This coming week could be one of the most highly-anticipated weeks the Shore Conference has seen in a football.
The NJSIAA sectional semifinal playoff round will feature four all-Shore matchups. All of them are intriguing in their own way.
Middletown South, the No. 1 ranked team in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, will meet rival and sister school Middletown North in North II Group IV. The two have met on Thanksgiving Day since 1976, when Middletown South opened its doors. They have never met in a playoff game.
St. John Vianney, the No. 2 ranked team in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, will meet longtime nonpublic rival Red Bank Catholic in Non-Public Group III. It is a playoff matchup that has been highly anticipated since last season.
The Central Group III champion will come from the Shore Conference because all four semifinalists are from the Shore.
Both semifinal matchups in Central III will be rematches of regular-season games as Rumson-Fair Haven hosts Matawan and Ocean hosts Red Bank.
Fifteen Shore Conference teams are still alive to win a sectional championship.
The only change in the top 10 this week has Brick dropping out even though it is the Shore Conference Class A South tri-champion with Toms River North and Brick Memorial.
The Green Dragons, who have concluded their season, were defeated, 21-7, by Jackson Memorial in a Central Group IV quarterfinal. The result enabled the Jaguars to avenge a 2-0 loss to Brick in a nor’easter on Oct. 2.
It is our opinion right now that having seen the two Jackson Memorial-Brick games this season that Jackson Memorial is the better team. Brick also lost two of its last three games and ended the season with a backup quarterback and struggled on offense.
1. MIDDLETOWN SOUTH (9-0): Last week: No. 1. Cole Rogers ran for 147 yards and three TDs, junior running back James McCarthy ran for two TDs and caught a 9-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Matt Mosquera, and Mosquera threw a 40-yard TD pass to Jeremy Joyce as the Eagles rolled to a 55-0 win over West Windsor-Plainsboro North in an NJSIAA North II Group IV quarterfinal. Two huge games with the sister school await Middletown South over the next two weeks. Next game: Friday vs. Middletown North (7-2) in a NJSIAA North II Group IV semifinal.
2. ST. JOHN VIANNEY (10-0): Last week: No. 2. Senior running back Calvin Beaty ran for two TDs and senior quarterback Anthony Brown threw TD passes to Michael Stapert and Khalil Haskins as the Lancers defeated Donovan Catholic, 30-0, in a NJSIAA Non-Public Group III quarterfinal. An anticipated matchup with a longtime rival awaits. Next game: Friday vs. No. 9 Red Bank Catholic (8-2) in a NJSIAA Non-Public Group III semifinal.
3. RED BANK (9-0): Last week: No. 3. Senior Sadiq Palmer scored on a 4-yard run and returned a fumble 37 yards for a TD in 30-0 win over South Plainfield in a NJSIAA Central Group III quarterfinal. It was Red Bank’s first playoff win since 2003. A rematch with a divisional rival that Red Bank defeated in Week 3 awaits. Next game: Friday at No. 7 Ocean (8-1) in a NJSIAA Central Group III semifinal.
4. TOMS RIVER NORTH (9-1): Last week: No. 4. Junior quarterback Mike Husni ran for three TDs and threw a 60-yard TD pass to Kenney Cook as the Mariners defeated Kingsway, 35-7, in a NJSIAA South Group V quarterfinal. A game against a team the Mariners defeated last year awaits. Next game: Friday at Lenape (8-1) in a NJSIAA South Group V semifinal.
5. BRICK MEMORIAL (8-2): Last week: No. 6. Sophomore running back Tony Thorpe ran for 161 yards and three TDs and went over 1,000-yard mark for the season as the Mustangs defeated Jackson Liberty, 38-6, in a NJSIAA Central Group IV quarterfinal. It was Brick Memorial’s first playoff win since 2010. Next game: Friday vs. Allentown (6-4) in a NJSIAA Central Group IV semifinal.
6. RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN (8-1): Last week: No. 7. Junior running back Matt Vecchiarelli started a 36-point third quarter with a 3-yard TD run, and junior quarterback Mike O’Connor threw a 10-yard TD pass to John Kingdon and had TD runs of 45 and 54 yards, as the Bulldogs defeated Rahway, 43-6, in a NJSIAA Central Group III quarterfinal. O’Connor ran for 165 yards. A rematch against a team Rumson defeated earlier in the season but was without its starting quarterback at the time awaits. Next game: Friday vs. Matawan (7-3) in a NJSIAA Central Group III semifinal.
7. OCEAN (8-1): Last week: No. 8. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett ran for two TDs and threw a TD pass to Ruquan Dean, and senior running back Tyler Thompson ran for 118 yards and two TDs as the Spartans defeated Hamilton West, 35-0, in a NJSIAA Central Group III quarterfinal. A chance to avenge its only loss awaits Ocean. Next game: Friday vs. No. 3 Red Bank (9-0) in a NJSIAA Central Group III semifinal.
8. SHORE (9-0): Last week: No. 9. Senior Doug Goldsmith returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a TD and had three TDs in all, and Jack Britton had a 75-yard TD run as the Blue Devils defeated Burlington City, 36-0, in a Central Group I quarterfinal and extended the Shore’s longest current winning streak to 17. Next game: Friday vs. Florence (6-3) in a NJSIAA Central Group I semifinal.
9. RED BANK CATHOLIC (8-2): Last week: No. 9. Senior running back Dylan Murphy ran for three TDs as the Caseys defeated Pope John, 21-14, in a NJSIAA Non-Public Group III quarterfinal. A highly anticipated game against a rival awaits. Next game: Friday at No. 2 St. John Vianney (10-0) in a NJSIAA Non-Public Group III semifinal.
10. JACKSON MEMORIAL (6-4): Last week: Not ranked. Junior running back Mike Gawlik ran for 212 yards and two TDs, and senior Kyle Johnson — now playing quarterback — added a TD as the Jaguars avenged an earlier loss to then-No. 5 Brick by defeating the Green Dragons, 21-7, in a NJSIAA Central Group IV quarterfinal. Next game: Saturday at Steinert (7-2) in a NJSIAA Central Group IV semifinal.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; firstname.lastname@example.org