Middletown South had the bullseye on its back from Day One of the 2015 season.
The Eagles, whose senior class was unbeaten as freshman and with several seniors that played on the varsity the final stretch of their freshman year and with a junior that was unbeaten and unscored upon as freshman, were ranked No. 1 in the Asbury Park Press Preseason Top 10 and stayed No. 1 throughout their 12-0 season, NJSIAA North II, Group IV championship season.
It is the seventh time in Middletown South’s 40-year history it has finished No. 1 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10. All of the Eagles’ No. 1 rankings have come since 198. Four of those No. 1 rankings ave come under head coach Steve Antonucci, who finished his 18th season and has a career record of 17037 with six sectional championships.
It is the first time Middletown South has finished No. 1 since 2005, when it completed a run of three 12-0 seasons with three NJSIAA sectional championships and three final No. 1 rankings.
The Eagles’ sectional championship was their first since 2006 when they finished a run of four consecutive sectional titles and their Shore Conference Class A North divsional title was their first since 2009
Middletown South is tied with Brick for the most times having finished No. 1 in the 52 years the Asbury Park Press has been compiling a Top 10. Manasquan is next with six final No. 1 rankings followed by Jackson Memorial with five.
The Eagles, after they trailed by 18 points in the second quarter of their season-opener at eventual Central Group V champion South Brunswick, were dominant. That was South Brunswick’s only loss.
Middletown South outscored its opposition 492-89, – 489-68 after they trailed 21-3 at South Brunswick. It won every game by at least 18 points, had eight games where it scored 41 points or more and 11 games where it scored 35 points or more.
All six of the Shore Conference’s sectional champions are in the final top 10, as are all nine of the Shore’s record sectional finalists. It was the second straight season the Shore Conference had a record six sectional champions.
Here is the final Top 10.
1. MIDDLETOWN SOUTH (12-0): Last ranking: No. 1. The Eagles won the NJSIAA North II, Group IV championship with a 35-7 win over Phillipsburg at MetLife Stadium. It was their first sectional title since 2006, 10th overall and sixth under 18th-season head coach Steve Antonucci. Middletown South also won the Shore Conference Class A North championship for its first divisional title since 2009, when it won the now-defunct Federal Division championship.
2. ST. JOHN VIANNEY (11-1): Last ranking No. 2. The Lancers, in their first season under head coach Derek Sininsky after he was named the Lancers coach on July 27 – two days after Mark Ciccotelli left the program – were defeated 40-17 by a very talented DePaul team in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III championship game. It was St. John Vianney’s first appearance in a sectional or state championship game since 1982. They won the Shore Conference Class A Central championship for the second consecutive season. St. John Vianney also set a school-record for wins in a season and outscored their opposition, 517-126.
3. TOMS RIVER NORTH (11-1): Last ranking: No. 5. The Mariners won the NJSIAA South Group V championship with a 14-7 win over Williamstown. It was Toms River North’s sixth sectional title – first in Group V – and first since 2007. Toms River North won its final 10 games and shared the Shore Conference Class A South championship with Brick Memorial and Brick. It was the Mariners’ first divisional title since 2008, when they won the now-defunct Shore Conference American Division championship.
4. SHORE (12-0): Last ranking: No. 6. The Blue Devils won the NJSIAA Central Group I championship for the second consecutive season and the third time in the last six seasons with an emphatic 56-28 win over Palmyra. Shore rushed for 535 yards in the game and had 32 first downs. It was Shore’s seventh sectional championship, which ties it with Brick and Matawan for third on the all-time Shore Conference list behind Manasquan (11) and Middletown South (10). Four of Shore’s sectional championships have come under head coach Mark Costantino (165-85-1 in 24 seasons). The Blue Devils went unbeaten for the first time since 1981, set a school-record for wins and won the Shore Conference Class B Central championship for the third straight season. They will take the Shore Conference’s longest current winning streak at 20 into next season.
5. JACKSON MEMORIAL (8-4): Last ranking: No. 10. The Jaguars won the NJSIAA Central Group IV championship for the second straight season with an impressive 42-14 win over then No. 4 Brick Memorial. It was Jackson Memorial’s fifth sectional championship – all of which have come since 2000. The Jaguars overcame a host of injuries during the season and a three-game losing streak in Weeks 4-6. That included a home loss to Brick Memorial. Just before the playoffs began, Jackson Memorial’s coaching staff made wholesale changes on offense, including its scheme. In the playoffs, Jackson Memorial avenged regular seasons losses to Brick Memorial and Brick.
6. RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN (10-2): Last ranking: No. 7. The Bulldogs became the fifth team in Shore Conference history to win sectional championships three straight seasons with a 21-0 win over then No. 3 and 11-0 Red Bank in the Central Group III championship game. It was Rumson’s fourth sectional championship – all of which have come since 2010 – and third in head coach Bryan Batchler’s three seasons. The Bulldogs have defeated unbeaten teams in three sectional championship games. It was the second straight season Rumson won 21-0 in a sectional championship game.
7. BRICK MEMORIAL (9-3): Last ranking: No. 4. The Mustangs were defeated 42-14 by Jackson Memorial in the Central Group IV championship game. It was Brick Memorial’s first appearance in a sectional championship game since 2010. The Mustangs’ two playoff wins were also their first since 2010. Brick Memorial also shared the Shore Conference Class A South championship with Toms River North and Brick and handed Toms River North’s its lone loss of the season with an emphatic 52-20 win on Sept. 18. It was Brick Memorial’s first divisional title since 2010.
8. RED BANK (11-1): Last ranking: No. 3. The Bucs won their first 11 games before they were defeated, 21-0 by Rumson-Fair Haven in the Central Group III championship game. It was Red Bank’s first winning season since 2003, first appearance in a sectional championship game since 2003 and their two playoff wins were the first since 2003. The Bucs also won the Shore Conference Class B North championship for their first divisional title since 1977, when they won the Class C title under current head coach Lou Vircillo, who recently completed his 35th season as Lacey’s only head coach. Red Bank also defeated Red Bank Catholic for the first time since 2004.
9. RARITAN (7-5): Last ranking: Not ranked. The Rockets, who were 3-5 when the playoffs began and on a five-game losing streak, won the Central Group II championship with a dramatic 28-26 win over then 11-0 Lincoln on Marc Carnivale’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Nick Pasquin with 10 seconds remaining. It was Raritan’s first sectional championship since 2004 and second overall. The Rockets won two road games to get the sectional final, which included avenging a regular season loss to Point Boro in the quarterfinal. Three of Raritan’s losses were to Red Bank, St. John Vianney and Rumson-Fair Haven by a point. The Rockets played nine playoff teams and went 5-4 in those games.
10. BRICK (8-2): Last ranking: Not ranked. The Green Dragons get the nod at No. 10 over Ocean (9-2) and Red Bank Catholic (8-3) because they did win a championship while Ocean and Red Bank Catholic did not. Brick shared the Class A South championship with South Group V champion Toms River North and Central Group IV finalist Brick Memorial. The Green Dragons’ only losses were to Toms River North and Central Group IV champion Jackson Memorial and they defeated Brick Memorial in the opener and Jackson Memorial 2-0 on Oct.2 in a nor-easter.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; email@example.com