The Shore Football Report: The RBC-RFH Rivalry Showdown, Colts Neck Roars Back, Craft Debuts for Long Branch
Every week, Scott Stump will bring news, notes and observations from around the Shore in the Shore Football Report.
The latest installment of a rivalry that dates back to 1947 will go down at Borden Stadium on Friday night when No. 2 Red Bank Catholic travels down the road to take on No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven in another huge American Division clash.
The two neighboring squads will play for the 66th time in one of the Shore’s oldest rivalries. RBC will be looking to emphasize its case to be the No. 1 team in the Shore with a convincing win, while Rumson will try to stun a top 10 team in the state and inject itself right back into the American Division race.
The Caseys (2-1, 1-0) will look to keep the upper hand after winning 15 of the last 16 games against the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1), who were their longtime Thanksgiving rival before that game was discontinued. Rumson is seeking its first win since 2019 over RBC, which currently has a nine-game winning streak against Shore Conference competition. No public school from the Shore has beaten RBC since Middletown South in 2020.
“It’s the biggest rivalry in all RBC sports,” Caseys junior quarterback Frankie Williams said. “I’ve never played at Rumson before, so I’m excited to see the atmosphere. If we play like we know we can play, we’ll get the outcome we want.”
“I feel like in the past (RBC) had more firepower than us, but I feel like offensively and defensively we match up very well,” said Rumson junior quarterback Owen O’Toole. “It’s going to be a really good game that comes down to the fourth quarter.”
If you single out one All-Shore player on one side, he probably has a counterpart on the other side. O’Toole and Williams are two of the Shore’s top quarterbacks. Same goes for RBC’s Emanuel Ross and Rumson’s Nick Rigby at wide receiver, RBC’s Davin Brewton and Rumson’s Reed Elsas at linebacker, RBC’s Logan Graham and Rumson’s Cooper Bunnell on the defensive line, and on and on.
The difference in most years has been RBC’s dominance up front, and the Caseys again have a formidable offensive line led by seniors Lorenzo Portella and Tyler Burnham. Plus, they have already seen one of the state’s most star-studded defensive lines in a season-opening loss to Bergen Catholic, New Jersey’s top-ranked team.
“Our line can compete with anybody,” Williams said.
Ross, who is verbally committed to Stanford, is a game-changing player who can outleap defenders for contested catches. Williams is in his second year as a starter and has an offer from Maryland and interest from Virginia Tech and Duke.
“(Ross) gets bracketed every game, but you can just put it up there and he's always open,” Williams said. “I feel like our passing game is good, and the game has definitely slowed down for me from last year.”
The Caseys have been using a combination of primarily three running backs this season and have averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Stopping them is priority No. 1 for Rumson’s defense, which gave up 317 yards rushing in their loss to a loaded Toms River North team.
Rumson has shown it can score on anyone behind O’Toole, who is off to another strong start after leading the Shore Conference in passing yards last year. He already has faced a fierce Toms River North pass rush and threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Mariners. He once again will have to deal with heavy pressure, this time from Brewton and Co.
“We've played Toms River North and Middletown South, teams that bring pressure, so we have a tough schedule for a reason to prepare for this,” O’Toole said. “I love the challenge. I like being the guy that everyone relies on.”
It’s a measuring stick for two perennial state title contenders. RBC wants to continue its march to repeat as American Division champions, while Rumson is looking to break through against an elite team.
“It’s been a one-sided rivalry, so we’re hoping to get back even with them and keep this rivalry going,” O’Toole said.
“This is a huge game for us,” Williams said. “With a win here, we should solidify our ranking as No. 1. Going into their house and getting a win has to say something to the Shore.”
Cougars Roar Back
There weren’t many teams who had a tougher 1-2 punch to open the season than Colts Neck, which lost to No. 6 Point Boro and No. 2 Red Bank Catholic in its first two games. They had to face another ranked team, Manalapan, last week while staring a potential 0-3 start in the face for a team with high aspirations and a standout group of seniors.
“Coach (Matt) Ahearn was preaching that all week − this is our season,” Colts Neck senior running back Chris Scully said. “We can't do anything as far as the division or playoff seeding without this win.”
The Cougars responded with an impressive 35-0 rout of the Braves to break into the win column. A defense that gave up 76 points in its first two games slammed the door on the Braves, who were coming off a 33-point performance in their previous game.
A big key was the return of senior Eric Loureiro, a starting defensive end who missed the first two games due to a broken hand he suffered in the preseason.
“He’s a great defensive leader, and a senior who never comes out of the game,” Scully said.
Scully, who is one of the Shore’s top running backs, rolled up 195 yards rushing and three touchdowns to power the offense. Teams have stacked the box to stop him, but a senior-laden offensive line led by Matt Liggio and Charlie Whalen has paved the way.
“If a team can’t match up physically, it’s going to be hard to stop,” Scully said.
An important wrinkle has been the addition of senior Ethan Mathieu, a transfer from Monmouth Regional who was an All-Division cornerback at Donovan Catholic two years ago. He adds an element of speed on the edge on offense to make teams think twice about concentrating everyone in the middle to stop Scully.
After picking up their first win, the Cougars will look to get back to .500 with a victory over Red Bank (0-3) this week.
“Everybody's motors are back and the spirits are high,” Scully said.
Long Branch added a key piece in Week 3 when Neptune transfer Da’Von Craft made his season debut at running back for the Green Wave after sitting out 30 days via the transfer rule.
“I couldn’t wait,” Craft said. “My adrenaline was just rushing from the minute I woke up.”
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound senior ran for 102 yards on 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 33-16 win over Raritan that ended a two-game skid. Craft complemented another strong performance from senior running back Zaheem Brown, who had a pair of touchdowns himself. The addition of Craft has been crucial in adding an extra weapon while Long Branch senior quarterback Earnest Reevey remains only playing on defense due to a broken hand that requires a cast.
“We’re not going to dwell on it, we’re just going to do what we have to do,” Craft said.
While Reevey is still week-to-week as far as whether he can play at quarterback, but when he does return, it creates a backfield with three dangerous running threats.
The Green Wave will need all hands on deck this week when they take on No. 6 Point Boro, the first-place team in the Colonial Division. The Panthers come in averaging 42.7 points per game in their 3-0 start.
“We know they’re a tough team, but we’re going to give them a run for their money,” Craft said.
Make sure to check out the Varsity Link Coaches Corner show tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify and wherever else you get your podcasts.
Bob Badders and I will talk to Colts Neck head coach Matt Ahearn about the Cougars’ big win over Manalapan, Donovan Catholic’s Dan Curcione about their monster victory that ended Toms River North’s 17-game winning streak, and Marlboro’s Jason Dagato about the Mustangs gunning for a rare 4-0 start.
Keyport-Manchester showdown moved up
A crucial Patriot Division showdown for sole possession of first place between Keyport and Manchester has been moved to 10 a.m. on Saturday due to the projected rainy weather.
We’ll see if the weather conditions on the grass field at Keyport slow down the anticipated battle of home-run hitters between Keyport’s Nazir Treadwell, Andrei Matthews and Mekai Henderson and Manchester’s Josh Love, the last of whom has already piled up 853 total yards and 14 TDs between rushing and receiving in four games.
Play of the Week
There were plenty of big ones by the Donovan Catholic defense in their 21-7 takedown of previously unbeaten Toms River North. A red zone interception near the goal line by Najee Morgan was certainly one of them.
Alumni of the Week
Juwan Mitchell, Sr., LB, Colorado
The well-travelled former Mater Dei Prep star has made an immediate impact in his first season at Colorado after previously being at Texas, Tennessee and Arizona State. He had a career-high 15 tackles, one for a loss, in the Buffaloes' wild, 43-35 double overtime win over rival Colorado State that moved Colorado to 3-0 under new coach Deion Sanders.
Jermaine Corbett, Sr., RB, Stonehill
The former Long Branch star was named the Northeast Conference Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 23-20 win over Georgetown. He enters this week's game ranked fifth in the nation in the FCS in rushing yards per game (126.0), third in total rushing yards (378) and tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns (5).
Cole Groschel, Sr., DB, The College of New Jersey
The former Brick star and son of current Green Dragons assistant Jay Groschel was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week after racking up 14 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble against Muhlenberg.
---The Shore has three teams ranked in the top 10 in the state by NJ.com in its latest top 20 rankings. RBC is at 4, Donovan Catholic is at 7, and Toms River North dropped to No. 9 after the loss to Donovan. RBC's opponent on Friday night, Rumson-Fair Haven, sits at No. 16 in the state to give the Shore four teams in the top 20.
---Manchester is 4-0 for the first time in program history and now three wins away from setting a new school single-season record...Pinelands and Marlboro have a chance to each be 4-0 for potentially the first time ever, or at least since the 1990s. Marlboro went 10-1 in its lone state championship season in 1994...Brick Memorial is 4-0 for the first time in 20 years...Jackson Memorial is gunning for its first 4-0 start in five years when it takes on Howell this week...Holmdel will try to go to 4-0 for the first time in 16 years when it travels to Manasquan for a big divisional game on Saturday...Brick is looking to go 5-0 for the first time since 2015 with a win over Matawan.