What to Watch For: Week 6 Football Preview
When the 2017 Shore Conference football schedule was released Week 6 stood out as a weekend where some of the top teams would meet and division titles would be decided.
Well, here we are on the weekend of Oct. 13 and 14 with three massive divisional clashes set to go down featuring six undefeated teams all ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. It all starts Friday night when No. 5 Howell meets No. 1 Manalapan in a game that will likely decide the Class A North division title. The focus shifts to High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday when Rutgers University hosts a trio of high school football games, including a huge Class A Central game between No. 2 St. John Vianney and No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven, along with a Class B North battle between No. 3 Red Bank Catholic and No. 7 Long Branch.
There is also another important Class B North game on Friday night when Wall heads up Route 35 to take on No. 10 Middletown North. Class B South has a pair of interesting games with No. 8 Point Boro taking on a dangerous Lakewood team and Barnegat trying to state undefeated in the division when it faces Lacey.
Let’s break down some of the action in Week 6.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: WEEK 6
No. 5 Howell at No. 1 Manalapan, Friday at 7 p.m.
Two of the Shore Conference’s top offenses will collide in a game where the winner will probably take home the Class A North division title.
Manalapan comes in averaging 42 points a game, led by a powerful running game that features senior running back Naim Mayfield. In five games this season, Mayfield has rushed for 1,135 yards and 19 touchdowns on an average of 14.9 yards per carry. He’s averaging 227 yards a game with four 200-yard games so far, and he has scored at least three touchdowns in every game. Behind a very good offensive line and punishing senior fullback Chris Maksimik, Mayfield leads all of New Jersey in rushing yards through five weeks.
The Braves’ running game is the focal point, but they can beat you through the air, as well, with senior quarterback Luke Corcione and wide receivers Scott Scherzer and Symir Blacknall. Corcione has thrown for 60 yards and four touchdowns, while Blacknall leads in receiving with 10 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown.
Manalapan’s defense is also near the top of the Shore Conference, allowing just 8.4 points per game. The Braves have two of the Shore’s best linebackers in senior Sal Tardogno and junior Tommy Pearce, and also have standout defensive linemen Antonio Deieso and Da-shon Taylor.
Howell’s offense enters averaging a shade above 38 points per game and is led by senior quarterback Eddie Morales, senior wide receivers Naseim Brantley and Ryan Mazik, and senior running back Nick Chambers. Morales has thrown for 834 yards and 12 touchdowns and also rushed for 295 yards and three touchdown. Brantley has 22 receptions for 377 yards and eight scores, while Mazik has 10 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown. Chambers has 423 yards and five touchdowns on an average of 9.4 yards per carry.
Mazik and Brantley are also standout defensive backs with four and two interceptions, respectively. Senior linebacker Braedon Baldwin is the leading tackler with 39 and Wendell Wright has a team-high four sacks.
This game will come down to whether Howell can at least slow down Mayfield and force Manalapan into obvious passing situations. Howell’s defense has give up yards and points to its two best opponents so far, Freehold and Middletown North, so the Rebels will have to step up their game against the Braves. Creating turnovers will also be a huge factor. Howell allowed 624 yards to Freehold quarterback Ashante Worthy, but turned him over five times in a 55-35 win. If Mayfield does his usual thing Howell is going to have to bring extra defenders into the box, making them susceptible to the play-action pass.
No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven vs. No. 2 St. John Vianney, 4 p.m. Saturday at Rutgers
The meeting between Rumson and St. John Vianney has decided the Class A Central division title in each of the last three seasons, and that figures to be the case again this year.
St. John Vianney enters Saturday afternoon’s contest with a 34-game Shore Conference winning streak, which includes three straight wins over Rumson and three straight A Central championships. The Lancers have been dominant on both sides of the ball in their 5-0 start, averaging 47 points per game while allowing a scant 4.8 points per game.
Senior quarterback Haaziq Daniels has been a dynamic player so far with 568 yards passing and 10 touchdowns, plus 277 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Senior Johnny Buchanan leads the running game with 467 yards and eight touchdowns on an average of 12.6 yards per attempt, and he is one of five players, including Daniels, that receive regular carries. Senior wide receiver Zyaire Sterling has 262 yards and three touchdowns, senior Josiah Walker has 196 yards and three scores on 26 carries and senior wide receiver Sam East has 19 carries.
Sterling and East have four and three receiving touchdowns, respectively, while senior A.J. Calabro and junior Nick DeGennaro also have receiving touchdowns.
Buchanan leads the SJV defense with 54 tackles while Walker has 42 stops and 10 tackles for a loss. Senior Nick Densieski has a team-high four of the Lancers’ 20 sacks.
Rumson’s offense has been driven by senior running back Peter Lucas, who has rushed for 810 yards and 12 touchdowns on an average of 10.8 yards per carry in four games. The primary target for senior quarterback Dan Harby (390 yards, 4 TDs) has been junior tight end Ian O’Connor (10 rec. for 129 yards and 4 TDs). The Bulldogs’ offense is pretty simple: give it to Lucas and work play-action. With Lucas averaging over 200 yards per game, it’s worked to perfection so far.
Rumson’s defense is also among the best in the Shore, allowing 9.3 point per game. The Bulldogs enter the game with SJV coming off consecutive shutouts of Middletown South and Matawan. Junior linebacker Keegan Woods leads the team with 38 tackles while linebackers Mike Lizotte and Christian Lanzalotto have 28 and 27 stops, respectively. The return of senior Elijah McAllister at defensive end has had a large impact, as the 6-foot-7 FBS recruit has three sacks and multiple hits for a loss.
St. John Vianney is the more talented team, so Rumson is going to have to be able to run the ball consistently to both put points on the board and keep the Lancers’ offense off the field and also. If St. John Vianney can stop Lucas and force Harby to the air more than his usual 10 attempts per game, Rumson will be in trouble. If the Rumson offensive line and Lucas can have a big day, Rumson can pull the upset. If not, the Lancers will be leaving Piscataway with their 35th straight conference victory.
No. 7 Long Branch vs. No. 3 Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m. Saturday at Rutgers
The final game of the weekend pits the last two undefeated teams in Class B North as Long Branch and Red Bank Catholic meet in yet another game that will go along way toward deciding the division title.
Red Bank Catholic has re-emerged as a juggernaut with a 5-0 record and an offense that leads the Shore Conference at 49.6 points per game. There are standouts all over the field on the Caseys’ offense, but it has been the play of senior running back Zack Bair behind a powerful offensive line that has been the story. Bair’s numbers are ridiculous through five games: 806 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 44 carries. That’s an average of 18.3 yards per carry. He has been a big-play specialist with multiple touchdown runs over 50 yards, including scoring runs of 85 and 86 yards against Wall last week. If he is having that type of game this week, Long Branch has no chance.
Red Bank Catholic has more to offer on offense with junior quarterback Steve Lubischer throwing for 796 yards and 10 touchdowns on 72 percent passing, while also rushing for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receivers Brandon Lombana (14 rec. 267 yards, 2 TDs) and Jaden Key (10 rec. 257 yards, 4 TDs), plus 6-foot-6 sophomore tight end Kevin Bauman (7-131-2) are his top targets.
RBC’s defense hasn’t been a shutdown unit, but has been solid in allowing 16.4 points per game.
Long Branch is off to a 4-0 start a year after going 2-8, and has done so by being solid on both sides of the ball. The Green Wave defense is balanced with senior quarterback Juwan Wilkins having thrown for 560 yards and six touchdowns and sophomore running back Jermaine Corbett adding 543 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Long Branch has a deep receiving corps with T.J. Fosque, Pasa Fields, Matt Clark and tight end Kaymar Mimes.
The Green Wave are allowing just 11.5 points per game and are coming off a 21-0 shutout of Middletown South. Luke Arnold has a team-best 40 tackles while Mimes, a Rutgers recruit, has 3.5 sacks.
Long Branch has a talented offense, but that won’t matter if the Green Wave can’t find a way to slow down Red Bank Catholic’s offense. Middletown North put up 41 points against RBC, but still lost by 19. If Long Branch can do what no team has so far this season, we’ll have a game on our hands. If not, RBC will be on its way to another blowout victory and move one step closer to a division title.
THE REST OF WEEK 6
Monmouth at Red Bank, 7 p.m.
Matawan at Raritan, 7 p.m.
Toms River East at No. 9 Brick Memorial, 7 p.m.
Toms River South at Central, 7 p.m.
Jackson Memorial at Toms River North, 7 p.m.
Southern at Brick, 7 p.m.
Wall at No. 10 Middletown North, 7 p.m.
Manasquan at Ocean, 7 p.m.
Jackson Liberty at Freehold Township, 6:30 p.m.
Holmdel at Manchester, 7 p.m.
Middlesex at Shore, 7 p.m.
Spotswood at Point Beach, 7 p.m.
Keyport at Dunellen, 7 p.m.
Freehold at Colts Neck, noon
Neptune at Marlboro, 1 p.m.
Asbury Park at No. 4 Mater Dei Prep, 1 p.m.
Barnegat at Lacey, 1 p.m.
No. 8 Point Boro at Lakewood, 1 p.m.
Keansburg at Sussex Tech, 1 p.m.
Donovan Catholic at St. Joseph (Metuchen), 2 p.m.
Managing 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.