Week Three: What to Watch For
With the season flying right along as we head to Week Three in Shore Conference football, here are some storylines to watch this weekend.
Who will win the Manalapan-Sayreville showdown?
With no games featuring Shore Sports Network Top 10 teams squaring off this weekend, this nonconference match-up at Manalapan at 6 p.m. on Saturday stands as the marquee game of the weekend.
The two rivals are both 2-0 coming into the game but have not played an opponent close to the caliber they will face on Saturday. Sayreville had owned the Shore Conference for a stretch before Manalapan put an end to it last year. The Bombers were 16-0 against Shore opponents, including wins over the Braves in the state semifinals and in a state championship game, before Manalapan emphatically ended that with a 34-7 win in last year's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group V semifinals.
Manalapan held the explosive Bombers to 121 total yards in the win, and the Braves will once again have a challenge with a Sayreville team that features senior running back Myles Hartsfield. The Penn State recruit has 397 yards and 8 touchdowns in only two games this season on a video-game-like 15.9 yards per carry, so the clear focus is stopping him. He also has a receiving touchdown and is a versatile threat out of their Wing-T, but Manalapan bottled him up last year, so it has had past success in slowing him down.
The Braves haven't allowed a point yet this season in shutting out Marlboro and Freehold Township in blowout wins, but this is the first real test of their defense, so that bears watching. Offensively, senior tailback Imamu Mayfield has 269 yards rushing and five touchdowns in two games, while quarterback Dan Anerella has been efficient in completing 62 percent of his passes for 166 yards and four touchdowns. Again, this is the best defense the Braves have faced by far in the early season, so it should be a good test.
A big factor for Manalapan in a lot of its high-profile games has been its special teams, led by All-Shore kicker/punter Mike Caggiano and a group of returners led by Dan Debner and Anthony Bassani.
The primary importance of this game is power points. Both of these teams are again strong contenders in Central Jersey Group V, where Manalapan lost to Hunterdon Central in last year's final. This could be the first of two meetings between them this season, and a win on Saturday could go a long way toward determining which team will be playing on its home field when the playoffs roll around.
Will the South win the "Civil War" again?
Toms River North had dominated its rivalry with Toms River South, winning 11 straight, before the Indians ended that streak with a 38-7 victory last season. Detwiler Stadium should be rocking on Friday night when the No. 5 Indians (2-0) welcome the Mariners (1-1) for a Class A South showdown that will be the Jersey Mike's Game of the Week. You can listen to the game live on the radio on 1310/1160 a.m. or streaming right here at ShoreSportsNetwork.com.
No one has been able to stop the tandem of senior quarterback Tymere Berry and senior running back Khaleel Green, as the Indians have scored at least 40 points in their two games. Toms River North is coming off a 16-14 heartbreaker against Brick Memorial on a last-second field goal, so the Mariners are trying to right the ship by pulling the upset. With the explosive Berry and Greene a threat to go the distance on any play out of the triple option, the Mariners will have to tighten up a run defense that surrendered 232 yards on the ground against Brick Memorial.
Offensively, it will be all about finishing drives for a Toms River North offense led by sophomore quarterback Mike Husni, junior tailback Asante Moorer and senior tight end Jordan Craig. They had three drives stall on downs in the red zone last week and will have to finish on Friday night to try to keep the Indians' offense off the field and kill the clock. A Toms River South defense that looks improved this year behind Greene in the secondary, defensive end Jimmy Allen, and linebacker Quentin DeCarlo, will be tasked with stopping Husni, Moorer and sophomore Parker Day in the run game.
So far, it looks like Jackson Memorial, Brick and Toms River South are the clear top three in the competitive Class A South. This game, plus Southern's game against Jackson and Brick's game against Toms River East are the latest chances for the underdogs to show if anyone else is going to get in the way of those three deciding the division title.
Can Matawan avoid an 0-3 start, and how will Raritan's offense look without Richie Salerno?
This is an intriguing Class A Central match-up, as Matawan is in back-against-the-wall mode after an 0-2 start in a season of high expectations, while Raritan is coming off a bye week following its 41-34 win over Manasquan in the season opener.
Matawan is searching for answers on offense after being held to 20 combined points in 31-10 losses to No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven and No. 6 St. John Vianney in its first two games, which included a defensive touchdown. The Rockets, meanwhile, have had a bye week to try to get acclimated to the loss of Salerno, a senior tailback who erupted for a career-high 193 yards through three quarters in the season opener before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. Junior running back Derek Ernst and others will be charged with picking up the slack for Salerno to continue the offensive momentum the Rockets generated in their opener. Senior quarterback Riley Sullivan also will look to continue to make plays with his legs and in the passing game with senior wideout Dylan Dewysockie and others.
This is a separation-type game. Either Matawan is headed to an also-ran season, or it will regain its footing for a playoff run. Either Raritan will take another big step toward its first state playoff berth since 2009 and show that it will be a darkhorse behind Rumson and St. John Vianney in the Class A Central race, or the Rockets come back to earth with a 1-1 start. This is also one of the long-time rivalry games in the Shore between the neighboring schools, so that always adds some juice to the proceedings.
Can Mater Dei Prep become a contender in Class B Central?
This division doesn't seem to have a lot of suspense, as it once again looks like it will be Shore and Point Beach duking it out for the title. If Mater Dei Prep (1-1) wants to get in the mix, the first step will be taking care of business against Asbury Park (0-2) on Saturday.
It looks a little surreal to see our picks this week and see Mater Dei Prep picked across the board against the Blue Bishops. It was only three years ago that Asbury Park was winning its fourth state title in five years while Mater Dei was struggling to even win a game. Times have changed, and a Seraphs team that went 6-5 last year but only 1-4 in B Central looks to at least emerge as a possible threat to the top two. The clear mission is to fix a defense that got torched for 50 points in a loss to Dunellen last week, but the good news is that the offense has not been held under 38 points in two games.
Asbury Park is searching for its first win under new coach Bill Hill and is trying to jumpstart an offense that lost standout running back TyQuis Davis for the season with a torn ACL and has only managed a combined 18 points in two games.
Is Class B South going to be the wildest division race in the Shore?
It's looking that way, as Central's takedown of defending champion Barnegat last week seems to indicate. Jackson Liberty edged out Manchester by six points, Lakewood came back to beat Pinelands by seven, Central won by six, and Point Boro grinded out a win over Donovan Catholic last week.
Lakewood has been playing with fire in having to come from behind in both of its wins, and faces a Manchester team looking for its first win under new coach Bill Furlong. If the Hawks pull an upset and Barnegat bounces back and beats Jackson Liberty, Point Boro (2-0), which went 1-9 last year, could find itself alone in first place after the weekend regardless of what happens in its nonconference game against Bishop Ahr.
This looks like the division where anything can happen on a weekly basis. Picking these games is going to be the hardest of any division because of how close these teams are bunched. It has the makings of a co- or tri-championship, but we'll see if Lakewood or Point Boro can run the table with Barnegat and others still looming on their schedule.
A few other quick hits on Week Three games:
**Jay Graham (Holmdel); Dan Curcione (Wall); John Paczkowski (Keyport); Bill Hill (Asbury Park); Peter Shaw (Colts Neck); and Bill Furlong (Manchester) are all new coaches looking for their first wins with their new teams this weekend.
**The last time Red Bank Catholic and Neptune played, it was a double-overtime classic won 20-14 by the Caseys. That was Neptune's only loss that year as the Scarlet Fliers went on to win the Central Jersey Group III title. This year is different as the No. 1 Caseys (3-0) are a heavy favorite against the Fliers (1-1).
The ending of that 2011 game was bananas. Chris Donald, who is now at William & Mary, had a barrel roll touchdown run that ended up going viral. This is the most-watched video I've ever posted at nearly 70,000 views.
**Reigning Shore Sports Network Offensive Player of the Year Charlie Volker, a senior tailback, is at 100 percent and ready to go for the Monmouth Regional game, according to coach Bryan Batchler. Volker sat out the second half of a season-opening, 31-10 win over Matawan for precautionary reasons after being dinged up. Linebacker Max Pfrang, a returning starter, will make his season debut for the Bulldogs after missing the Matawan game will an injury.
**Lacey head coach Lou Vircillo will once again try to move into second place in career wins in Shore Conference history behind Brick legend Warren Wolf when the Lions take on Brick Memorial. He has been tied with the late Vic Kubu at 263 since last season, as Lacey (0-2) has lost seven straight dating back to last year.