This has always been a week the fabled Brick Township and Toms River High School South football programs have circled on their calendars.
For Brick, It is known as “South Week.” For Toms River South, it is known as “Brick Week.”
“There was always extra energy. It was always tense,” said Rob Dahl, who is in his third season as Brick’s head coach and played at Brick for legendary former head coach Warren Wolf in the late 1980’s. “We were always very focused that week, but at the same time, felt nervous because it felt like the first round of the playoffs.”
“To me, our whole year, when I was kid, was based on whether we beat Brick or not. Christmas was always a little more fun. There were a few more presents under the tree,” said Ron Signorino Jr., who is in his third season as Toms River South’s head coach, and grew up watching his father, Ron Signorino Sr., serve as the highly-successful head coach at Toms River South and has been an assistant coach at both Toms River South and Brick.
The rivalry was perhaps the best in the Shore from 1964-78, when Wolf was the head coach at Brick and and the dynamic personality of Signorino Sr. were the team’s respective head coaches.
The rivalry was also pretty intense in the 1980’s and ’90’s, when Wolf was still the head coach at Brick and the highly-successful Chip LaBarca Sr. was the head coach at Toms River South.
However, in recent years, the rivalry waned. The two programs did not play some years, because they were in different divisions. Also, both programs were not the powers they once were.
But, now they both appear to be contenders for the Shore Conference Class A South championship.
“Brick and South playing each other in a meaningful game means the world to both programs,” Dahl said.
“I welcome it. I think it’s great for A South. I think it’s great for the Shore Conference that we’ve got some of the more storied programs playing good football and playing in some meaningful games. Certainly South-Brick is as good as you get,” Signorino Jr. said.
Tonight, at Brick’s famed Keller Memorial Field, Toms River South (2-0, 1-0), ranked No. 6 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, and Brick (1-1, 1-0) will meet in the most meaningful meeting between the two since 2003.
Other key games this weekend have Barnegat (2-0, 1-0), ranked No. 9 in the APP Top 10, at Monsignor Donovan (1-1, 1-0) in Class B South; Ocean (2-0, 1-0), ranked No. 7 in the APP Top 10, at Matawan (2-0, 1-0) tonight in Class B North; Jackson Memorial (1-0, 1-0) at Brick Memorial tonight in Class A South; Middletown South (1-0, 0-0), ranked No. 4 in the APP Top 10, at Howell (2-0, 1-0) tonight in Class A North and Neptune (1-1, 0-1), ranked No. 10 in the APP Top 10 at Long Branch (1-1, 0-0) in Class B North.
The Barnegat at Monsignor Donovan game is the Game of the Week on APP.com with video highlights available early Saturday morning. The Southern at Toms River North game will be broadcast live on 105.7 FM tonight beginning at 6:50.
Brick leads the series with Toms River South 29-16. The two have combined for 38 Shore Conference championships, 25 by Brick.
It was at then Toms River High School on Nov. 14, 1964, where Brick gave Wolf career win No. 50 with a dramatic 24-19 win on a TD on a screen pass on the last play of the game. Signorino Sr. was in his first season as the Indians’ head coach. Toms River became Toms River South in 1969 with the opening of Toms River North.
It was at Toms River South on Sept. 25, 1999, where the Green Dragons gave Wolf career win No. 300 with a 17-7 win. Signorino Sr., who had been the defensive coordinator at Brick from 1981-96, was in the third season of his second tenure as the Indians’ head coach.
Now to add another twist to the rivalry, Chip LaBarca Jr., who was a standout wide receiver at Toms River South from 1985-88 when his father was the Indians’ head coach, is Brick’s offensive coordinator.
“When I think of Toms River South, I think of coach Sig (Signorino Sr.), coach LaBarca (LaBarca Sr.), a lot of the spirit of that program, their band and a lot of the really close games we had with them throughout the 80’s,” Dahl said.
Signorino Jr. was an assistant coach at Brick when his father was at Brick. He has been an assistant coach at Toms River South against Brick and a head coach at Toms River South against Brick.
“When I was at Brick, there’s no question there was that “hated rivalry” and South has that “hated rivalry” with Brick,” Signorino Jr. said. “But, there’s no question, there’s certainly mutual respect for each other.”
Both teams are somewhat similar in that both their offenses revolve around dynamic play makers at quarterback in Tymere Berry for Toms River South and Carmen Sclafani for Brick..
Both have also already defeated other contenders in Class A South. Toms River South defeated Southern last week and Brick defeated Brick Memorial on Sept. 14.
Barnegat won the Class B South championship in 2011, the first divisional title in the program’s history. Monsignor Donovan won the Class B South title last year, its first divisional championship since 1993. A major reason for that was the Griffins’ 24-21 win at Barnegat in Week 3.
“That was a catalyst for us, but they were a young team last year,” said Monsignor Donovan coach Dan Duddy.
Barnegat was shorthanded for last year’s meeting. Quarterback Cinjun Erskine and offensive tackle Sam Madden were both ineligible to play due to NJSIAA transfer rules.
“The loss last year could be the best thing this year,” said Barnegat coach Rob Davis. “We can use that to motivate the kids.
Erskine, who did not play last week at Manchester because of a back injury, is expected to play tonight. Madden is one of the state’s best offensive linemen.
“Everybody knows their roles now,” Davis said.
“We felt good about our win last year, but we do feel it was a bit blemished in that those kids (Erskine and Madden) didn’t play,” Duddy said. “We do feel they are a more formidable team.”
Monsignor Donovan is the team with the transfers this year. Running backs Joey Fields, Trevon Bass and wide receiver Kyle Carrington among a group of players who transferred from Toms River North.
Barnegat has one of the state’s biggest offensive lines.