A big week is upon us as far as shaping the way some Shore Conference divisional races are going to play out.
In Class A South, Brick (7-0, 5-0), ranked No. 3 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, will be trying to take a major step toward winning the outright divisional championship for the second straight season when it hosts Toms River North (6-1, 5-1) Friday night at Keller Memorial Field.
Shore (6-0, 3-0), which moved into the Asbury Park Press Top 10 this week, will be trying to take a step toward winning the Class B Central championship for the third straight season when it plays Friday night at Point Pleasant Beach (4-3, 2-1).
Point Pleasant Borough (7-0, 5-0) and Lakewood (5-1, 5-0) will both try to set up their winner-take-all showdown for the Class B South championship this weekend.
Point Boro is at Jackson Liberty (3-4, 3-2) Friday night, and Lakewood hosts Barnegat (1-5, 1-4) Saturday.
Also, Red Bank Catholic and Ocean will meet Friday night in an intriguing Class B North game with major power-point implications for both teams, and either Manchester (0-6, 0-5) or Pinelands (0-7, 0-5) will get its first win when they meet Friday night at Pinelands.
Here’s what to look for in Week 8:
1. What will give in the Toms River North-Brick game, the Toms River North offense or the Brick defense?
This is truly a matchup of strength vs. strength.
The Mariners are averaging 38 points a game, third in the Shore Conference. Toms River North has averaged 43.4 points a game in its five-game winning streak since a 52-20 loss at Brick Memorial on Sept. 18.
Brick has allowed just 20 points total in seven games for an average of 2.9 points a game. The Green Dragons have recorded five shutouts and had a string of 16 consecutive scoreless quarters this season.
Toms River North’s offense is multidimensional, with the running and throwing ability of junior quarterback Mike Husni, the power running of senior running back Asante Moorer and the receiving ability of Darrion Caldwell.
Brick’s defense is strong in all areas, with the defensive line led by senior Dan Finelli and junior Jack Finelli, the linebacking corps led by senior Cory Wilson and the secondary led by senior Ja’Sir Taylor.
The Green Dragons will want to make Toms River North one-dimensional with a probable emphasis on controlling the running game.
If the power running game gets slowed down, Toms River North will put the ball in Husni’s hands and see if he can make plays with both his legs and his arm.
The game could actually be won with the Brick offense against the Toms River North defense and in the kicking game.
The Green Dragons are solid, if not spectacular on offense with their running game. Toms River North’s defense has shown improvement since the Brick Memorial game.
Both teams have been solid in the kicking game.
Expect a game that will be decided in the fourth quarter.
2. Who will head into the NJSIAA playoffs with momentum, Ocean or Red Bank Catholic?
It is unlikely the winner will be able to get at least a share of the Class B North championship. Red Bank (6-0, 5-0) has defeated both and will be heavily favored to beat Long Branch (2-5, 1-3) on Thanksgiving Day.
However, both will be seeking the power-points bonanza that is there for the winner.
Ocean is currently fourth in the Central Group III power rankings and would want to at least keep that seed and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Red Bank Catholic is fourth in the Non-Public Group III power rankings and needs to win to have a chance at a first-round home game.
Ocean will be relying on senior running back Tyler Thompson, who has shown he is fully recovered from the broken leg he sustained against Red Bank Catholic a year ago Saturday. Thompson has rushed for 894 yards and 12 TDs.
However, the Spartans have more on offense than just Thompson. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown for 768 yards and nine TDs with just one interception and has run for 302 yards and two TDs.
Ocean’s offense will be going against a Red Bank Catholic defense that, led by senior linebacker Dylan Murphy has been solid.
Meanwhile, Red Bank Catholic senior quarterback Eddie Hahn had an outstanding game last week in the Caseys’ 33-14 win over Manalapan. He threw for 257 yards and two TDs and also ran for 62 yards. Red Bank Catholic had 519 yards of total offense in that game.
3. Can Shore keep the Shore Conference’s longest current active winning streak going?
Shore has won 14 straight since a loss to Dunellen on Oct. 3, 2014. Included in that streak were two wins last year over Point Pleasant Beach by a combined score of 66-0.
Shore has been running on all cylinders so far this year. It has outscored its opposition 225-36, with its only close game coming in a penalty-filled 7-3 win at Spotswood in Week 2.
Last week, in a 52-7 win at South River, Shore rushed for 426 yards and had 519 yards of total offense.
Senior running back/linebacker Doug Goldsmith is one of the Shore’s best two-way players. He is a punishing power runner in the Blue Devils’ Wing-T offense and an active inside linebacker who roams sideline to sideline.
Point Beach — which won the 2013 Central Group I championship with a 12-7 win over Shore a week after Shore defeated the Garnet Gulls, 31-0, to win the Class B Central championship — has been up and down. The Garnet Gulls have a 17-7 win at 5-2 Group II Spotswood and an overtime win over Asbury Park (5-1, 2-1) in Week 1. They also have losses at Keyport and at Highland Park.
A Shore win would enable it to clinch a tie for the Class B Central championship and set up a home game with Asbury Park next week in which it could win the division outright.
A Point Beach win leaves it, Shore and Asbury Park all tied for first place in the division headed into the final week of divisional play next week.
4. Will Point Boro and Lakewood remain on course for their showdown next week?
They both are solid favorites to win this week.
Point Boro, coming off an impressive 33-27 home win over Raritan last week, will be trying to avoid a letdown.
Senior quarterback Noah Husak has been excellent all season running the Panthers’ triple option offense out of the flexbone alignment. Last week, he ran for 98 yards and two TDs and threw for 105 yards and a TD pass to junior wide receiver Hayden Frey, who had seven receptions for 91 yards.
Point Boro’s defense has been solid all season.
Lakewood — coming off its 30-14 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven, the No. 5 ranked team in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 — will be meeting a Barnegat team that has lost five straight and has scored just 51 points during that losing streak.
Even in defeat last week, Lakewood senior Amir Tyler showed he is one of the Shore’s most spectacular two-way players. He had an outstanding game at safety and made a sensational, Odell Beckham Jr.-style one-handed catch for a TD in the right corner of the end zone.
Point Boro will host Lakewood on Nov. 7.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; email@example.com