T&T Coast Football Top 10, 11/29/16
There is just one week left in the 2016 football season, and that comes this Saturday when 10 Shore Conference teams in nine different sections play for NJSIAA state sectional championships. The first 10 weeks of the season were mostly stable in the T&T Coast Shore Conference Football Top 10, but the last two weeks have shaken up the rankings in a major way.
Toms River North and Manalapan are two of the three undefeated teams in the Shore Conference, so their positions remain unchanged. The same goes for St. John Vianney, which lost 45-20 to St. Joseph (Montvale) in the Non-Public Group III semifinals but has won 29 straight games against Shore Conference opponents.
After that the rankings have been tossed in the blender. There is an undefeated Mater Dei team, a Class B North foursome of Middletown North, Middletown South, Manasquan and Wall which has taken turns beating each other, a Rumson-Fair Haven squad that will be playing for its fourth straight state title but is also coming off a stunning loss, and a Central team with a solid resume that couldn’t participate in the playoffs.
The questions surrounding Mater Dei have been answered after the Seraphs dominated 7-time defending Non-Public Group I/II champion St. Joseph (Hammonton) in the Non-Public Group II semifinals. There’s no question the Seraphs are talented and well-coached, but they needed a signature win - plus the results of last week - to justify a climb up the rankings. If they can finish off a perfect 12-0 season for the program’s first sectional title they can be assured of a top-five finish, and maybe higher.
The other team making a serious late-season run is Middletown North. The Lions are in their first sectional final since 1996 after a 20-0 win over Summit in the North 2, Group IV semifinals. They followed that up with a 24-6 win over rival Middletown South for their first win in the Thanksgiving Day series since 2000. The Lions have losses to Red Bank Catholic and Manasquan, but also own wins over Middletown South, Wall and Howell.
Middletown South closed a disappointing season by its standards with two straight losses, but still won the Class B North division title outright. The Eagles have wins over Wall, Manasquan and Rumson and played one of the toughest schedules of any public school in New Jersey, so they can’t really fall too far.
Manasquan and Wall both lost to Middletown South but Manasquan has a win over Middletown North whereas Wall lost to the Lions. Wall gets the leg up, however, because of the head-to-head win over Manasquan on Thanksgiving.
If it wasn’t for a pair of playoff wins Rumson wouldn’t have much of a case to be ranked. The Bulldogs are coming off a 14-7 loss to Shore on Thanksgiving Eve and do not have any wins over ranked teams. Rumson’s best wins are over Cranford and Somerville in the Central Jersey Group III playoffs, specifically the semifinal win against Somerville where the Bulldogs beat a previously-undefeated Pioneers team that was averaging over 50 points per game, 21-13.
Central’s season ended at 7-2 because the Golden Eagles were disqualified from the playoffs for having three ejections in a Week 1 win over Toms River East. Central’s only losses were to No. 1 Toms River North and Wall, the latter of which came the week after the Eagles were ruled ineligible for the postseason. The Golden Eagles have a win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Brick.
Howell is a team that made a late-season push, but finished the season 6-5. Keyport is 10-1 and can finish the season with a state championship, so the Red Raiders have an outside chance to finish the season ranked. Brick is also playing for a state title this weekend in Central Jersey Group IV, but has a head-to-head loss to Central.
With seven of the current ranked teams playing in state finals this Saturday there is a chance for plenty of changes to the final top 10. Even No. 1 is up for grabs pending this weekend’s results. It will be wall-to-wall football this Saturday at Rutgers, Kean and Rowan when the Shore Conference tries to break its record of six state champions in one season.
Now let’s get to the latest top 10 as the season comes to the finish line.
1. Toms River North (11-0). Last week: No. 1
The Mariners were idle on Thanksgiving and preparing to play Millville for the South Jersey Group V title. Toms River North is trying to win its second straight sectional title and finish 12-0 for the second time in program history and first time since 2007. The Mariners’ high-octane offense averages 46.9 points per game and senior quarterback Mike Husni needs 23 more passing yards to become the first quarterback in Shore Conference history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. Next game: 6 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rowan University vs. Millville in the South Jersey Group V title game.
2. Manalapan (11-0). Last week: No. 2
The Braves did not play on Thanksgiving and are coming off a 34-20 win over South Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group V semifinals to reach their fifth sectional final in the last six seasons. Junior running back Naim Mayfield is among the conference leaders with 1,625 yards and 21 touchdowns, and junior quarterback Luke Corcione is also having a great season with 1,692 yards passing and 26 touchdowns with only one interception. Next game: Manalapan will play Piscataway at 10 a.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rutgers University in the Central Jersey Group V final.
3. St John Vianney (10-1). Last week: No. 3
The Lancers’ season came to an end on Nov. 19 with a 45-20 loss to St. Joseph (Montvale) in the Non-Public Group III semifinals. The Lancers won the Class A Central division title for the third straight year and have a 29-game winning streak against Shore Conference opponents. Next game: Season complete.
4. Middletown North (9-2). Last week: No. 7
Senior quarterback Donald Glenn is now the Shore Conference’s leading passer after going 23-for-33 for 319 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-6 win over rival Middletown South on Thanksgiving that snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Eagles. Senior wide receiver Brendan Kube caught seven passes for 135 yards and a touchdown and now leads the conference in receptions (56) and yards (1,092) for the second straight season. Senior defensive back Dwight Wilkerson had 12 tackles with a team-high nine solo stops, including two tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries. Senior Thomas Anderson also made 12 tackles and recovered a fumble, and junior defensive linemen Austin Dewise and Nicko Cofone had two sacks each. Next game: The Lions will take on Sayreville at 1 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rutgers University in the North 2, Group IV final where they will seek their first state title since 1996.
5. Mater Dei Prep (11-0). Last week: No. 9
The Seraphs did not play on Thanksgiving and are coming off an impressive 26-0 win over 7-time defending champion St. Joseph (Hammonton) in the Non-Public Group II semifinals. Mater Dei is in the midst of its greatest season in program history having clinched its first division title (Class B Central) and setting a program-record for wins with 11. The Seraphs have three of the Shore’s top players in quarterback George Pearson, wide receiver Eddie Lewis and tight end/linebacker Marvin Pierre, all of which are FBS recruits. Next game: Mater Dei plays Holy Spirit at 1 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Kean University where it will try to cap an undefeated season and win the program’s first state sectional championship.
6. Middletown South (7-4). Last week: No. 4
The Eagles ended the season with two straight losses after falling to Middletown North, 24-6, on Thanksgiving. Middletown South did clinch the outright Class B North division title and finished the season with wins over top 10 teams Manasquan, Wall and Rumson. Three of the Eagles’ four losses are to teams that will be playing for sectional titles, and the other was to No. 3 St. John Vianney as part of the Shore’s most difficult schedule. Next game: Season complete.
7. Wall (9-2). Last week: No. 8
In one of the best Thanksgiving Day rivalries around the state, the Crimson Knights ran away from rival Manasquan in the second half for a 21-3 victory and their third straight win in the series. Senior running back Sean Larkin ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns and the defense allowed just 85 yards of offense. Junior linebacker Tim McKernan led the way with 10 tackles, defensive linemen Darryin Valme and Matt Biegert registered sacks and R.J. Janeczek and Mike Capra came down with interceptions. Next game: Wall faces four-time defending champion Delsea at 11 a.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rowan University in the South Jersey Group III final. The Crimson Knights are trying for their first sectional title since 2002.
8. Manasquan (9-2). Last week: No. 6
A 37-yard field goal by senior Adam Schreck gave the Warriors a lead at halftime, but those were the only points they could muster in a 21-3 loss to arch rival Wall on Thanksgiving. Manasquan has a chance for immediate redemption, however, as they will try to win the program’s 12th sectional title this weekend. Next game: Manasquan will play Bernards at 7 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Kean University in the Central Jersey Group II championship game.
9. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-3). Last week: No. 5
The Bulldogs suffered a stunning 14-7 loss to rival Shore on the eve of Thanksgiving. A 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore fullback Alex Maldjian tied the score at seven in the third quarter, but Shore drove for the winning score with 10 minutes left in the game and its defense held out to secure the upset. Rumson has now lost 14 straight Thanksgiving games with 11 losses to Red Bank Catholic prior to losing the first three in the new Devil-Dawg Bowl with Shore. Next game: Rumson can make last week’s loss a brief footnote in its legacy by beating South Plainfield in the Central Jersey Group III final at 7 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rutgers University. A win would give the Bulldogs a fourth straight championship and make them the third Shore Conference program (Manasquan, 1998-2002; Middletown South, 2003-2006) to win four in a row.
10. Central (7-2). Last week: No. 10
The Golden Eagles’ final game of the season was a 34-7 loss to Toms River North on Nov. 4. Central was not eligible for the playoffs due to having three ejections in a Sept. 9 game against Toms River East. Season complete.
Dropped out: none
Teams to watch:
Keyport (10-1): The Red Raiders will play Asbury Park for the Central Jersey Group I title at 4 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Kean University. Keyport’s only loss this season is to No. 5 Mater Dei Prep.
Brick (8-3): The Dragons can make their case for a spot in the final top 10 by beating Allentown in the Central Jersey Group IV championship, 4 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rutgers University.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.