The 2015 scholastic football begins Friday night with two games.
Central Regional will play at Southern Regional in a nondivisional game, and Donovan Catholic will be at Pinelands Regional in a Shore Conference Class B South game. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
The two games are being played on what the NJSIAA calls “Week 0.” The NJSIAA gave schools the option before the 2014 season to play this weekend, though the official start of the season is next week.
Forty of the Shore Conference’s other 43 schools will open their seasons next weekend. Rumson-Fair Haven will open its season Sept. 18.
The Central-Southern game is one that had been played on Thanksgiving Day the last three seasons, including last season when Central recorded a 16-6 win in the first game played on its new FieldTurf playing surface at Joseph J. Boyd Memorial. The game was also played on Thanksgiving Day from 1968-1983 before Central began a Thanksgiving series with Lacey in 1984.
Donovan Catholic and Pinelands are meeting in “Week 0″ for the second straight season.
Central, the preseason favorite to win Class B South, should have one of the Shore’s best backfields with junior tailback Mike Bickford and senior quarterback Mike Miserendino.
Bickford, a slashing power runner, rushed for a school-record 2,052 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago as he helped Central go 8-3, share the Class B South championship with Barnegat and advance to the NJSIAA South Group III semifinal. The divisional title was Central’s first since 1994, and the playoff win was also its first since 1994 and just the second in its history.
Miserendino, in his second season as a starter, is also a running threat.
Central will have four new starters on the offensive line. Senior tackle Darius Marrow is the only returning starter.
Southern, which went 5-5 last season for its second consecutive .500 season, is led by senior running back/linebacker Pat Walker and sophomore linebacker Joe Mele.
Walker rushed for 643 yards and 11 TDs last year and was in on 60 tackles. Mele was the Rams’ leading tackler last year with 80.
The linebacking unit appears to be Southern’s strength. The offensive line lacks varsity experience.
Donovan Catholic and Pinelands will both be trying to begin their season on a positive note.
Donovan Catholic is coming off an 0-10 season, which included a loss by forfeit to Pinelands in the opener. The Griffins won that game on the field 10-7 on a late field goal but used an ineligible player in the game and had to forfeit.
Pinelands was 2-8 last season and has not had a winning season since 2004. Its last nonlosing season was in 2010, when it was 5-5.
Senior running backs David Calderon and Alex Rosario and senior tight end/defensive end Kyle Schremmer lead Donovan Catholic.
Pinelands will be relying on returning starters Cameron Winters (offensive line), Max Schnepp (offensive/defensive line), Dean DiSanza (fullback) and Dave Fairl (linebacker).