What to Watch For: Week Three Football Preview
Don’t look know, but after this week’s games most teams will be about 40 percent of the way through their seven games that count toward playoff seeding. At the same time, there’s still a long way to go before anything is decided, but through two weeks some questions are being answered.
The most notable win during Week Two was Brick dominating Jackson Memorial, 29-6, to jump to No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and earn a crucial divisional victory. Also earning a big win was Red Bank Catholic, which put together a 300-plus yard rushing effort and beat Middletown North, 30-27, on a last-minute field goal by sophomore Ryan O’Hara.
Keyport improved to 2-0 with a 14-7 win over Asbury Park, Point Beach went on the road and beat Non-Public Group III program Bishop Ahr, while both Howell and Freehold Township moved to 2-0.
Week Three features more critical division games, and will once again be headlined by a Class A South matchup. On Saturday night No. 2 Toms River North will host No. 5 Brick in a game that will go a long way toward determining the eventual division champion. Class B North has a pair of big games with Ocean visiting No. 8 Red Bank Catholic and a 2-0 Manasquan team taking its shot at top-ranked Middletown South. In B Central, Asbury Park faces Point Beach and Keyport and Mater Dei Prep square off with first place on the line.
Middletown North hosting Howell is the top nondivisional game of the week, while No. 3 Manalapan will go on the road to meet Old Bridge, which has emerged as a state title favorite with its early-season wins.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top matchups for Week Three.
Game of the Week
No. 5 Brick at No. 2 Toms River North, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Both the Mariners and Dragons enter the game 2-0, but it’s Brick’s start that has caught the attention of everyone around the Shore Conference. Toms River North began the season ranked second and has held up its end with blowout wins over Southern and Brick Memorial. Brick, meanwhile, has a brutal first four games, but has successfully navigated the first two with a 28-14 win over Brick Memorial and last week’s 29-6 win over Jackson Memorial.
Brick has been impressive in all three phases of the game over the first two weeks. The Dragons’ defense has been stout and opportunistic, and has risen to the occasion in big moments. During the win over Brick Memorial, Brick’s defense had two defensive touchdowns and against Jackson the unit came up with three stops on fourth downs. The offense has been very efficient with senior quarterback Anthony Costanza turning in a pair of very good games. Then there’s Ja’Sir Taylor, who is one of the top playmakers in the Shore and has been as good as advertised this season. The Dragons’ special teams got into the act when junior Josh Garrett blocked two punts against Jackson. Brick has hit all the right notes so far.
Brick has fared very well this season against teams that primarily run the ball, but on Saturday will face a completely different challenge against Toms River North’s dynamic offense. Mariners senior quarterback Mike Husni is a four-year starter and one of the Shore’s best quarterbacks, and all he’s done so far this season is account for over 800 total yards and 10 touchdowns in two games. He has senior running back Parker Day in the backfield with him and a pair of Division I receivers in seniors Darrion Carrington and Rutgers recruit Bryce Watts.
It will be very interesting to see how Brick’s defense matches up with Toms River North. The Mariners have so many playmakers and the ability to spread teams out. Brick’s defense is rugged and physical, but can it neutralize the Mariners’ offense, and if so, how? Brick’s offense has run the ball very well and made plays in the passing game when it has needed to, but can the Dragons keep up with Toms River North if the game turns into a track meet?
On the surface it’s going to be a tall order for Brick, but it would be foolish to count the Dragons out. What they’ve done over the first two weeks is noteworthy, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. At the same time, Toms River North’s offense is downright scary, and if it’s hitting on all cylinders there may not be a team in the Shore Conference that can slow it down.
Rebels roll into the Lions’ den
Unbeaten Howell travels to Middletown North (1-1) on Friday night in a very good nondivisional game where the Rebels will look to continue their hot start.
Howell’s offense is averaging 38 points per game behind junior quarterback Eddie Morales, who has thrown for 499 yards and five touchdowns through two games. Junior wide out Naz Brantley has emerged as his top target and has 204 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Mazik has also been a go-to receiver with eight catches for 147 yards.
Middletown North, meanwhile, is averaging 30.5 points per game with senior quarterback Donald Glenn leading the way. Glenn, a four-year starter, has thrown for 412 yards and four touchdowns so far. Senior wide receiver Brendan Kube led the Shore in receptions and yards last season, and already has 11 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Connor Welsh was injured in Week Two and did not return to the game, but the Lions were able to plug in senior Dwight Wilkerson, and he ran for 100 yards on 16 carries.
I could seen this game going back and forth with both teams putting up points. A win by Howell to move it to 3-0 would be huge, while Middletown North wants to avoid a 1-2 start with plenty of tough Class B North games still on their schedule.
Ocean looks to snap losing streak against Red Bank Catholic
Ocean and Red Bank Catholic enter Friday night’s game at Count Basie Field from two different perspectives.
Since a 42-7 win over Monmouth Regional in Week Zero, Ocean has dropped two straight with losses to No. 7 Wall and No. 1 Middletown South. Red Bank Catholic, meanwhile, knocked off Middletown North last week and is looking to keep the momentum going.
With senior quarterback Kenny Pickett, a Pitt recruit, the Spartans can compete with everyone on their schedule, and were neck-and-neck with Middletown South last week before the Eagles pulled away in the second half. Ocean really needs its running game to get going, as Pickett is the leading rusher so far, and that’s not by design. The Spartans’ defense also needs to step up its game after allowing 71 points in its last two games.
Going up against a struggling defense is good news for a Red Bank Catholic team that could be finding its groove. Junior running back Zach Bair ran for 155 yards and two touchdowns last week to lead a very good ground attack, and quarterback Tommy Lang tossed two touchdown passes. The Caseys’ defense has allowed 38 points per game over the first two weeks, although 49 came against Middletown South in Week One. RBC faced a prolific passing attack last week against Middletown North, so that experience should serve them well against Pickett and company.
Keyport tries to seize the Dei
Keyport hosts Mater Dei Prep on Saturday in a battle of 2-0 teams in Class B Central. The Red Raiders are coming off a 14-7 win over Asbury Park for their first 2-0 start since 2009. Mater Dei Prep has outscored its opponents 77-6 over the first two weeks and certainly looks like a juggernaut in the making.
Keyport’s strength is up front where its physical offensive line has set the tone for a running game spearheaded by sophomore Devin Wallner. The Red Raiders’ defense has allowed just 14 points in two games, as well. Mater Dei’s explosive offense features junior George Pearson at quarterback, senior Eddie Lewis, an FBS recruit, at wide receiver, as well as Marvin Pierre and Justice George.
The winner of this game takes over sole possession of first place in the division. If Mater Dei does to Keyport what it did to its first two opponents, it would be hard to imagine any other team in the division beating them.
Middletown South and Manasquan meet in battle of 2-0 teams
Top-ranked Middletown South is certainly the heavy favorite against Manasquan, but the Warriors enter feeling pretty good about themselves after wins over Long Branch and Woodbridge to start the season.
I’m interested to see if Manasquan can make a game of it, or will the Eagles run away from the start. If Manasquan can hang tough it bodes well for the Warriors going forward. One interesting nugget is Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci will be coaching against his son Tommy, a Manasquan junior who starts on defense and is also the backup quarterback.
The Rest of Week Three
Marlboro (1-1) at No. 10 Freehold Township (2-0), 6:30 p.m.: Quarterback Charles Sabbagh leads the Patriots’ “Air Raid” offense that will look for the program’s first 3-0 start in over a decade. The Mustangs counter with running back Cameron Caorsi, who ran for 306 yards last week.
Freehold (0-2) at Neptune (0-1), 7 p.m.: The Scarlet Fliers are coming in off a bye as both they and the Colonials are looking for their first win.
Colts Neck (0-2) at Long Branch (0-1), 7 p.m.: Colts Neck looks for its first win of the season while Long Branch does the same after a bye in Week Two.
No. 3 Manalapan (2-0) at Old Bridge (2-0), 7 p.m.: The Braves head to Middlesex County for a potential playoff preview against the Knights, who feature FBS recruit Artur Sitkowski at quarterback.
Holmdel (0-2) at No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven (1-0), 7 p.m.: The Bulldogs come in off a Week Two bye against the struggling Hornets.
Raritan (0-2) at No. 7 Wall (2-0), 7 p.m.: Raritan will try to gets its first win of the season, but will have to contend with a Wall team that is playing lights out to start the year.
Red Bank (1-1) at No. 4 St. John Vianney (2-0), 7 p.m.: The Lancers running game has been unstoppable so far and will look to keep it going against the Bucs.
Brick Memorial (0-2) at Toms River South (1-1), 7 p.m.: Brick Memorial desperately needs a win here to avoid an 0-3 start. Toms River South’s defense has played well over the first two week and is coming off a shutout over Toms River East.
Central (2-1) at No. 9 Jackson Memorial (1-1), 7 p.m.: Expect an angry Jaguars team after a loss to Brick last week. Central is still reeling from being disqualified from the playoffs and lost 41-6 to Wall last week.
Point Beach (1-1) at Asbury Park (1-1), 6 p.m.: A pivotal Class B Central game where the Garnet Gulls and Blue Bishops will try to avoid falling two games behind the division leader.
Point Boro (2-0) at Donovan Catholic (0-2), 6:30 p.m.: The Panthers’ offense has looked excellent with junior quarterback James Fara at the helm. The Griffins are still looking for their first win under head coach Tom Tarver.
Manchester (1-1) at Barnegat (1-1), 7 p.m.: The Hawks are coming in off a win over Jackson Liberty where running back Jalen Glenn ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns. The Bengals fell to Shore last week, but have shown some good things over the first two weeks.
Lakewood (2-0) at Jackson Liberty (0-2), 7 p.m.: The Piners have outscored their opponents 72-14 so far and will look to keep it going against the winless Lions.
Matawan (0-2) at Monmouth (2-1), 1 p.m.: Monmouth has won two in a row after a season-opening loss, while Matawan is looking to avoid an 0-3 start for the second straight year.
Toms River East (0-2) at Southern (0-3), 1 p.m.: The Raiders look to give head coach Kyle Sandberg his first career win and the Rams try to dig out from an 0-3 hole.
Shore (1-1) at Keansburg (0-2), 1 p.m.: Shore got back on track with a 42-28 win over Barnegat last week. Keansburg fell to 0-2 with a loss against Highland Park.
Pinelands (0-2) at Lacey (1-1), 1 p.m.: The Wildcats look for their first win and the Lions will try to rebound from a loss to Point Boro last week.
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.