Two key battles on tap in A South

Two key battles on tap in A South

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Two key battles on tap in A South

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It is the weekend that could either clarify the Shore Conference Class A South race or muddle it up.

“We’re excited we’re still playing in big games,” said Toms River North coach Chip LaBarca Jr. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to control some of our destiny.”

“There’s lots of possibilitues, but if we want to stay in the race, we have to win out,” said Southern coach Chuck Donohue Sr.

Toms River North (3-1, 2-1), ranked No. 9 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, and defending Class A South champion Southern (3-1, 2-1) are the teams who desperately need to win this weekend to stay in the divisional race.

Both teams are hosting teams who are tied for first place in the division. Toms River North plays No. 2 Brick Memorial (5-0, 3-0) tonight at Gernerd Field. Southern meets No. 8 Lacey (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday at Goldberger Memorial Field.

Toms River North has already played both Lacey and Southern. The Mariners split those two games.

If Brick Memorial and Lacey both win, they will be two games clear at the top and be one step closer to a winner take-all-showdown on Nov. 2 at Brick Memorial.

If Toms River North and Southern win, it will be a four-way tie for first with Southern playing at Brick Memorial next week, in addition to the Lacey at Brick Memorial game.

Either Brick Memorial and Lacey could move into sole possession of first place, if one of them wins and the other loses.

“It’s a seven-game league, not a five-game league, like it used to be,” Donohue Sr. said.

Class A South was six-team division the last two seasons. It expanded to eight teams this year with the Shore Conference’s bi-annual realignment.

Other key games this weekend have Point Beach (5-0, 2-0), which entered the APP Top 10 this week for the first time in many years, hosting resurgent Keansburg (4-1, 1-0) tonight in Class B Central; Jackson Liberty (3-1, 2-1) hosting Lakewood (3-1, 2-1) tonight in Class B South; Colts Neck (4-0) at St. John Vianney (2-2) tonight in a nondivisional game and Barnegat (2-2, 2-1) at Central (2-2, 1-2) tonight in Class B South.

The Barnegat-Central game will be the first in a Barnegat uniform for sophomore quarterback Cinjun Erskine and sophomore offensive tackle Sam Madden. Both had to sit out the first 30 days of the season under NJSIAA transfer rules after they both transferred from Holy Spirit after last season. At halftime of that game, Central will induct its legendary 9-0 1971 team, coached by the late Joe Boyd, into its Hall of Fame.

The Colts Neck-St. John Vianney game is the Asbury Park Press Game of the Week with video highlights available on APP.com late tonight. The Barnegat at Central game will be broadcast live on 105.7 FM tonight beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45.

Brick Memorial made true believers in its abilities out of lot of people in the Shore with its 40-28 win over then No. 2 Neptune last week.

One would think coming off such an emotional win, this would be a trap game for the Mustangs.

However, the divisional ramifications probably make this a more important game for the Mustangs than last week’s was.

“We’ve got to continue to do what we’ve been doing,” said Brick Memorial coach Walt Currie. “We’ve gotten to this position for a reason. We can’t forget how we’ve gotten it here.

“I think they’re a really good football team,” LaBarca Jr. said. “Offensively, they are very explosive. They have a lot of guys who make plays and the quarterback (Senior Ryan Cieplinski) is experienced.”

Brick Memorial is averaging 39.4 points a game and has scored at least 34 points in every game. Last week, it scorched Neptune for 474 yards. Cieplinski accounted for five TDs (three passing and two running) and 351 yards of total offense (245 passing).

The Mustangs have been balanced on offense. Cieplkinski has thrown for 776 yards and 14 TDs and run for 369 yards and six TDs. Junior Mike Basile has scored 13 touchdowns, eight receiving, three rushing and two on interception returns. Junior running back Nick Costa has been able to get the tough yardage inside.

“When you play an option team, you’ve got to play disciplined, assignment football,” LaBarca Jr. said.

Toms River North’s offense can also cause defenses problems. Sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani has had an excellent season. He has thrown for 552 yards and five TDs and run for 338 yards and five TDs. Junior wide receiver/running back/kick returner Joey Fields has game-breaking ability and junior wide receiver Kyle Carrington has had a solid season.

“They have a good combination of size and speed, as far as the skill positions go,” Currie said. “They find a way to put their guys in the right place, whether it be “Bubble Screen”, “Jet Sweep” or zone read. Their wide receivers are good route runners. The diversity of their attack means they can beat you anywhere, up the middle or down the field.”

Southern and Lacey, two schools in the southern part of Ocean County that are about 10 miles apart are meeting each other for the first time since the 1980’s, according to Donohue Sr. The two schools had scrimmaged each other for years until this year, when Lacey was moved into Class A South.

“Playing Lacey is a good thing for our program and something that should be going on,” Donohue Sr. said.

The Rams will have to find a way to slow down the No. 1 scoring team in the Shore. Lacey is averaging 46.6 points and has scored at least 37 points in every game.

The Lions, with former Howell head coach Cory Davies serving as quarterbacks coach, have lined up a lot in the spread formation with four wide receivers.

Junior quarterback Tom Kelly has thrived in the offense. He has thrown for 779 yards and 10 TDs with just one interception. Senior running back Kyle Spatz leads the Shore in scoring with 84 points on 14 TDs and is averaging almost 11 yards a carry.

Senior Bill Belford and junior Chris Tutella have also been big-play threats. The Lions have also scored three TDs on fumble returns, two on interception returns and one on a kickoff return.

“They really stress your secondary because you’ve got to play in areas you are not used to playing in,” Donohue Sr. “They also have their tight, I-formation offfense. They give you a lot to prepare for.

Donohue Sr., said Southern is the “healthiest it has been all season.” He said senior quarterback Dan Higgins is 100 percent after being bothered by a shoulder injury since late in the preseason. Senior running back/cornerback Richie Weisz will play for the first time all season after being sidelined with a broken leg.

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