2013 was a year of resurgence in Jersey Shore football

2013 was a year of resurgence in Jersey Shore football

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2013 was a year of resurgence in Jersey Shore football

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The Shore Conference showed great improvement this season over a year ago.

After being blanked when it came to NJSIAA sectional championships in 2012 — the first time the Shore had been blanked since 1985 — three Shore Conference teams won sectional championships this season.

All three of those sectional championships were unique stories in their own way.

Point Pleasant Beach’s Central Group I championship game win over Shore Regional was its first sectional championship. It also was another heart-warming story for a community that was one of the epicenters of superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012.

Brick’s come-from-behind win over Colts Neck in the Central Group IV championship game was its first sectional championship since 1994 and signaled a return of the storied program to the Shore’s elite.

Rumson-Fair Haven’s win over Weequahic in the Central Group II championship game capped an outstanding season for the Bulldogs in head coach Bryan Batchler’s first season. Batchler succeeded Shane Fallon, who had resigned last January after 15 successful seasons as the head coach at his scholastic alma mater.

Even those teams who lost in sectional championship games were fascinating stories.

Colts Neck and Barnegat were in sectional championship games for the first time. Manalapan was in a sectional final for the third straight. Even though the Braves have yet to win that elusive first sectional championship, they have been the Shore Conference’s best public school program the last four seasons. Shore has been the Shore’s most consistent Group I program the last four seasons as it has been in the Central Group I championship three times during that span.

It was a season that saw some of the Shore’s most storied programs return to prominence.

Brick — boosted tremendously by the transfer of junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani from Toms River North over the summer and the addition of his uncle and former Toms River North head coach Chip LaBarca Jr. as offensive coordinator — played like a vintage Brick team from the days when the legendary Warren Wolf was its first head coach from 1958-2008.

Toms River South — in its third season under head coach Ron Signorino Jr., the son of former legendary Indians’ head coach Ron Signorino Sr. — had its best season in a decade and brought back the fevered atmosphere in its fabled Detwiler Stadium. The Indians had their first winning season since 2003 and had their most wins since 2002.

Jackson Memorial, which was one of the dominant programs in the Shore from 2000-2005, had a team that reminded some of those days as it won its first divisional title in eight seasons.

Ocean, which had gone just 12-17-1 the last three seasons, had its best season record-wise in 13 seasons and won its first divisional championship in seven seasons.

Another feel-good story was the continued development of the Lakewood program. The Piners recorded consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2000 and 2001 and qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time. Lakewood also recorded its first playoff win since 1986, when it won two playoff games and the South Group III championship.

Mater Dei was also another positive story. The Seraphs, who have been one of the Shore’s struggling programs, had their first winning season since 1999 and won a playoff game for the first time since that same season.

Middletown North is another of the Shore’s most storied programs. It has not had a winning season since 2000, but it showed signs of life late in the season in head coach Steve Bush’s first season at the school. The Lions qualified for the Central Group IV playoffs — thanks to the NJSIAA’s controversial decision of 2012 to allow teams with losing records into the playoffs to ensure eight-team brackets. Middletown North gave Hamilton North — last year’s Central Group III champion — all it could handle in a 35-33 loss.

Both Red Bank Catholic and Manalapan continued their dominance over Shore Conference opposition. The two teams, who finished 1-2 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 for the second straight season, extended their winning streaks over Shore Conference opposition to 33 and 25 respectively.

There were no unbeaten teams in the Shore for the third straight season, but there were also no winless teams for the first time since 2003.

Individually, there were some spectacular performances. headed by Rumson-Fair Haven junior running back Charlie Volker. He raced for more than 2,100 yards and became the Shore’s fourth running back since 2010 to run for more tha 2,000 yards.

Also, Matawan senior placekicker Mike Creamer had a spectacular season with 14 field goals, including two that gave the Huskies’ wins.

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