The Jeep Store Shore Conference Football Top 10, 11/5/19
A wild and unpredictable regular season has come to a close. It’s playoff time in New Jersey and 27 Shore Conference teams will begin their quest for a state championship. However, the final week of the regular season threw a few more wrenches into the gears of the Shore Sports Network Top 10.=
Head-to-head victories being used as ranking criteria have been mostly flushed down the toilet. Why? Because of scenarios like this: Toms River North beat Rumson, which lost to Middletown South, but beat RBC, which beat Toms River North, but lost to Middletown South, who lost to St. John Vianney and also to Long Branch, who beat Middletown South but lost to Middletown North. Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted.
Head to head victories do matter in some instances, but right now it’s about recent results. A result from the first few weeks of the season almost has no bearing on what’s going on right now.
With that being said, we get to the latest Shore Sports Network Top 10.
1. Wall (8-0). Last week: No. 1
The Crimson Knights had a bye in Week 8 after clinching the Colonial Division title with a 35-6 win over Brick. Wall earned the No. 1 overall seed in the South, Group 3 super section and is the top seed in the Central Jersey Group 3 bracket. A late ruling that created a play-in game between Wall’s original first-round opponent, Robbinsville, and Allentown means Wall will have to wait until Sunday to square off against the winner. Next game: Sunday, Nov. 10 vs. Robbinsville (9-0)/Allentown (4-4) in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals.
2. Toms River North (8-1). Last week: No. 2
Senior running back Jarrod Pruitt ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and also caught a touchdown pass as the Mariners cruised to a 44-7 win over Toms River South in the annual ‘Civil War’ game. Junior quarterback Jake Kazanowsky threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns, also connecting with junior wideout Zach Browne on a 27-yard score. Junior running back Ryan Gordon added a touchdown run and senior Justin Burkert kicked a 26-yard field goal. The Mariners earned the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group 5 playoffs. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. South Brunswick (5-4) in the Central Jersey Group 5 quarterfinals.
3. Mater Dei Prep (6-3). Last week: No. 5
Senior wideout Clarence Lewis caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and the Seraphs’ defense was stout in a 17-0 shutout win over Manalapan. Junior wide receiver Naran Buntin added a late 60-yard touchdown run and senior Rich Pekmezian kicked a 32-yard field goal. Mater Dei held Manalapan to 90 yards of offense. The Seraphs earned the No. 3 seed in the Non-Public Group 3 playoffs but because it is just a six-team field, the opening round games do not take place until next weekend. Next game: Saturday, Nov. 16 vs. Pope John (1-8) in the Non-Public Group 3 quarterfinals.
4. Jackson Memorial (6-2). Last week: No. 9
The Jaguars extended their winning streak to five games as senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski tossed three touchdown passes and the defense limited Rumson to 127 yards, including minus-1 yard rushing, in a 22-14 victory. Senior Zack Novak had touchdown catches of 5 and 9 yards, senior Jake McKown caught a 59-yard touchdown and kicked a 22-yard field goal. Senior linebacker Brian Zapata had an interception that set up a touchdown and senior linebacker Hunter Smith had a strong all-around game. The Jaguars earned the No. 3 seed in the South, Group 3 super section and are the No. 2 seed in Central Jersey Group 4. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Moorestown (4-5) in the Central Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals.
5. Manalapan (5-3). Last week: No. 3
The Braves offense could not get on track and suffered a 17-0 loss to Mater Dei Prep. Manalapan mustered just 90 yards of offense, including 50 yards rushing. It’s defense played well, however, in holding Mater Dei under 300 yards of offense. The Braves’ rugged schedule has them well-prepared for the postseason, however, and helped them secure a first-round home game. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Cherokee (3-5) in the Central Jersey Group 5 quarterfinals.
6. Red Bank Catholic (5-3). Last week: No. 6
The Caseys took care of business in a 42-7 win over Freehold Township as senior running back Billy Guidetti scored a pair of rushing touchdowns while Kevin Degnan, Elijah Jules and Jack Zenkert also ran for touchdowns. It was an up and down regular season for RBC, but the Caseys closed strong to earn the No. 2 seed in the Non-Public Group 3 playoffs. Because it is just a six-team field and they have a first-round bye, the defending champions won’t begin their title defense until Nov. 22. Next game: Friday, Nov. 22 vs. Mater Dei (6-3)/Pope John (1-8) winner in Non-Public Group 3 semifinals.
7. Donovan Catholic (8-1). Last week: No. 7
Senior running back Damian Johnson ran for two touchdowns and senior quarterback Ryan Clark threw two touchdowns as the Griffins rolled to a 48-0 win over Lakewood. James Bivins had a 51-yard touchdown catch and freshman Omare Walker had a 30-yard touchdown catch. Nasir Calhoun added 76 yards rushing and a touchdown, Gage Rebmann also ran for a touchdown and Mysun Esdaile returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. Donovan’s eight wins are the program’s most since 1992. The Griffins are the No. 4 seed in the Non-Public Group 3 playoffs and will try to win just the second playoff game in program history in two weeks. Next game: Friday, Nov. 15 vs. St. John Vianney (4-4) in the Non-Public Group 3 quarterfinals.
8. Ocean (8-0). Last week: No. 8
Senior running back Trebor Pena ran for 213 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries and also returned a punt for a touchdown as the Spartans ran away from Marlboro, 42-7, to conclude the regular season undefeated. Senior Nasir Thompson added 129 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just five carries, Ishyne Woodard had a touchdown run and Robbie Nungesser threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tye Brookins. Ocean is the No. 3 seed in the South Jersey Group 3 bracket. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Seneca (7-2) in the South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals.
9. Middletown South (3-4). Last week: not ranked
Senior Chris Lotito had a tremendous all-around game with 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns, a touchdown pass and an interception on defense to lead the Eagles to a 28-7 win over Brick that secured a first-round home game. Quarterback Tyler Cuccia ran for a touchdown and Thomas Schork caught the 25-yard touchdown pass from Lotito. Middletown South is the most polarizing team in the Shore with wins over Brick, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson and losses to Manalapan, Toms River North, St. John Vianney and Long Branch. Their wins and the grueling schedule were enough to give the Eagles the No. 4 seed in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs and they ride a two-game winning streak heading into the postseason where they will be a dangerous opponent. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Hamilton (7-1).
10. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-4). Last week: No. 4
The Bulldogs couldn’t get anything going on offense and fell to Jackson Memorial, 22-14, for their second straight loss heading into the playoffs. Rumson was held to 127 yards of offense, including minus-1 yard rushing, and 74 of those yards came on one play when junior running back John Volker took a swing pass for a touchdown. Senior Dan Afflitto returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown for the other score. Rumson is limping into the playoffs with back-to-back losses to Middletown South and Jackson, but the Bulldogs’ illustrious playoff history includes sectional titles in five of the last six seasons, including winning last year’s Central Jersey Group 3 title and the South-Central Group 3 bowl game. They are the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and are more than capable of regrouping and repeating as champions. Next game: Friday, Nov. 8 vs. Delsea (3-5) in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals.
Dropped out: St. John Vianney (No. 10 last week)
Keep an eye on:
Toms River East (8-1): The Raiders have had a tremendous season and their only loss is to No. 2 Toms River North, albeit by a score of 47-20. They don’t have the body of work the rest of the ranked teams do, but a strong postseason run could certainly change that and thrust them into the Top 10.