What to Watch For: Week 5 Football Preview
After a week that featured two huge nondivisional matchups between ranked teams along with several key divisional battles, Week 5 in the Shore Conference is sort of the calm before (and after) the storm. The action really heats up over the next two weeks with division games that will have major title implications, as well as a monster nondivisional game between the top two teams in the Shore.
There is one game between teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network/T&T Coast Top 10 this weekend, and that takes place in Class B North. There are also two solid games on Saturday that will affect the division races in Class B Central and Class B South.
Let’s take a look at what to watch for in Week 5.
Game of the Week: No. 7 Red Bank Catholic at No. 6 Wall, 7 p.m. on Friday
The top game on the schedule for this week is a Class B North battle between seventh-ranked Red Bank Catholic and No. 6 Wall. The Crimson Knights will try to move their record to 5-0 and keep pace with Middletown South atop the division standings, while the Caseys will go for their fourth straight win.
Wall has been one of the surprise teams of the season, but when you take a closer look at the Crimson Knights their success should not be too much of a shock. It’s a veteran team under third-year head coach Dan Curcione, including a senior-laden offensive line that has paved the way for senior running back Sean Larkin to emerge as one of the conference’s top backs. The Knights can also make plays in the passing game with junior quarterback Eddie Scott and senior receivers R.J. Janeczek, Gene Scott and Shane Richey. Wall’s defense has also been stout, allowing 12 points per game.
Since a 49-12 loss to Middletown South in Week 1, Red Bank Catholic has won three in a row and is coming off a 35-0 shutout of Colonia. The Caseys have lost their first two quarterbacks to injury, with Steve Lubischer going down in the opener and Tommy Lang breaking his collarbone in a win over Ocean in Week 3. They are down to junior Nick Brusca, a converted running back, but so far so good for RBC. Brusca ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries last week in his first career start, while junior running back Zack Bair had 143 yards and a score on just nine carries.
Red Bank Catholic head coach Frank Edgerly and his staff have done a masterful job over the last six quarters as the Caseys have played without the presence of a passing game. They didn’t attempt a pass in the second half of the win over Ocean, and only attempted two passes, completing none, against Colonia. Also, a lot of credit has to go to the RBC offensive line. When the opponent knows you’re going to run the ball on every play and still can’t stop it, the guys up front are really getting the job done.
This will be a matchup of two of the top running backs in the Shore with Larkin and Bair. Larkin has rushed for 535 yards and nine touchdowns while Bair has 551 yards and four touchdowns. Both are averaging 8.5 yards per carry. The running game doesn’t end with either, however, as Wall has junior Chevesee Covin, who is averaging 10 yards per carry with 259 yards and two touchdowns, plus junior Brady McNally. RBC of course has Brusca. The obvious difference is Wall’s ability to throw the ball. The Crimson Knights have attempted just 39 passes in four games, so they’re clearly a run-first team, but compared to RBC and what has become essentially a run-only offense, Wall has more options. I’m sure Edgerly has something in the game plan to account for this, so we’ll see how it all plays out in a pivotal Class B North game.
B South showdown
Undefeated Lakewood and 3-1 Lacey tangle on Saturday afternoon in a key Class B South matchup.
The Piners shared the division title with Point Boro last season and remain on a path to claim another division championship with a 3-0 start. Lakewood has been dominant in its three wins, averaging 34.3 points per game and allowing just 4.7 points, including two shutouts. Junior quarterback Zyhier Jones has been a one-man wrecking crew with 489 yards passing, 167 yards rushing and 12 total touchdowns. His top targets have been 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior Adi Palmer and Jones’ twin brother, Jyhier. Palmer has nine catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns while Jyhier Jones has seven catches for 165 yard and four touchdowns. In the running game, Honore Richardson and Kyrie Jenkins are both averaging close to eight yard per carry with one touchdown each.
It’s much of the same players doing the work on the defensive side for a team that has allowed just 14 points all season. A star along the defensive line is junior Josh Lezin, who already has six sacks and two forced fumbles. A third-team SSN All-Shore selection last year, Lezin commands a double-team at least and still finds a way to make plays.
Lacey has a division loss to Point Boro already, so the Lions need a win over the Piners to get back into the division race. Their offense has been very balances so far with junior quarterback Coleton Klaus completing 61 percent of his passes for 459 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Jason Giresi handles the load out of the backfield with 333 yards and three touchdowns on 80 carries. Lacey’s game-breaking threat is senior wide receiver Chase Stephensen, who has 20 receptions for 245 yards and one touchdown.
Lacey’s defense is allowing just nine points per game with two shutouts, and is coming off a 34-0 shutout of Jackson Liberty. Sophomore linebacker Greg Chadwick leads the team in tackles with 25 and also has a sack, while senior defensive lineman Zach Larney has a pair of sacks.
For Lacey’s defense it’s all about stopping Zyhier Jones. If the Lions can do that and use their balanced offense to take what Lakewood gives them, they will win. If Jones imposes his will and continues to do what he’s done over the first three game this season, the Piners will be 4-0 come Saturday afternoon.
Mater Dei can put a stranglehold on Class B Central
Mater Dei Prep has never won a Shore Conference division title, but a win this Saturday afternoon would be another major step toward a historic championship. To do so, the Seraphs will need to take down three-time defending division champ and two-time defending Central Jersey Group I champion Shore Regional.
The Seraphs are a perfect 4-0 under first-year head coach Dino Mangiero, thanks in large part to an offense that is averaging 37.3 points per game. Junior quarterback George Pearson has made a major impact with multiple touchdowns in each game. With senior wide receiver Eddie Lewis, an FBS recruit, plus receivers Justin George and Kyle Devaney, running back Marvin Pierre and tight end Russell Ferrisi, the Mater Dei offense has been unstoppable. The Seraphs’ defense has also been outstanding in allowing just seven points per game with one shutout.
Since a stunning 14-7 loss to Asbury Park in Week 1, Shore has responded with three straight wins. The Blue Devils lost a ton of playmakers on both sides of the ball off last season’s 12-0 team, but it appears they are starting to find their groove. Senior quarterback Matt Pennell has steered the ship offensively with eight of the team’s 14 touchdowns (six rushing, two passing). Senior Mark Russo leads a balanced ground attack in Shore’s Delaware Wing-T offense with seniors Lukas Jackey and Josh Campi also getting plenty of carries. Shore’s defense is allowing 12.3 points per game with one shutout.
This game comes down Shore being able to slow down Mater Dei’s offense and using it’s running game to keep Pierson and company on the sidelines. No team has been able to do that so far this year, but if any team can come up with that game plan and execute it, it’s Shore.
The rest of Week 5.
All games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Neptune at Howell, 6:30 p.m.: The Rebels and their high-octane offense will try to bounce back after two straight losses when they host the Scarlet Fliers (1-2).
Perth Amboy at No. 8 Freehold Township, 6:30 p.m.: Freehold Township (4-0) looks for its best start in program history when it hosts the winless Panthers.
Colts Neck at No. 3 Manalapan: The Braves’ defense hasn’t allowed a point in three straight games and welcomes a Cougars team coming off its first win.
Freehold at Monroe: Someone will get their first win of the season as the winless Colonials and Falcons do battle.
No. 4 St. John Vianney at Holmdel: The Lancers’ powerful running game and tenacious defense are heavy favorites against the winless Hornets.
No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven at Matawan: The Huskies will host a Bulldogs team sure to be a bit angry after last week’s one-point loss to No. 1 Middletown South.
Monmouth at Raritan: After facing three top-10 teams over the first three weeks, the Rockets got their first win last week and look to build some momentum at home against the Falcons.
Toms River South at No. 9 Brick: The Dragons will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the Indians.
Brick Memorial at Central: Brick Memorial is 0-4 while Central is coming off a bye week at 3-1 and unbeaten in Class A South.
Southern at Jackson Memorial: This is huge game for both teams. Either Southern continues its climb back to .500 after an 0-3 start or Jackson starts to go on a run and pick up steam.
Toms River East at No. 2 Toms River North: The Mariners are averaging 50.3 points per game and the Raiders just scored their first touchdown of the season last week.
Long Branch at No. 1 Middletown South: The Eagles will try to run their winning streak to 17 games against the Green Wave and standout running back Keith Cooper.
No. 10 Middletown North at New Brunswick: The Lions will be favored against the 1-3 Zebras, who just picked up their first win last week but have played a very tough schedule so far.
Keansburg at Point Beach: Garnet Gulls quarterback Luke Frauenheim is coming off a five-touchdown performance against Middlesex and looks to get Point Beach over .500.
Jackson Liberty at Barnegat: The Bengals host the winless Lions where they will try to get to 3-2 on the season.
Donovan Catholic at Pinelands: The Wildcats picked up their first win of the season by beating Keansburg last week, and will try to make it two in a row when facing the winless Griffins.
Point Boro at Manchester: The Panthers’ ground game is coming off a 400-yard performance against Monmouth Regional and invades Manchester in a Class B South game.
East Brunswick at Marlboro, 1 p.m.: The Mustangs will to to ride the Shore’s leading rusher, Cameron Caorsi, in a difficult home game against the Bears.
Middlesex at Keyport, noon: The Red Raiders are the heavy favorite at home against the 0-4 Blue Jays.
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.