Everything had been going smoothly for Barnegat High School’s football program.
The Bengals (5-0) are off to their best start in their eight-season history. They are in sole possession of first place in Shore Conference Class B South as they look to win the outright divisional championship for the second time in the last three seasons. They are three wins away from setting a school-record for wins in a season.
Barnegat, along with Manasquan, appear to be the favorites in the NJSIAA South Group III playoffs — a bracket that could be ripe for a Shore Conference team to win. Barnegat has never won a sectional championship.
However, the Bengals will have to accomplish those things without one of the Shore’s best running backs. Senior running back A.J. Opre will be sidelined the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, Bengals’ coach Rob Davis said on Wednesday.
Opre sustained the injury during the third quarter of Barnegat’s 23-7 win over Central last Friday night, Davis said.
Barnegat’s all-time leading rusher with 1,621 yards, Opre had 682 yards and 11 TDs this season.
Davis said it will be a running back-by-committee approach to fill Opre’s spot — led by juniors Tyler McGuiness, Manny Bowen and Ken Bass and sophomore Paul Wickwire. Those four have combined for 24 carries and 156 yards.
McGuiness, who is also Barnegat’s middle linebacker, will likely not be able to play running back Friday night against Point Boro because of a bruised shoulder, Davis said. McGuiness will play middle linebacker against Point Boro.
Bowen, a talented two-way player and transfer from Central, has been playing receiver.
“We’re pretty deep. Now we’ll see how deep we are,” Davis said.
Barnegat’s mammoth offensive line led by 6-foot-7, 340-pound junior NCAA Division I recruit Sam Madden and 6-foot-2, 308-pound senior Zach Andrews, is one of the Shore’s best.
On the surface, the Brick at Toms River North game on Saturday afternoon does not not jump out.
Brick is 4-2 overall, 3-1 in Class A South and part of a three-way tie for first place in the division with Lacey (5-1, 3-1) and Jackson Memorial (3-2, 3-1). Toms River North (0-5, 0-4) is 0-5 for the first time since 1983.
However, the records of the two teams is not the story. The game will be the first game back at Toms River North’s Gernerd Field for Brick junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani and Brick offensive coordinator Chip LaBarca Jr. since they both left the Toms River North program in the off-season.
Sclafani was Toms River North’s quarterback last season when he helped Toms River North go 6-4 and qualify for the NJSIAA South Group V playoffs. He transferred to Brick over the summer
LaBarca Jr, who is Sclafani’s uncle, was Toms River North’s head coach the previous seven seasons.
In late March, the Toms River Regional Schools adminstration announced LaBarca Jr. would not return as the Mariners’ head coach because it was no longer allowing school administrators to coach. LaBarca Jr. is an assistant principal in the district.
Toms River North went 50-22 under LaBarca Jr. with a 12-0 NJSIAA South Group IV championship season in 2007, four playoff appearances and Shore Conference Class American Division championships in 2007 and 2008.
This and that
Less than a week after Southern senior receiver Mike Gesicki made a non-binding oral commitment to Penn State, the Nittany Lions picked up another commitment from a major New Jersey player as Hunterdon Central linebacker-running back Jason Cabinda committed to Penn State on Wednesday. Cabinda had committed to Syracuse in July. He visited Penn State on Oct. 12 for the Nittany Lions’ dramatic 43-40, four-overtime win over Michigan. Cabinda is currently sidelined after undergoing an appendectomy this past Sunday. … Point Boro is 0-6 for the first time since 2002. It then won its final four games. … Freehold is 0-5 for the first time since 2005. It then defeated Red Bank and wound up 3-7. … Neptune (2-4) has a losing record after six games for the first time since 2005, when it wound up 3-7. … A score that raised eyebrows around the state last Friday was Lawrence’s 82-41 win over Hightstown (1-5). According to The Times of Trenton, the two teams combined for 1,011 yards of total offense, 602 by Lawrence, which is 6-0 and currently atop the Central Group III power ratings. There were 40 plays in the game of 20 yards or more, 30 by Lawrence. The Cardinals 12 TDs averaged 48 yards. Lawrence returned both a punt and a kickoff for TDs and two other long returns set up Cardinals’ TDs. Both Lawrence coach Rob Radice and Hightstown coach Pete Brescia told The Times there was no attempt to run up the score. The halftime score was 46-20 and the score after three quarters was 74-33.