Chris Noesges does not want to be known as a linebacker who is just a run-stopper.
“I’m both,” said Noesges, a senior inside linebacker at Manalapan High School, when asked if he would rather be known as a run-stopper or a pass defender. “I had a pick in the state championship game (against Hunterdon Central).
“Run stopper — that’s the football I love. I love playing against running teams. It gives me the chance to get dirty and make a lot of tackles.”
Noesges has done a lot of everything — including winning — during his outstanding career. This season, he was in on 130 tackles, 75 of which were solo. He was in on 48 tackles in Manalapan’s three playoff games, culiminating with an 18-tackle performance in the Braves’ 21-0 loss to Hunterdon Central.
He was the heart and soul of a Manalapan defense that allowed just nine points a game and did not allow more than two touchdowns in any game. The Braves went 11-1 for the second consecutive season.
“I am kind of the glue that holds us all together,” Noesges said.
Manalapan’s 3-4 defensive alignment — which features a tough-to-block nose tackle in senior R.J. Krause and an outstanding linebacking corps that consists of Noesges, fellow inside backer Matt McCann and outside backers Joe Mendez and Will Meany — is made to order for a hard-nosed player like Noesges.
The defensive linemen get penetration and tie up blockers and Noesges and his fellow linebackers are waiting to plug up any gaps and stop ball-carriers in their tracks before they get started.
“Our defense has a lot of speed. We’re smart and we’re tough,” Noesges said. “I make sure that everybody knows their job. I’m the mental leader on the defense.
“The big part of my game is I study a lot of film. I know what plays they’re going to run and what plays they’re not going to run in certain situations.”
The Manalapan defense was perhaps at its best in the last two playoff games.
It held a Sayreville team that was laden with speed and had averaged 41.6 points a game in its previous seven games to seven points and 117 yards of total offense in a 34-7 Braves’ win. That win was especially sweet for Manalapan because Sayreville had defeated it in the 2010 Central IV semifinals and the 2011 Central IV championship game.
Then, against Hunterdon Central, Manalapan held the Red Devils to just two field goals for three-plus quarters. However, on a night where the Braves’ offense could only muster 75 yards for the game on the frozen High Point Solutions Stadium FieldTurf, the defense finally got weary. Hunterdon Central scored twice in a span of 4:25 in the final 8:20.
Hunterdon Central had a standout running back in Penn State linebacker recruit Jason Cabinda. He powered his way for 182 yards on 35 carries, which included a 39-yard run for the final TD. But, many of his runs early in the game were for 3 yards or less. Noesges got several good hits in on Cabinda.
“My goal was to him as hard as I could and drive him backwards,” Noesges said. “I wanted to let him know I was there and that it was not going to be an easy night. He’s a great running back and a great player. It was fun getting my shots against him.”
Noesges and his fellow seniors were the group that helped take the Manalapan program, which had for the most part been a solid one, into the elite group in the Shore. The Braves went 32-4 over the last three seasons and advanced to an NJSIAA sectional championship game in each season.
The only thing missing from the resume of the Manalapan seniors is the program’s elusive first sectional championship.
“It’s been a great journey,” Noesges said. “We have a very proud tradition at Manalapan now. We’ve set a legacy that Manalapan is a great team in the Shore and a great team in the state. I loved being a part of it.”