870 yards and 13 touchdowns on an average of nine yards per carry in six-plus games while Peters threw for 433 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 402 yards and six touchdowns. Sasso was outstanding for Wall’s fantastic defense with 97 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss and one interception. Junior linebacker Colin Riley recorded 72 tackles with 7 sacks and 7 tackles for loss, junior defensive end Blake Rezk made 41 tackles, 4 sacks and 6 tackles for loss and Peters had 47 tackles and a team-high two interceptions. Wall has been on an unprecedented run over the last two seasons, going 19-1 and extending its Shore Conference winning streak to 20 games. The current senior class went 25-4 over the last three seasons with an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and an unofficial Shore Conference championship, plus a division title in 2019. Several irreplaceable players will graduate, but Wall has several underclassmen returning next season to continue its championship run.

 

2. Donovan Catholic (7-1). Preseason rank: No. 5

The Griffins came less than one yard short of beating Wall and finishing the season as an undefeated conference champion, and while there is surely disappointment in the way its season ended, it doesn’t change the fact that Donovan Catholic had a fantastic season and completely changed how it is perceived in the Shore and statewide. Donovan Catholic was 0-10 in 2016 but has steadily risen to become an elite team in the Shore Conference under head coach Dan Curcione. The Griffins had the No. 1 scoring offense in the Shore at 33.8 points per game and the No. 2 defense at 8.1 points per game. Senior running back Jahdir Loftland was second in the Shore with 1,369 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, senior wide receiver Jayon Farrar had a huge year with 47 catches for 614 yards and 9 touchdowns and senior quarterback Evyn Menta threw for 1,170 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior linebackers Quamire Green and Dominick Nocero tied for the team lead with 89 tackles, junior defensive end Levi Wilkins led the team with five sacks and Farrar had a team-high three interceptions. Among Donovan’s victories were a 28-14 win over No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, a 49-6 win over No. 8 Toms River South, a 21-14 win over Southern and a 35-0 win over Toms River North. A tremendous senior class will matriculate out of the Toms River school but several underclassmen standouts will be back next season as the Griffins continue their championship aspirations.

 

3. Red Bank Catholic (4-2). Preseason rank: No. 6

The Caseys’ season was cut short to six games because of COVID-19 exposure but a pair of key regular-season wins established them as the No. 3 team in the Shore. RBC opened the season with a 10-3 victory over Mater Dei Prep and also defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 21-14, in Week 3. Those two victories over the No. 4 and No. 5 teams, respectively, in the final rankings help offset a 32-25 loss to a Middletown South team that finished 2-4. The Caseys’ other loss came to Donovan Catholic, 28-14, in the Shore Conference championship pod semifinals. Senior quarterback Anthony Borriello threw for 672 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 164 yards and a touchdown while sophomore running back Sabino Portella ran for 305 yards and six touchdowns and sophomore wideout Najih Rahman had 270 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, junior defensive end Alex Bauman recorded a team-high 53 tackles and a team-leading four sacks. The Caseys will say goodbye to standouts like Borriello, two-way linemen Jake Louro and JJ Lodato, defensive back Lenny Loria and linebackers Scott Ungemah and Luke Guidetti but have a great young nucleus going forward and should once again be among the Shore’s top teams next season.

 

4. Mater Dei Prep (5-2). Preseason rank: No. 4

Although it ended on a sour note, 2020 was another strong season for the Seraphs. Mater Dei’s last-minute 26-19 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven on a hook and lateral play in Week 5 helped it reach the championship pod as the No. 4 seed. Mater Dei opened the season with a 10-3 loss to No. 3 Red Bank Catholic but then won five straight games to reach the championship pod. Its season came to an end in the championship semifinals via a 42-0 loss to No. 1 Wall. Junior quarterback Alex Brown thew for 957 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for 239 yards, senior wide receiver Naran Buntin caught 27 passes for 470 yards and three touchdowns and junior running back Ra’Jahn Cooper ran for 434 yards and three touchdowns. Senior defensive end Dom Giudice led the way on defense with 59 tackles, 6 sacks and 7 tackles for loss. Among Mater Dei’s losses to graduation will be three FBS recruits: Giudice (Michigan), Buntin (Kent State) and two-way lineman Rakim Cooper (Temple). Brown, Ra’Jahn Cooper, junior wide receiver Kyree Drake and junior tight end/defensive end Tafari Thompson lead the cast of returners for next season.

 

5. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-2). Preseason rank: No. 3

A last-minute loss to Mater Dei Prep on a trick play in Week 5 prevented the Bulldogs from reaching the championship pod, but they responded with two quality victories over ranked teams to finish the season strong. In the postseason pod that featured teams ranked fifth through eighth, Rumson handed Colts Neck its only loss of the season with a 28-14 victory and then shut down Freehold’s high-powered offense in a 28-3 triumph. Rumson’s losses came to No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, 21-14, and No. 4 Mater Dei Prep, 26-19. Rumson’s offense was among the Shore’s best in averaging 29.3 points per game while its defense yielded just 10.8 points per game. Senior running back John Volker ran for 1,184 yards and 16 touchdowns, senior wide receiver Patrick Jamin caught 19 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns and senior quarterback Josh Harmon threw for 817 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense, Rumson had several standouts including senior safety Ryan Ruane (54 tackles, 2 INTs), senior defensive lineman Von Factor (71 tackles, 6 sacks), junior linebacker John Lista (75 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries) and junior defensive end Aiden Moriarty (60 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 INT). Rumson will graduate a great senior class but has several impact juniors, especially on the defensive side, returning next year.

 

6. Colts Neck (7-1). Preseason rank: not ranked

The Cougars used a power running game and a tough defense to turn in one of the best seasons in program history and finish the year with only one loss. Colts Neck put itself into the Top 10 in Week 2 with a sensational 36-35 comeback win over Freehold and remained there for the rest of the season. A 21-14 overtime victory over Manalapan gave the Cougars a sweep of their Freehold Regional High School District foes and they closed the season with a 17-14 victory over a solid Southern Regional team. Colts Neck’s only loss was a 28-14 defeat to No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven in a Pod 2 semifinal game. Senior running back Joe Barsky ran for 1,129 yards and a Shore Conference-leading 20 touchdowns, junior quarterback Tommy Fallon threw for 720 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 475 yards and two touchdowns and senior wide receiver Matt Scully caught 28 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns for an offense that averaged 26.6 points per game. Colts Neck’s defense allowed 13.1 points per game and was led by senior defensive end Delano Marcelus (76 tackles, 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss), junior linebacker Anthony Bonanno (84 tackles), Scully (69 tackles, 2 INTs), junior linebacker John Manos (64 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 INTs), senior defensive lineman Chris Montefusco (47 tackles, 3 sacks) and junior defensive back John Runfolo (3 INTs). A strong group will return next year including the aforementioned juniors, sophomore linebacker Will Surdez and junior offensive linemen Dan Volpe and Ryan Whalen.

 

7. Freehold (6-2). Preseason rank: not ranked

After a down year in 2019, Freehold’s offense got back to its explosive ways to lead the Colonials to a six-win season and a top-10 finish. A 14-12 win over a Manalapan team that began the season ranked eighth put Freehold into the Top 10 and the Colonials stayed there for the rest of the season. A 36-35 loss to No. 6 Colts Neck knocked them back briefly, but they responded with five straight wins before a season-ending 28-3 defeat to No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven. Among Freehold’s victories were a pair of thrilling wins over Middletown North (40-37) and Southern (38-35) on late field goals by junior Kayden Hutchinson. Freehold’s offense averaged 30.8 points per game and was led by senior quarterback Sha’Kim Shuler and junior playmakers Yahsin Calhoun and Kamore Gill. Shuler had a monster season with 1,206 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns and 1,155 yards passing and eight touchdowns. Calhoun ran for 406 yards and six touchdowns and caught 29 passes for 564 yards and three touchdowns,. Gill ran for 429 yards and two touchdowns and caught 18 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns. Freehold’s defense was in the middle of the pack, statistically, in allowing 23 points per game but had two players turn in huge seasons. In addition to his offensive numbers, Calhoun led the Shore Conference with 113 tackles and also led the Shore with six interceptions. Junior defensive end Tyler Ochojski recorded 10 sacks and 57 total tackles. Shuler will be a big loss along with linebackers Matt Grady and Jason Lee but the Colonials bring back several of their top players next season.

 

8. Toms River South (6-2). Preseason rank: not ranked

Despite suffering four straight losing seasons entering 2020, expectations were high for Toms River South because of a tight-knit senior class. It took only one game for the Indians to show the 2020 season would be a turnaround year when they stunned then-No. 2 Toms River North, 28-21, to jump into the Top 10 and announce their return to prominence. A balanced rushing attack and a big season from senior quarterback Jack Huber helped the Indians win six games for the first time since 2013 and for just the second time since 2003. Toms River South’s other key victories were a 15-12 win over then-No. 3 Southern and a 41-25 win over Jackson Memorial in its season finale. The Indians' losses came to No. 2 Donovan Catholic (49-6) and Brick Memorial (21-7). Huber threw for 1,009 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 236 yards and five touchdowns. Gerry Ferrigno ran for 478 yards and six touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 392 yards and a touchdown, Travis Squire ran for 410 yards and six touchdowns, Devon Bond ran for 274 yards and four touchdowns, Tyler Madeo caught 20 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns and Gavin Migliori caught 22 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown. On defense, Devin Raevis had a team-high 83 tackles, Wyatt Sternberg led the way with 7.5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss and Dominic Cats intercepted four passes. With so many seniors graduating the question is whether the Indians can build off this season for 2021.

 

9. Holmdel (6-1). Preseason rank: not ranked

Having completed the fourth season under head coach Jeff Rainess, it’s clear the Hornets are far from one-year wonders. In finishing 6-1, Holmdel further established its identity as a power running team with multiple weapons in its split-back veer offense that is complimented nicely by a tenacious defense. For the first time in program history, Holmdel has put together four straight winning seasons, all with at least six wins. The Hornets’ only setback of the season was a 24-7 loss to St. John Vianney in Week 4. Their season was bookended by their two best victories - a 26-14 win over No. 10 Raritan in Week 1 and a 20-13 win over Manasquan in Week 7. Holmdel rushed for 2,472 yards with an average of 353 yards per game. Junior running back Jade Gallo ran for 1,010 yards and 14 touchdowns on an average of 8.5 yards per carry, senior quarterback Christian Donnelly ran for 776 yards and four touchdowns on an average of 12.3 yards per carry and senior running back AJ DeCicco ran for 528 yards and seven touchdowns on an average of 7.5 yards per carry. Junior linebacker Thomas Sardo led Holmdel’s defense with 73 tackles and 5.5 sacks plus 7.5 tackles for loss for a unit that allowed just 12 points per game. Holmdel will lose several key players to graduation but has proven it can sustain those departures and continue winning with its brand of football.

 

10. Raritan (6-1). Preseason rank: not ranked

Raritan opened the season with a 26-14 loss to border rival Holmdel, and that was the first and only time the Rockets would taste defeat in 2020. With a balanced offense and a solid defense, Raritan closed the season with six consecutive wins to finish 6-1. Along the way, Raritan topped St. John Vianney, 21-14, bested Lacey, 29-19, and pulled away from Brick Memorial, 42-20, in the season finale. The Rockets’ averaged 28.4 points per game with senior Luke O’Hea rushing for 378 yards and eight touchdowns on an average of 10 yards per carry and catching 15 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Kieran Falzon ran for a team-high 625 yards and nine touchdowns and junior quarterback Ben Hutchins threw for 867 yards and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions. On defense, O’Hea posted a team-leading 60 tackles, junior linebacker Alex Dekis had 48 tackles and two sacks and junior defensive back Dan Maiers had three interceptions. O’Hea will be a tough player to replace but with Hutchins, Falzon, Dekis and junior slot back Joe Campanella returning the Rockets will be in position to continue their success.

 

Honorable Mention

Southern (5-4). Preseason rank: No. 10

The Rams were a good team that had a solid season against a challenging schedule, but with just a 5-4 record and the lack of a signature win the Rams fall just outside the Top 10. If the rankings went to 11, Southern would surely be that team. All four of Southern’s losses came to teams ranked in the final Top 10 and all four were by a touchdown or less, including three by three points. Southern had wins over Brick (36-20), Brick Memorial (28-13), Toms River North (48-14), Central (25-0) and Pinelands (36-15). The Rams’ losses came to No. 2 Donovan Catholic (21-14), No. 6 Colts Neck (17-14), No. 7 Freehold (38-35) and No. 8 Toms River South (15-12). Southern averaged 27.6 points per game and was led by junior running back Jaiden Brown, who rushed for 1,091 yards and 14 touchdowns on an average of 6.8 yards per carry. Brown became Southern’s all-time leading rusher and all-time leading scorer, as well, this season and will take totals of 2,313 yards and 29 touchdowns into his senior year. Senior wide receiver Xavier Hendricks also had a strong season along with senior quarterback Taylor Munt to give Southern much-needed balance. On defense, Brown made 68 tackles and had two interceptions for a unit that allowed 17 points per game and received key performances from defensive end Nate Committee, linebackers Steve Langton and Hank Gallacher and Hendricks in the secondary. Southern will graduate several impact starters but returns Brown and Committee as the leaders of next year’s senior class.

 

 

Archive

Week 7

Week 6

Week 5

Week 4

Week 3

Week 2

Week 1

Preseason Top 10

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 

 

 

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