You’d have to go back to 2004 to find a more fascinating battle for the Shore Conference rushing title. And it’s safe to say there’s never been a more historic season statistically.
Back then, it was Red Bank Catholic senior Donald Brown and Middletown South junior Knowshon Moreno going at it. Both backs topped the 2,000-yard mark for the season, with Brown winning the title by two yards. Four years later, each was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Now it’s Freehold’s Ashante Worthy and Manalapan’s Naim Mayfield who have added an extra layer of drama to NJSIAA Championship Weekend, with the two playing in back-to-back NJSIAA sectional finals on Saturday afternoon at High Point solutions Stadium.
First up is Mayfield, with the Braves taking on South Brunswick for the Central Group V title at 1 p.m. The senior running back enters the game with 2,546 yards, just 44 yards from breaking the Shore Conference single-season rushing mark of 2,589, set by Long Branch’s Dahmiere Willis in 2014.
Mayfield would need 270 yards to set the state single-season rushing mark of 2,815 yards, set last year by Salem’s Johnathan Taylor, who has 1,806 yards and 13 TDs this season for unbeaten Wisconsin.
“Right now, we want to win a championship game. If (records) happens during the course of it, than that will be all the better.’’
Whatever Mayfield does it will set the mark for Worthy, with Freehold taking on Long Branch at 4 p.m. The senior quarterback is tied with Willis, which puts him 226 yards away from Taylor’s total. Worthy is already the first player in state history to run and throw for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
While we’re at it, Worthy has 6,129 career yards, which is 547 yards behind the Shore’s all-time career mark held by Keyport’s Ken Cattouse. To reach it, Worthy would have to shatter his own Shore Conference single-game rushing record of 465, which he set in an NJSIAA playoff game last year.
I know, the numbers are dizzying.
“A lot of the plays that we design, we are happy if it goes for five yards or 10 yards,’’ Freehold coach Dave Ellis said. “If he happens to break it for a score, it is Ashante Worthy’s ability and the offensive line, of course, that made that happen.
“There are three things that make a big run, it is his decision on where to cut, it is the offensive linemen getting their guys (blocked) and it is the wide receivers blocking down field. Sometimes, we don’t do either one of those things and Ashante still goes. So, when we draw it up we want five yards, the rest is on him and the other guys (on the field).”
All that remains now is to play the games and see who emerges as state champions. And after the Gatorade showers are done, it will be time to add up the numbers and write the final chapter in what has been a record-setting season at the Jersey Shore.