Offensive Explosions Highlight Opening Night

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There was no lack of offense on opening night, as nine teams scored 34 or more points, headlined by the 62-point firebombing Neptune put on a rebuilding Bishop Ahr team in the debut of new Scarlet Fliers head coach Don Sofilkanich.

I did not have Neptune ranked in my preseason top 10, which definitely raised some eyebrows, and even our basketball man, Mr. Nep84 himself, who was at the game on Friday night, jokingly texted “It’s now 62-0. Is this enough to be in the top 10 next week?”

All of the stars took turns making plays, but I think the most encouraging sign was the performance of junior Jaheem Woods. We all know about Charles Davis and Ikie Calderon, who did their thing on Friday, including a 50-yard punt return by Davis to get the avalanche rolling. Woods, however, is an excellent athlete who has been buzzed about since his freshman year, and he had a great day offensively and also returned an interception for a touchdown defensively. If he becomes a genuine threat at quarterback, whether running or passing, Neptune will be fearsome and I will be well on my way to looking like an idiot for not ranking them (although they could be ranked by the end of this weekend. We’ll see). They face No. 5 Red Bank Catholic, which was impressive in a 34-7 win over a young Southern team on Friday night, next week, which is a huge early game in the Class B North race.

Right behind Neptune in the scoring department was Pinelands, which played a wild 50-36 game against Monsignor Donovan that the Wildcats trailed by 14 points on multiple occasions. Senior running back Matt McLain blew up for a career-high 325 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns against a Monsignor Donovan defense that continues to search for answers. It looks like another year of high-scoring games for the Griffins, whose offense once again looks good but the defense can’t get stops.

McLain took over the game in the second half. I will have to check if that is a single-game school record for rushing, but you would have to think it’s up there. Senior linebacker Bobby Schwarzenberger also showed why he is getting Division I-A looks and already has an offer from Louisville when he simply ripped the ball out of a ballcarrier’s hands and scored in the final seconds of the first half for a big momentum touchdown that got the Wildcats going. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when Pinelands plays Barnegat in B South. It might be first team to 60 wins.

Speaking of the Bengals, they picked up what I feel is the most impressive win over opening night, a 34-27 triumph over a talented Rumson-Fair Haven team. Senior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo  threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, and senior wideout Mike DeTroia had more than 220 yards receiving and three touchdowns, including a 98-yarder. Another budding star, junior tight end Ryan Morris, also had a touchdown catch.

“Everything people have said about the quarterback (SanGiacomo) is absolutely true,” said Rumson coach Shane Fallon. “He is the real deal. And the DeTroia kid is a stud, too.”

SanGiacomo is already verbally committed to Tulane, while DeTroia has numerous Division I-AA offers. Barnegat coach Rob Davis said Boston College is coming to take a look at him later this month. I saw DeTroia go toe-to-toe with Notre Dame freshman and current Raritan star Bennett Jackson on several plays last year and hold his own, so he has that kind of ability.

Rumson killed itself with penalties, including a roughing the punter that kept alive a drive in which Barnegat scored. That’s obviously huge considering the Bengals won by a touchdown. The silver lining is that senior wideout Ian Moore, a converted quarterback, had two touchdowns and looks like he can be a great complement to top receiver Jack Wise for the Bulldogs.

That is probably the biggest win in Barnegat’s short history, as Rumson has become a regular playoff contender. That’s the kind of win the Bengals have been missing in recent seasons after being talked up in the preseason, so maybe this is the year they turn the corner.

Another team that hung up 34 was Brick Memorial in a 34-0 drubbing of Brick, which only re-asserted that it’s still Brick Memorial’s town. A major question mark with Brick coming into the season was whether its offense would be improved, so that’s not a good sign for the Green Dragons. At least it’s early enough to try and get everything corrected. Conversely, that’s a great sign for Brick Memorial’s defense. Look for a big year from senior defensive lineman Will Wowkanyn, who had 4 tackles for a loss in the win.

Walt Currie’s triple option just continues to plow through opponents no matter who graduates. I was talking to a former head coach tonight and he noted that Currie knows that offense so inside and out that he adds wrinkles that can counteract almost anything a defense can throw at them. Toms River North is the only team that comes to mind that seems to have a real handle on it, but the Mustangs look strong coming out of the gate on Friday.

Shore Regional hung 56 on Keansburg, which is not a big shock considering the Titans only returned one starter from last year. Senior quarterback Evan Ruane appears poised for a big season for the Blue Devils and hit a deep pass right away to start the onslaught.

I don’t really know what to make of Manchester’s 14-13 win over South Plainfield. Is South Plainfield, which went 1-9 last season, just a lot better, or was it a tough night for the Hawks? The good sign is that junior RB Joe Johnson is off to a strong start with a 100-yard night and a pair of touchdowns.

A team that certainly gained some confidence, even though it was in a loss, was Mater Dei Prep. The Seraphs had a 7-6 lead on Middlesex in the second half before falling in the final minutes, 14-7. Still, that’s an encouraging showing for Mater Dei Prep under new coach Steve Sciarappa. The players felt in the preseason that their defense would be good, so it’s just a case of finding a way to generate more offense. Talking to a Mater Dei assistant after the game, he said the players were not down after the game and took it as a sign that things are improving. They should enter next week’s game against another small non-public school that has struggled, Cardinal McCarrick, with plenty of confidence.

Another team that gained some early confidence was Monmouth Regional, which came flying back from a 13-0 hole to paste Carteret, 41-21. The Falcons needed that early in the season before they hit the teeth of a tough schedule, which starts next week with a game against Freehold. It’s encouraging that they found junior Tyier Hester as another playmaker. He had a kickoff return for a touchdown and two other touchdowns to combine with known commodities Davonte Thomas and Shayne Henderson. Good win for the Falcons.

The Toms River East and Red Bank Catholic victories over Toms River South and Southern, respectively, were expected. Toms River South continues to struggle to be competitive against its cross-town rivals, while Southern looks like it may be a year or so away with its young talent that was just overwhelmed by RBC. The Caseys will see a much faster team next week in Neptune, which should be a fun one.

And finally, here are some extras from the game I covered, Lacey’s 27-7 win over Wall.

—Lacey senior quarterback Craig Cicardo has really settled in offensively in his third season. Sitting in the shotgun, he does a good job of reading the backside end or whatever his key is on a given play and his fakes are quicker and better executed than last year. He also looks a little faster. The Lions kept it conservative in the passing game because they were having so much success on the ground, so it was hard to gauge any improvement in that area. Most of his passes were of the dink and dunk variety, but he just showed pure command, which is what a three-year starter at QB should show. The big litmus test for him will be Middletown South in November, as the Eagles have bottled him up the last 2 years, but he looked great on Friday night in rolling up over 200 yards of combined offense.

—A healthy Jarrod Molzon could make a big difference for Lacey. Last season, he was beset by some nagging injuries, but as he showed on Friday, he can change the game, as he took a screen pass and went 80 yards to the house to open the second half. He gives a nice outside option to the slashing inside running of Jake Dabal.

—The most underrated player on Lacey is senior linebacker/fullback Matt Uveges, who had an interception that set up a fourth-quarter field goal on Friday. He is a hard-nosed defender who can sink into coverage, as he also had a pass break-up in the game, or run up to make hits at the line of scrimmage. Offensively, he is a good option on swing passes and short passes on third down. Plus, when they get down near the goal line, he is a fierce lead blocker in power formations. Championship teams need players like Uveges who may not get tons of credit, but are solid players who can be counted on every week.

—Another unheralded Lacey player who deserves mention is senior lineman Dave Vieira. He had a hit for a loss on defense and had a key block that sprung Molzon on the 80-yard touchdown on the screen pass.

—Talk about a luxury. Lacey has two talented kickers, Molzon and Matt Ruhnke, who alternated on field goal and extra-point attempts. That’s especially huge because Molzon plays on both sides of the ball, so when he is running all over the field and may be a little winded, they can just use Ruhnke. After Molzon sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown, Ruhnke was able to come in and kick the extra point and give Molzon a break.

—Lacey junior two-way lineman Tyrell Smith is going to be an absolute monster by the time he is a senior. It’s clear that a full year of being coached by the Lacey staff since transferring from Lakewood has made an impact. He was a handful up front last night and had three hits for a loss or no gain. At 6-4 and 280 with good feet, he will only become more of a force with more experience after being a very raw prospect as a sophomore. He and Long Branch lineman Ryan Brodie should headline the Shore Conference Class of 2012, recruiting-wise.

—Wall junior quarterback Steve Cluley has plenty of talent, but he is still learning. He made some solid throws and has a pretty good arm, but he got happy feet a little in the pocket and made a few wild throws under pressure. He is a better runner than I thought, and his ability to break the pocket and take off has to be respected. He will be able to learn from the tape of the second half, when he really struggled and looked like he was a little rattled. Lacey head coach Lou Vircillo had high praise for him after the game but noted that he is not yet like Cicardo, who was in complete command the whole way, in the intangibles department. It’s just another step in the maturation process, but as Cluley becomes more polished, he will be tough for opposing defenses to handle. Lacey also had the run game so bottled up that Wall could never get anything going on play action and often was in third-and-long. Cluley also has seemed to find a favorite target early on, as senior Kyle Janeczek, who has come over from the basketball team, caught a touchdown pass and had a strong game.

—Wall senior linebacker Connor Caponegro is a good-looking prospect. He had a sack and a hit for a loss. He looks like a Division I-AA prospect who could land in the Northeast Conference or Patriot League. Very solid player, and as we all know, has solid bloodlines because his older brother, Blaze, is a former Wall star who is now at Temple.

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One Response to “Offensive Explosions Highlight Opening Night”

  1. mike Says:

    Will Wowkanyn is a BEAST!!!!!!!!

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