The Shore Football Report: Freehold’s resurgence, Jackson’s Jonah Glenn, and more
Every week, Scott Stump will bring news, notes and observations from around the Shore in the Shore Football Report.
Freehold head coach Dave Ellis had only one question for his large returning senior class after the smoke cleared on a winless season in 2022.
“I told everyone in the offseason, ‘Let’s see how much it bothers you,’” Ellis said. “Let’s see if there’s resiliency. I have really strong leadership in my senior class, and they were not going to let that happen this year.”
They showed it in the season opener when they led the Colonials to a 35-28 nondivisional win over Keyport (1-1) in a thriller that snapped a nine-game losing streak for Freehold. It was an about face for a team that lost every game except one by at least 26 points last year.
Certainly part of it was the Colonials’ unforgiving schedule last season in which every game except one was against a state playoff team. The win over Keyport also marked a major step forward offensively for a team that did not score more than 13 points in any game last year.
Senior running back Gavyn Golub ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter. He also had a fumble recovery in the end zone on defense and went 4-for-5 kicking extra points.
Senior quarterback Spencer Rushton rolled up 100 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns while also throwing for 176 yards, and wideout Aidan Hamlin-Woolfolk had three catches for 105 yards.
“Last year was unique because we only had five seniors, and only one or two of them were starters,” Ellis said. “A lot of guys got thrown into the fire. Now we know the standard.”
The Colonials kept battling in a seesaw game on the road against a Red Raiders team that has a host of big-play talent.
“We faced a lot of adversity on Saturday,” Ellis said. “I think they learned a lot. You just stick together and keep grinding, and things will turn.”
Ellis credited strength and conditioning coach Nick Tyson with bringing energy to the weight room in the offseason and getting the team to buy in. Tyson is a former All-Shore quarterback for the Colonials who helped lead them to their first NJSIAA sectional title in 2008.
“He explained to them that it has to start in the weight room with intensity, focus and effort,” Ellis said.
After being so inexperienced last year, the team has 19 seniors – the largest senior class in Ellis’ 13 seasons.
“One thing about this team is they’ve been very coachable,” he said. “They’re a senior-heavy group with a chip on their shoulder.”
Next up is a key Independence Division showdown with Brick (2-0) this weekend in which the Colonials can announce themselves as division title contenders.
Jaguar on the loose
While the game will be mainly remembered for its controversial ending in overtime, Jackson Memorial’s 20-13 victory over Manalapan also marked a breakout game for Jaguars sophomore Jonah Glenn.
In his first varsity start at running back, he rolled up 156 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
“To see him run with the explosiveness he ran with against a good Manalapan defense, it was like a ‘Welcome to the Shore Conference’ moment,” Jackson Memorial head coach Vin Mistretta said.
Coming up through the American Youth Football ranks, Glenn and Donovan Catholic’s Najee Calhoun were two of the top backs in the state for their class. Calhoun had a smashing debut as a freshman for the Griffins last year, and now Glenn has his chance to be the latest standout Jackson running back in a long line of them.
He saw some time in the secondary last year as a freshman and had a handful of carries on offense. He took a pair of screen passes and made people miss in last year’s state playoff loss to Millville, which went on to win the inaugural Group 4 title behind Lotzeir Brooks, one of the top recruits in the state.
“You could tell (Glenn) belonged on the field with the Lotzeir Brookses of the world,” Mistretta said.
One of those Jaguars legends who preceded Glenn – all-time leading rusher Mike Gawlik – is working with him this year as a Jaguars assistant. Mistretta said Glenn’s running style and size (5-11, 180) is comparable to that of former Jackson star running back Will Towns, who is now at Wake Forest.
“We’ve told him, it’s right there for you,” Mistretta said about FBS potential for Glenn. “He saw it happen (with Towns) only three years ago. We’re going to give him every opportunity. He has the raw skill and talent, so it’s all about if he stays focused and continues to work.”
Stars battling injuries
It’s been a rough few weeks for several returning standouts on the injury front.
Middletown South senior QB/DB/K/P Jake Czwakiel sat out of a 19-0 win over Raritan with a high ankle sprain he suffered in the season opener and will be evaluated further this week to see if he can go against Wall on Friday night.
Czwakiel’s teammate, starting running back Donovan Summey, suffered a high ankle sprain of his own during the win over the Rockets and also is questionable.
The Eagles also had a scary moment during the game against Raritan when senior Kian Casey was injured during a collision on a kickoff in the second quarter and was taken in an ambulance to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. Casey’s father told Eagles head coach Steve Antonucci that Casey suffered a fracture of the T7 vertebra in his back, but it will not require surgery, and he was out of the hospital by the next day.
Fresh off a 200-yard rushing performance in the season opener, Long Branch standout senior Earnest Reevey did not play quarterback in a 41-13 loss to Donovan Catholic because of a broken hand. Reevey had a cast on his right hand and only played in the secondary on defense. The injury leaves him questionable to return at quarterback against Manalapan on the road Friday night in a Colonial Division game. Junior Aulander Daniels started in place of Reevey at quarterback last week, running for one touchdown and throwing for another.
Jackson Memorial senior defensive end Samir Lee, who roared out of the gate with two early sacks against Manalapan, is believed to have suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the game, but it hasn’t been confirmed yet, according to Jaguars coach Vin Mistretta.
In its season-opening loss to Freehold Township, Red Bank was without standout senior Liam Stack, a safety/wide receiver who led them in tackles last year on his way to all-division honors. Stack suffered a punctured lung when he landed on the ball during a preseason scrimmage and may miss two more games, according to Bucs head coach Shane Fallon.
Photo of the Week
Our own Ray Richardson of Ray Rich Photography grabbed this great shot of Stanford recruit Emanuel Ross of Red Bank Catholic going up high to snag a pass in the Caseys' 34-7 win over Colts Neck.
Video of the Week
There were some good ones, but the people have spoken. They love this hard-nosed, tackle-breaking run against Howell by Wall's Mason Adam that was shot by @zz.liam on Instagram.
---While Point Boro freshman Jake Clayton and Jackson Memorial sophomore Jonah Glenn have already made their presence felt, Long Branch freshman Nyron Snerling showed flashes of his potential in a 41-13 loss to No. 4 Donovan Catholic. He had a 9-yard touchdown catch and finished the game with 5 catches.
---A former Shore star is now a zebra. Ryan Spadola was a standout wide receiver at Freehold Township and then Lehigh University before being signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 2013. He was part of the officiating crew working the Raritan-Middletown South game last week.
---While Barnegat is off to an 0-2 start, junior TE/LB Cole Toddings has been sensational in defeat. He had five catches for 75 yards, and 18 tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble in a loss to Manchester last weekend. He also had 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and a 70-yard touchdown on a fumble return in a 7-6 loss to Monmouth in Week Zero, along with 4 catches for 59 yards. Toddings is the grandson of Donovan Catholic Hall of Famer Dennis Toddings, a former longtime football coach and athletic director at the school.
---Our own Bob Badders is a diehard Yankees fan, but he’s got nothing on the Dekis family of Hazlet. The three sons of Gary and Allison Dekis, who are current and former athletes at Raritan, are all named after Yankees players. Former Raritan baseball player Derek “D.J.” Dekis is named after, of course, Derek Jeter, and Alex Dekis, who was a standout linebacker on last year’s Rockets team, is named after A-Rod. The most fun of them all, though, is Raritan junior tight end Jobby Dekis. He is named after Yankees folk hero Joba Chamberlain. No official word on whether they want Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman fired after the season.
---You’ve heard of playing hurt, but there’s also coaching hurt. Donovan Catholic head coach Dan Curcione has had his left arm in a sling all season. He said that right before preseason camp, he was swinging a bat at his son’s youth baseball practice when he tore his biceps in his left arm. Making matters worse, Curcione is a lefty.
---Fresh off his two-touchdown performance in a 41-13 win over Long Branch, Donovan Catholic junior wide receiver Michael Thomas III took a visit to Penn State on Saturday to watch the Nittany Lions’ season-opening, 38-15 win over West Virginia. The Nittany Lions are one of double-digit offers Thomas has received. He got a firsthand look at new Penn State quarterback Drew Allar, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after going 21 for 29 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. Thomas wasn’t the only Shore star in attendance, as Toms River North junior two-way lineman Jaelyne Matthews, who is verbally committed to Penn State, also was at Beaver Stadium. Matthews and Toms River North square off against Thomas and Donovan Catholic in a huge American Division game in Week Three.
---No. 1 Toms River North has now won 16 straight games after rolling past Toms River East. For comparison’s sake, the Shore Conference record is 43 straight games by the immortal Knowshon Moreno teams at Middletown South in the mid-2000s. Next up is a big showdown with No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven…Neptune won its season opener for the first time in nine years by topping Lakewood…Brick Memorial is 2-0 for the first time in 11 years after edging Middletown North in a thriller…Holmdel tied its win total from all of last season by cruising past Toms River South in its season opener.
---For those wondering about the chances of instant replay ever becoming a thing in the Shore Conference after the controversial plays in the Jackson Memorial-Manalapan and Keyport-Freehold games, the NJSIAA adopted it for state playoff games in 2018 but scrapped it in 2021 after controversy involving replay and multiple high-stakes games.