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When a Shore Conference football program is mentioned there are certain people that always come to mind. For some, it’s unanimous no matter what era you are from. For others, it’s a fun debate comparing all-time greats from different eras whether they roamed the sidelines as coaches or broke records between the lines.

That got us at the Shore Sports Network wondering: when you think of Shore Conference football, who are the most prominent figures in each program’s history? And if there was a mountain nearby and we knew a sculptor, whose faces should be carved on its side to be forever honored?

With that in mind, we came up with a football feature that will run throughout this summer, and it’s called Face of the Franchise.

We reached out to all 43 football programs in the Shore Conference and in conjunction came up with five to six nominees for each school. The five names and their accomplishments will be listed and fans will have a chance to cast their votes to select who they feel is the Face of the Franchise for each program. Our SSN football crew of Bob Badders, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Matt Harmon will also put their heads together to make a selection. The polls will run for one week each.

At the end of the summer when the Face of the Franchise has been determined for all 43 programs, we’ll run one final poll to see who the fans think should go on top of the mountain; five legends to represent the history of Shore Conference football.

Steve Meyer
Steve Meyer



Nick Castellano 

A ferocious linebacker as well as a standout running back, Castellano was the leader of two juggernaut Jackson teams that authored back-to-back 12-0 South Jersey Group 4 championship seasons in 2000 and 2001.

Castellano was a two-time, first-team All-State selection and in 2001 was selected as the New Jersey Defensive Player of the Year as the Jaguars finished the season ranked No. 1 in the state. As a senior, Castellano made 136 tackles (103 solo) with 11.5 sacks and 15 quarterback pressures. He also ran for 1,541 yards and 18 touchdowns in a season where he was the most dominant two-way player in the Shore Conference. With Castellano leading the way, Jackson outscored its opponents 403-91.

As a junior, Castellano made 113 tackles and ran for 1,451 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 71 tackles also led the team during his sophomore season. He finished his career with 320 tackles, 2,992 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. Castellano was a two-time Shore Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Jackson went 33-2 during his career, including 24-0 during his junior and senior seasons. A 24-0 victory over Cherokee in the 2001 South Jersey Group 4 title game stretched the Jaguars’ winning streak to 25 games, which was the longest in the state at the time.

Castellano continued his career at Monmouth University where he played linebacker and safety and was an all-Northeast Conference selection.


Mike Gawlik 

A three-time first-team All-Shore selection and a two-time first-team All-State selection who starred at both running back and safety, Gawlik rewrote the Jackson Memorial record book and helped the Jaguars win back-to-back Central Jersey Group 4 state titles in 2014 and 2015.

As a sophomore, Gawlik played a pivotal role at running back and in the secondary as the Jaguars went 11-1, won the program’s fourth sectional title and finished as the No. 1 team in the Shore and No. 2 in New Jersey. He ran for a team-high 1,165 yard and 21 touchdowns with seven games of 100 or more yards rushing, including a career-high 159 in a 21-18 win over Middletown South in the state final, and 149 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner, in a 33-27 overtime takedown of Non-Public Group III champion Red Bank Catholic. On defense, he finished second on the team with 106 tackles as a safety, along with three interceptions.

Gawlik’s junior year was even better when he became the feature back midway through the season and flourished down the stretch as the Jaguars rallied from a 3-3 record to win their fifth state title. Gawlik ran for 1,562 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 7.3 yards per carry. He was a monster in the playoffs with 590 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He ran for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries when the Jaguars avenged a regular-season loss to Brick by beating the Dragons 21-7 in the first round of the playoffs. He ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-10 win over Steinert in the semifinals before turning in an all-time performance in the sectional final. In Jackson’s 42-14 win over Brick Memorial in the championship game, Gawlik accounted for 365 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns with 210 yards rushing and three scores, a 49-yard touchdown pass, a 58-yard reception and a 50-yard kick return. Also a standout defensive back, Gawlik made 65 tackles for a Jaguars team that finished in the top 10 in scoring defense.

Gawlik concluded his outstanding career by rushing for a Shore Conference-best and school single-season record 2,129 yards and 24 touchdowns on an average of 7.9 yards per as a senior. Gawlik also had two receiving touchdowns and was tied for second in the Shore in total points with 156. He ran for over 100 yards in 10 of 11 games and had five games of 200 yards rushing or more, including two 300-plus yard games. He ran for a season-high 320 yards and three touchdowns against Toms River South and 312 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 41 carries in a win over Old Bridge.

In addition to holding the single-season records for rushing yards (2,129) and total touchdowns (26), Gawlik is Jackson’s all-time leading rusher with 4,856 yards and the all-time leader in career touchdowns with 64. He began his college career at Monmouth University before transferring to Misericordia University where he was an All-Middle Atlantic Conference honorable mention selection in 2019.


Ray Brown 

An anchor in the trenches on Jackson’s back-to-back 12-0 South Jersey Group 4 championship teams, Brown was a force along the defensive line for Jackson’s dominant defense. On Jackson’s 2001 squad that finished No. 1 in the state, Brown recorded 106 tackles, recorded six sacks and had 19 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles for a defense that allowed just 91 points. He was a first-team All-Shore and a first-team All-State selection as a senior before continuing his career at Vanderbilt.


Joe Cella 

A year after falling short in the state final to finish 11-1, Jackson returned with a vengeance in 2005 to go 12-0 and win the program’s third state championship with an epic, last-second win over Brick Memorial in the 2005 Central Jersey Group 4 title game. As a linebacker, Cella was the leader of Jackson’s defense that year and recorded 150 tackles and seven sacks to earn first-team All-Shore honors. Cella was a four-year starter, earning a second-team All-Shore selection as a junior, and helping Jackson go 23-1 over his final two years. Cella played collegiately at Monmouth University. 


Collin McCarthy

A two-time first-team All-Shore selection, the 2019 Shore Conference Defensive Player of the Year as well as the New Jersey Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-7, 240-pound McCarthy was an unblockable force at defensive end who had a dominant senior season with 18 sacks plus a ridiculous 46 tackles for loss among his 85 total tackles. McCarthy had at least two tackles for loss in every game and recorded sacks in seven of 11 games.

As a junior, McCarthy totaled 83 tackles with 43 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and a forced fumble. He posted 82 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore.

McCarthy finished his career with 34 sacks, 104 tackles for loss, 250 total tackles, four forced fumbles and three blocked kicks in 32 games played. He signed with the University of Connecticut but will have to wait until 2021 to make his debut after UCONN canceled its 2020 fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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