By Jay Cook |
And it’s come down to this. Believe it or not football fans, but we’ve already reached the final regular season game of the 2017 high school football season. Week Eight brought the Two River Times area one of the year’s biggest stories in Mater Dei Prep’s 28- 26 loss to Delbarton (2-6) to snap their 17-game win streak, dating back to the start of last season. Regardless, Mater Dei is primed to move into the post-season again, as are a number of local teams. St. John Vianney, Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic are the other squads guaranteed to make the playoffs. Mostly everyone else will be fighting tooth and nail this week for a trip to the playoffs, where The Two River Times will keep you updated on the roads to championship weekend in December. Let’s take a look at our top game of the week.
MUST WATCH GAME
ST. JOHN VIANNEY (8-0) @ MONMOUTH REGIONAL (6-2)
Saturday, 2 p.m.
On the cusp of their 18th playoff appearance, the St. John Vianney Lancers are ready to make a deep run into the playoffs. The Lancers captured their eighth win of the year, 21-14 over Middletown South last week, pushing their win streak over Shore Conference opponents to 37 straight – an absolutely remarkable statistic. SJV will head over to Tinton Falls also looking to complete their third straight undefeated regular season, under two different coaches. Conversely, Monmouth Regional faced off against Rumson-Fair Haven last Friday night and had their hands full with a dominating run game. It just so happens that’s SJV’s calling card as well – they’ll give the Falcons all they can handle. The Lancers are ready for the postseason and all signs are pointing to a rematch with Red Bank Catholic for the opening round of the Non-Public Group 3 playoff bracket. We can’t wait.
COLTS NECK (1-7) @ NEPTUNE (0-7)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Let’s give a round of applause to Colts Neck who grabbed their first win of the season last week with an 18-12 takedown of the Monroe Falcons. The game received statewide attention when some Monroe players kneeled during the National Anthem and a pair of referees walked off the field, but that wasn’t the takeaway Cougars head coach Darian Barnes was necessarily looking for. As we talked about in last week’s Colts Neck preview, Monroe was one of their final chances to get a win a 2017. Now they have a second shot. With a first-year head coach and noteworthy transfers out of the program – running back Malik Ingram to Mater Dei Prep – Neptune has struggled this season. Colts Neck will give the Scarlet Fliers their all on Friday night before both teams close the book on 2017.
RED BANK REGIONAL (0-7) @ RARITAN (3-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
At the beginning of this season, many around the Shore Conference did not expect to see Red Bank Regional come into the final game winless. Sure, they play SJV, Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic, which is no walk in the park, but the Bucs did have chances to win this year. Coming off a 37-0 loss to RBC, the Bucs will look to bounce back when they close out the season in Hazlet on Friday night. The Rockets do pose a challenge offensively with big-play potential, but if RBR can pressure the quarterback and feed Makai Mickens just enough, they certainly can capture a win before putting this season behind them. Head coach Nick Giglio will not go down without a fight.
HOLMDEL (4-3) @ MATAWAN (1-7)
Friday, 7 p.m.
It would be an understatement to say 2017 has been a success for the Holmdel Hornets. Now we don’t normally say that for a 4- 3 team, but when you double a win total and complete a defensive shutout for the first time since 2012, it only means good things in Holmdel. But the job isn’t finished quite yet. Unofficial power point rankings for Central Jersey Group 2 show Holmdel in 7th place, which means if the season ended today, they would make the playoffs. To ensure that, the Hornets will go on the road to take on Matawan for their official playoff berth. In 42 seasons, Holmdel has only made the postseason six times. Look for a determined Hornets team to do everything in their power to make it No. 7.
WALL (4-3) @ MIDDLETOWN SOUTH (3-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Add Middletown South to the list of the Two River Times area teams pushing for a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season. It’s an unfamiliar place for the Eagles and head coach Steve Antonucci, because when Week Nine normally rolls around, they’re planning for that opening round of the playoffs. Middletown South absolutely needs a home win at The Swamp on Friday night to be considered for a playoff spot – Hightstown currently sits above the Eagles for the final slot in Central Jersey Group 4. While Midd South fans will be rooting for Ewing to take down Hightstown on Friday night, the Eagles will need a big performance of their own over a Wall Township team that won a state title in 2016. Midd South Nation should be out in full force pushing their team to a potential playoff berth on Friday night.
OCEAN TOWNSHIP (1-7) @ MIDD. NORTH (3-4)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Middletown North is the best 3-4 team in the Shore Conference. Now that might not be saying a lot, but this Lions team has competed above and beyond in every game this year. Take their 27-21 loss to Long Branch (6-1) last week. Down 21-14 at the half, the Lions drove the field in under two minutes to tie up and force OT. Long Branch has been dominant this season, and North looked them right in the eye. The Lions sit just beneath Middletown South in the CJG4 rankings, and the chances look bleak for North to make the playoffs. A win over Ocean might not provide enough power points to jump either Midd South or Hightstown for that final spot. But the Lions won’t back down. An explosive run game with Connor Welsh will be the driving force if the Lions can sneak into the playoff picture.
RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN (6-1) @ CARTERET (4-3)
Friday, 7 p.m.
With RBC’s Zack Bair now out of the picture with a foot injury, Peter Lucas has taken over as The Two River Times area’s top rusher. Lucas had a career day last weekend against Monmouth Regional when he rushed for 299 yards on 24 carries with an astounding five touchdowns. Lucas has made minced meat of some of the top Shore defenses, and he’ll look to do the same when RFH heads north up the New Jersey Turnpike for a Friday night showdown with Carteret. RFH has locked up a CGJ3 playoff berth and looks destined to be the No. 2 seed in that playoff bracket. The Bulldogs will look to score early and often so the starters can rest before continuing the Drive for Five – RFH’s fifth state title in as many years. This will be a fun team to watch in the postseason.
SHORE REGIONAL (3-4) @ KEYPORT (1-7)
Despite it being a down year for the Blue Devils, they are also right on the battleground for one of the last spots in the Central Jersey Group 1 playoffs. Head coach Mark Costantino will look to buck a three-game losing streak to snag that postseason berth. It’s been over a month since Shore won a football game, with that last W coming on Sept. 29 against Bishop Ahr. To secure their spot, the Blue Devils will face off against a “B” North divisional foe in Keyport who will look to spoil any post-season dreams. Don’t sleep on the Red Raiders just yet, either. Shore has had a tough time slowing down run-first teams, and Keyport has two talented backs in Greg Robinson and Devin Wollner, who can equally munch up yards and the clock.
POINT PLEASANT BEACH (5-3) @ MATER DEI PREP (5-1)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Now it wasn’t as big as Bergen Catholic beating St. Peter’s Prep, but Mater Dei Prep’s loss on Saturday afternoon marked one of this season’s biggest stories. With head coach Dino Mangiero suspended by the school from gameday coaching for the remainder of the year, the Seraphs went up against Delbarton (2-6) who played their best game of the season, and ended Mater Dei’s 17-game win streak. Shannon Hoadley, who coached the Seraphs prior to Mangiero coming to town in 2016, will take over as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Although Mater Dei lost last weekend, don’t be surprised if they come out furious against this Point Pleasant Beach team Saturday afternoon. These Seraphs will be hungry for a rebound game and could make a statement against the Garnet Gulls before heading into the postseason. A win this weekend would all but secure a first-round home playoff game for Mater Dei going forward.
RED BANK CATHOLIC (7-1) @ MANASQUAN (5-2)
Saturday, 2 p.m.
The Caseys have been spectacular this season, winning seven games with a bruising ground attack and clean, explosive quarterback play from Steve Lubischer. With Bair out of the mix last week, sophomore Billy Guidetti stepped right in and had a big game in his first career start. He topped the century mark in rushing yards and tallied two trips to the endzone. While he certainly isn’t the talent that Bair is, Guidetti will provide RBC with a dynamic backfield threat as the playoffs roll around. But before they get there, a road trip against reigning CJG2 state champs Manasquan is on the menu. The Warriors boast an unyielding rushing attack with running backs Connor Morgan and Canyon Birch, as well as quarterback Tommy Antonucci. That’s what Manasquan does best, and they’ll do their all to try and take down mighty RBC this weekend. As mentioned earlier, it’s all but guaranteed that SJV and RBC will meet again for the opening road of this year’s playoffs, but homefield advantage is still on the line. If the season ended right now, the Caseys would be on the road, but a big win over Manasquan could change that. This game is of the utmost importance to RBC.
This article was first published in the Nov. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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