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The end of the season nears and we are now one step closer to determining the final No. 1 ranking and the Shore Sports Network Team of the Year. The race for the top spot, however, is still up in the air.

Six Shore Conference teams remain after Week 11, including five public schools that will be taking the field this Friday night in NJSIAA sectional championship games. There are also eight teams who will play on Thanksgiving but in terms of deciding No. 1 it will come down to these next two weeks of playoff games.

Donovan Catholic, last week's No. 1 team, fell to Bergen Catholic, 35-7, in the NJSIAA Non-Public A quarterfinals. Bergen Catholic is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 6 in the nation. Donovan lost to Rumson-Fair Haven in Week 2 but defeated Red Bank Catholic in Week 9. The Griffins are officially 6-4 because of three forfeits for using an ineligible player but are 9-2 on the field.

The other two teams vying for the final No. 1 are Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven, both of which were victorious this past weekend.

Rumson owns a 14-0 shutout win over Donovan Catholic in Week 2 and has been dominant in the playoffs. RFH's lone loss is to Red Bank Catholic, 21-14, in Week 7. They will host Woodrow Wilson in the Central Jersey Group 3 final. If the Bulldogs can claim their seventh sectional title and advance to the regional championship game they would have another opportunity to take down a top team. Delsea and Cedar Creek are both undefeated and will clash in the South Jersey Group 3 title game. The winners of each section will then play each other.

Red Bank Catholic crushed Morris Catholic in the Non-Public B quarterfinals and will face St. Joseph (Hammonton) in the semifinals. The Wildcats are ranked No. 20 in the state. If RBC wins they will likely face DePaul, which is ranked No. 4 in the state. The Caseys can make their case for No. 1 by winning a state title. RBC's only loss came to Donovan Catholic, 28-7, in the final week before the playoffs.

This is going to come down to the wire, but until then, let's enjoy the action on the field.

1. Donovan Catholic (6-4, 9-2 on the field). Last week: No. 1

Senior quarterback Jalin Butler threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Kyree Drake and senior running back Nunes Bukula IV totaled 100 scrimmage yards but the Griffins fell to top-seeded and undefeated Bergen Catholic, 35-7. The game started on Saturday and was 14-7 late in the first half when play was suspended until Sunday because of severe weather. The game resumed Sunday afternoon and the Crusaders pulled away to advance to the semifinals. Donovan's resume includes wins over Wall, South Jersey Group 5 finalist Toms River North and Red Bank Catholic. Will they hold on to the No. 1 spot? Next game: Season complete.

 

2. Red Bank Catholic (9-1). Last week: No. 2

Senior quarterback Alex Brown delivered an unforgettable game one day after his mother passed away by throwing for 238 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns in a performance that has made national news, leading the Caseys to a 58-34 win over Morris Catholic in the Non-Public B playoffs. Sophomore wide receiver Emanuel Ross caught four passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns, junior running back Torin Harmon ran for 153 yards and a touchdown, senior running back Rajahn Cooper had a touchdown run and Robert Stolfa and Jaiden Haynes had touchdown receptions. Next game: Friday vs. St. Joseph (Hammonton) (8-2) in the Non-Public B semifinals.

 

3. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-1). Last week: No. 3

Senior quarterback Colin Kennedy threw for 128 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 126 yards and a touchdown, while the defense yielded zero first downs for the second straight game to send the Bulldogs to a 34-0 win over Burlington Township in the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals. It is the eighth straight sectional championship game for Rumson. Burlington Township entered with an 8-1 record and averaging over 35 points per game and was held to 20 yards of offense, including minus-6 yards rushing. Aidan Casuccio and Nick Rigby had touchdown catches and Dan Garvey added a touchdown run. Rumson will now play for its seventh sectional title in program history. Next game: Friday vs. Woodrow Wilson (7-2) in the Central Jersey Group 3 championship game.

 

4. Middletown South (8-1). Last week: No. 4

Senior running back Dan Primiano ran for a game-high 152 yards, sophomore running back Donovan Summey ran for a touchdown, and sophomore Jake Czwakiel kicked three field goals as the Eagles defeated Sayreville, 17-8, to advance to the North 2, Group 4 sectional championship game. Sophomore linebacker Colin Gallagher, senior linebacker Jack Willi, and senior defensive tackle Jake Williamson led a defensive effort that held Sayreville to under 200 yards of offense. The Eagles will play in their 22nd sectional final and go for the program's 11th championship on Friday night. Next game: Friday at Irvington (9-2) in the North 2, Group 4 championship game.

 

5. Wall (6-4). Last week: No. 5

The Crimson Knights had the remainder of their season canceled due to an ongoing investigation into hazing involving members of the football team. The Crimson Knights were scheduled to play Delsea in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. Their Thanksgiving Day game against Manasquan has also been canceled. Next game: Season complete.

 

6. Toms River North (7-3). Last week: No. 10

The Mariners jump up four spots this week after a resounding 48-7 win over Edison in the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals. Sophomore quarterback Micah Ford ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, threw for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and intercepted a pass on defense to lead the way. Sophomore Tareq Council caught two passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns and returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, and sophomore Jeremiah Pruitt had a touchdown run and a fumble return for a touchdown. The Mariners will now play in their first sectional final since 2016 and look to bring home the program's seventh sectional title. Next game: Friday vs. Kingsway (6-4) in the South Jersey Group 5 championship game.

 

7. Manasquan (7-3). Last week: No. 6

The Warriors were eliminated from the Central Jersey Group 3 playoffs via a 34-7 loss to Woodrow Wilson. Junior quarterback Brett Patten threw a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Cole Kozlowski for Manasquan's only touchdown. The team's Thanksgiving Day game vs. Wall was canceled due to an ongoing hazing investigation at Wall High School, but the Warriors were able to get a new opponent to conclude their season on turkey day. Next game: Thanksgiving Day (11/25) vs. Shore Regional (7-3).

 

8. Point Boro (9-1). Last week: No. 9 

Sophomore fullback Jake Croce ran for 122 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and senior quarterback Charlie Vitale ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries to lead the Panthers to a 28-7 win over New Providence in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals. Sophomore slotback Matt Oliphant ran for 55 yards and a touchdown on six carries and junior slotback Connor Cilento added 50 yards rushing. junior linebackers JJ Bennet and Maddox Samaritano and junior defensive end Aidan Ward led the defensive effort. Point Boro will now play in its first sectional title since 2017 and try to win its first title since 2005. Next game: Friday vs. Willingboro (8-3) in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game.

 

9. Long Branch (7-2). Last week: No. 7

The Gren Wave had their playoff run to an end with a 45-10 loss at the hands of undefeated Ocean City in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals. Senior quarterback Christian Rodriguez had a 5-yard touchdown run and Wesley Garcia kicked a 21-yard field goal. Long Branch will try to send longtime head coach Danny George out with a win in his final game on the sidelines. Next game: Thanksgiving (11/25) vs. Red Bank (4-6).

 

10. Manalapan (6-3). Last week: No. 8

The Braves drop two spots because they lost to Edison 23-20 in overtime in the first round of the playoffs and Toms River North beat Edison, 48-7, in the next round. Manalapan had five wins vs. playoff teams (St. John Vianney, Holmdel, Southern, Freehold, and Central) and losses to Middletown South, Red Bank Catholic, and Edison. Next game: Season complete.

 

Keep an eye on:

Raritan (6-4): Senior running back Joe Campanella scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds left in regulation and the defense came up with a stop on the final play inside its own 10-yard line to deliver the Rockets a thrilling 41-34 win over Hillside in the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals. Campanella ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries and also had an interception on defense. Junior running back Kieran Falzon ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns and senior quarterback Ben Hutchins ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Raritan is now back in a sectional final for the first time since its Cinderella run to the title in 2015. Next game: Friday vs. Haddonfield (8-2) in the Central Jersey Group 2 championship game.

 

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