The Final month of the Shore Conference football season has finally come. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed. This has been a phenomenal season with a lot of surprises. No one certainly expected Red Bank Regional and Pt Pleasant Boro to both be undefeated at this point . Coaches Nick Giglio and Sean Henry have done quite the job to put their teams right into a contending spot. The Bucs and Panthers are still in the mix for the No 1 seed in their respective brackets. RBR is in the driver’s seat while Pt Boro will need a little help from the outside.
Class A South will be up for grabs tonight. Brick Twp can claim their second straight division title with a win over Toms River North. The Dragons would win the division outright by advancing to 8-0. The Mariners can clinch at least a piece of it by pulling off the upset in Brick.
Brick Memorial is also still in the race. The Mustangs will go on the road to face an always tough Toms River South team. If Toms River North and Brick Memorial both win, this could force a potential three way tie for the division.
No 7 Toms River North (6-1) at No 3 Brick Twp (7-0)
If we had a professional title for this game, it would be The Greatest Show On Turf vs The Legion Of Boom literally.. The Mariners come into this game averaging an explosive 38 points per game. Toms River North are a threat to score every time they line up on the field. We have seen them to take it to the house on the first play from scrimmage this season.
Quarterback Mike Husni is quite the distributor for this offense. Husni has thrown for 899 yards and 9 touchdown passes. The Junior has also rushed for 675 yards, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He has hit the end zone 10 times. Husni is very good at taking care of the football and has only thrown two interceptions for the entire year.
You also cannot say enough about Husni’s leadership. It has been amazing to watch his maturity process over the past two years. He really knows how to rally his teammates, and they always respond very well. Don’t forget that Husni had to step in as a young freshman. In three years, the Mariners have grown from 1-9, to 6-5, and finally 6-1 in 2015!
Everything always starts up front for the Mariners. Senior Captains Luke Butera and Tim Petersen are two of the best offensive lineman in the league. Both players are three year starters and know how to use their strength to get this offense going. Will Sagarese is also a big part of this line.
The Mariners are also loaded at the skill positions. Running Back Asante Moorer has turned in another good season for the team, rushing for 778 yards and 11 scores. Moorer is a downhill runner who can hit the hole in a flash. Put Moorer in the open field and you are in trouble!
Junior Wide Receivers Bryce Watts and Darian Carrington have been reliable all season. Carrington has caught 22 passes for 444 yards and 3 touchdowns. Both players can stretch the field and make a dent in any secondary around the league. Look for Husni to hit these guys over the top tonight!
On the other hand, Brick is a team that relies on running the football and playing great defense. Folks, this Dragons defensive unit is serious business.. The team leads the Shore Conference and has only surrendered 20 points for the entire season. At one point, Brick had pitched five shutout victories in a row. You talk about making a statement, that is certainly one way to do it! This will be a huge challenge for the Toms River North offense.
One of the main reasons for the success of Brick’s defense has been the mastery of this defensive line. This is a group that has put fear in opposing quarterbacks every week. Jordan Keefe leads the Shore Conference with an unbelievable 12 sacks in just 7 games. Keefe just knows how to get after the ball in a major way! The Finelli Brothers are also a major threat coming off the line. Dan has piled up 6 sacks, while brother Jack has contributed with 4.
Linebackers Cory Wilson, Dean Helstowski, and Tom Keopplinger have been as standout as you can get. Wilson has been a major run stuffer, contributing with 62 tackles. Helstowski has been a huge weapon in blitz packages, coming up with 6.5 sacks. It will be a major challenge for Toms River North to run the ball.
You can tie this Brick defense together with an outstanding secondary. Ja’Sir Taylor, Octavian Battle, Matt Schleifer, and John Prato are a group of well rounded athletes. Not only can this group of players come up with turnovers, but they can hit like nobody’s business. Go watch a couple highlights of this secondary and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. This group is very instinctive and has a lot of experience playing together.
THE OUTLOOK – I’ll be honest when I tell you that this was one of the hardest games to pick for the entire season. I was back in forth so many times with this one. While Brick’s defense has looked nearly invincible, Toms River North’s offense has really been on a roll. The Mariners have ripped off five straight wins and are riding a lot of momentum. However, this is not your typical road trip. It will take the Mariner’s best effort of the season to pull this one off.
One aspect that has really paced Brick has been their ability to get out to a lead. The Dragons rely on their big offensive line led by Alex Trapasso and Tyler Collono. This group does a great job opening up holes for Jay Obenauer and Rashon McCall. However, you cannot sleep on the Dragons passing game. Quarterback Tom Zbranak has a real weapon in Junior Superstar Ja’Sir Taylor. The Dragons may not pass a whole lot, but they can get down the field in a matter of one play. We have seen Taylor burst for a big gain so many times this year. Time of possession will be a big deal as Brick will attempt to control the clock to keep the TRN offense off the field.
THE X FACTOR – What I believe will make or break this game will be the Dragon’s ability to control Quarterback Mike Husni. Brick has been able to shut down offenses that line up in the gun, but they haven’t faced an opponent of Husni’s caliber. You can chase Husni in the backfield, think that you have him cornered, then all of a sudden he can turn a potential loss into a 60 yard play. The Junior can also throw a dart on the run. With Watts and Carrington on the field, this could also be a major problem. The Dragons will need to get strong pressure up front in order to frustrate him.
Overall, this will be a fantastic game tonight. Expect a packed house at Keller Memorial Field. Both student sections will be on full display! This is a contest that will come down to the wire. While the Dragons defense will certainly make their mark, I am going to take Toms River North and that is because of Mike Husni. You cannot underestimate the value of having a game changing Quarterback in big games. Remember it was Husni that came up big in the playoffs last year when TRN upset Lenape in the first round.
There is so much at stake between a division title and a possible No 1 seed for each team. The stage is set for something special tonight!
THE PICK – Toms River North 21, Brick Twp 17.
No 10 Ocean Twp (5-1) at No 8 Red Bank Catholic (6-1)
Count Basile Field is in for a wild one tonight. Both teams still have a chance in Class B North, but will need a little help. This game is really about building momentum for the postseason. The Big Red and Caseys both share one common loss and that was to Red Bank Regional.
The Casey’s offense looked to finally be getting in sync last week against Manalapan. Eddie Hahn was on a roll and seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his group of receivers. Mike Balzofiore, and Dan Lukawski have been more consistent. Throw in the running game of Dylan Murphy and Mike Wilen and Red Bank Catholic has the potential to score a lot of points.
Ocean Twp will put the ball in the hands of All Star Running Back Tyler Thompson. Thompson has been one of the best stories of the year, returning to action after suffering a broken leg in 2014. Thompson is one pace for another historic season. Quarterback Kenny Pickett can also make big plays with his arm.
This will be a great battle in the trenches. The key will be the Casey’s ability to stop the run. RBC’s run defense really struggled in a loss to Red Bank Regional. However, it is very hard to bet against Eddie Hahn late in the season. Look for the Casey’s offense to put enough points on the board to earn a tough win in a tight game.
The Pick – Red Bank Catholic 27, Ocean Twp 20
OTHER PICKS AROUND THE SHORE
Asbury Park 24, Keansburg 6
Freehold Twp 20, Edison 13
Central 28, Donovan Catholic 10
Jackson Memorial 35, Toms River East 0
Shore 27, Pt Beach 12
Manalapan 21, Freehold Boro 16
Middletown North 24, North Brunswick 14
Red Bank Regional 31, Holmdel 10
Pt Boro 28, Jackson Liberty 7
Manchester 14, Pinelands 12
Rumson Fair Haven 24, Raritan 12
Brick Memorial 24, Toms River South 10
Wall 17, Colts Neck 13
St John Vianney 41, Monmouth 14
Lakewood 26, Barnegat 7
Howell 21, Marlboro 6
Matawan 28, Manasquan 14
Keyport 27, Mater Dei Prep 17
Southern 14, Lacey 10
Neptune 14, Long Branch 13
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