Smashing Debuts Cap a Memorable Week One

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(This is a loooooooooong entry, so I just figured I’d give you a heads up.)

Experience is supposed to be a huge factor in success on the football field, right? I don’t know if I’m so sure of that after a host of sparkling debuts on Saturday night capped one of the wildest opening weekends in recent memory.

Leading the way was Howell junior quarterback Ryan Davies, who threw for a school-record 455 yards and seven (!) touchdowns in a 48-17 win over a Toms River North team that hadn’t given up anything close to that many points in a game since losing 46-20 to Middletown South in 2006. It was the first career start for Davies, the son of Howell head coach Cory Davies, and it rewrote the record book. Where do you go from there?

ASM’s Chris Melvin was at the game and said Davies definitely looked like a coach’s son, calm, composed and accurate, commanding the offense effortlessly. Chris got some video highlights as well, so hopefully we can get those posted later on Sunday/early Monday.

I also owe Davies an apology because in an earlier version of a column I posted on Thursday I wrote that Davies was at Lacey for a year and transferred to Howell, but he has always been at Howell to play for his father. He grew up in Lanoka Harbor and played Pop Warner with the current players at Lacey, so I apologize for that error.

Davies definitely made everyone sit up and take notice that Howell’s no-huddle, spread passing attack is just fine despite graduating the school’s all-time leading passer, Jimmy Ryan, who watched as his single-game records were erased by Davies in only his first game as a starter (He saw time last year as as sophomore). Now the challenge is to be consistent, as I remember that Ryan threw for over 300 yards and four TDs against Brick in his first start as a junior, only to struggle the rest of the way in a 3-7 season before exploding as a senior. Now there is film on Davies, so teams will try to do some different things against him to confuse him and bring more pressure.

I saw Davies in the preseason and thought he looked great. He’s got good height (6-2 1/2) and size (195) and a strong arm, so he has all the tools. Plus, he’s probably doodling up plays with his dad at the dinner table, so the learning never stops when it comes to grasping the offense, which took the last two juniors to start for Howell, Ryan and Sean O’Reilly, a year to fully grasp.

Circle your calendars for Oct. 2 at Howell, when Middletown South comes to town for a huge Class A North game. The chess match between the elder Davies and Eagles defensive coordinator Al Bigos should be great to watch.

Chris also mentioned that Howell’s offensive line is enormous, with three 300-pounders building a wall around Davies. His explosion coincided with the introduction of Howell’s next receiving star, Michael Clark, who had three touchdown catches and 190 yards receiving. It’s just an endless assembly line of talent in that system there. I’m actually surprised that Howell doesn’t get more transfers, because what quarterback or receiver wouldn’t want to play there?

Howell has become the shorthand for a monster passing system, as in, like our own Bob Badders put it yesterday, “If (Middletown South wideout) Taylor Rogers was at Howell, he would be All-State.”

Davies was one of two quarterbacks to throw for over 400 yards this weekend, outgunning Barnegat’s Nick SanGiacomo. When was the last time that two QBs threw for over 400 yards in a Shore Conference season, let alone the same weekend? It goes to show how much these spread offenses have grown around here in the past few years.

It was such an insane statistical weekend that Matt McLain’s 300-yard rushing game against Monsignor Donovan seemed like a distant memory by the end of last night. McLain, SanGiacomo, and a player like Barnegat’s Mike DeTroia, who had a ridiculous 230 yards receiving and three TDs, can’t even get to the front of the line for Offensive Player of the Week after Davies’s detonation of what is usually one of the Shore Conference’s best defenses at Toms River North.

While Davies’s debut was going spectacularly, Matawan freshman quarterback Kashaun Barnes was announcing his arrival on the Shore Conference scene with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes that broke open a close game in a 22-2 win over Freehold. Barnes already is 6-feet tall with a whip of a left arm and decent elusiveness, and on his second touchdown pass, a 64-yarder to promising wideout Austin Davis, the ball probably went 45-50 yards in the air and hit Davis right in stride. Matawan assistant Jay Bellamy, who played 13 years in the NFL for the Saints and Seahawks, turned around and shook his head after the second TD pass before saying, “Remember what I told you in the preseason about this kid?” No doubt, if Barnes continues to grow and gain speed to go with his arm, you’re looking at a 30-plus scholarship offer kid.

Barnes had to play because senior quarterback Jared Allison badly cramped up in both legs in the fourth quarter and was sidelined, and Barnes played with no fear against a swarming Freehold defense.

Yet another debut that should be mentioned is new Jackson Memorial quarterback Fred Scheer and running back Brandon Winston. Scheer threw two touchdown passes in his first varsity start and Winston went over the 100-yard rushing mark in his first start in a 15-8 win over a Manalapan team that entered the season with high expectations. If they continue to progress and give the Jaguars a balanced offense capable of the big play, expect them to be right there in the race for the Class A South title and a contender in Central Jersey Group IV.

There also was a successful debut on the coaching end, as Raritan’s Anthony Petruzzi picked up his first career victory in a 25-0 win over New Brunswick on the road. The Rockets’ defense was outstanding, particularly against the run, and the running game was very solid as Max DeNardo and Sean Bowe each ran for a pair of touchdowns. Petruzzi replaced the highly-respected Bob Generelli, who won over 100 games and three state titles between Raritan and Middletown South. Petruzzi played for Generelli at Raritan in the late 1990s and then was the defensive coordinator for the last decade, and Raritan also left New Brunswick with a good feeling for once after getting thrashed by the Zebras in their last two trips there in the state playoffs in 2002 and 2003 back in the Dwayne Jarrett era.

Although he technically was the head coach for a year in 2006, I’m also happy for Asbury Park head coach Matt Ardizzone, whose Blue Bishops rolled over Highland Park, 34-12, in the first game of his second coaching stint. He may be the only new head coach in the Shore under more pressure than Petruzzi, as he replaced current Neptune head coach Don Sofilkanich, who went 33-3 and led Asbury Park to three straight Central Jersey Group I titles. One of the few experienced players Ardizzone inherited, senior running back Marquise Johnson, had four touchdowns in the win, which is a great sign. Asbury is going to be a serious contender with Shore and Keyport for the Class B Central crown and doesn’t plan on giving up its status as a championship-level team.

Now, on to the rest of the craziness from Saturday and from the overall weekend:

—Major congrats are in order for Marlboro, which squashed J.P. Stevens 28-0 to end an 11-game losing streak and win for just the second time in 42 games. It’s clear that returning its entire team after having no seniors last year has made a major difference, considering J.P. Stevens beat Marlboro 31-6 last year. The Mustangs scored 14 points combined in 10 games last year, and doubled that in one game thanks to senior Brian Rodrig, who had yet another memorable offensive performance from opening weekend with a 200-yard rushing game and a pair of touchdowns. I got a text from this game at one point that read “22-0. Marlboro winning. Not a typo!” so even the Mustangs supporters were pleasantly surprised at the opening effort. That is something that can really kickstart a season, so we’ll see if that translates to much more competitiveness against Marlboro’s Shore Conference schedule. Great job of head coach Derek Sininsky staying the course and getting his players to believe and work hard in the offseason after such a disastrous 2009. The last time Marlboro scored 28 or more points in a game was a 47-41 win over Steinert in an NJSIAA consolation game in 2005. God knows when the last time they had a 200-yard rusher in a game like Rodrig.

—Also in the “it’s been a while” file, Red Bank beat Central 26-14 for its first win over a Shore Conference opponent since 2007. Head coach Nick Giglio appears to have the Bucs headed in the right direction as they have a big O-line that is the product of diligent offseason work, and they have two playmakers who can run in Jahmer Bunch and Thyeem Crawford. That win is a great confidence-builder for a program that started to make strides last season in Giglio’s inaugural year. They look to give some teams some trouble in Class A Central this year.

—Watch out for Keyport in Class B Central. With the addition of wideout Mike Konish, a senior basketball player who came out for the team and is a threat on special teams and as a receiver, as well as Monmouth Regional transfer Lamair Hill, the Red Raiders have some extra weapons to go with senior running back Jordan Edmonds and senior quarterback Cyrus Williams. Granted, the Metuchen team they beat 48-21 in their opener on Saturday is the same one that gave up 73 points to Monsignor Donovan last year, but it’s still an encouraging start.

—Yet another struggling program that got off to a confidence-building start was Point Beach, which picked up a 7-0 win over Cardinal McCarrick to match its entire win total from last season. Now it’s all about improving, as the Garnet Gulls won last year’s opener, 35-0, over Mater Dei Prep, but didn’t win another game after that, so they need to build on this and continue to get better offensively.

—Jeez, you think Middletown South returning all of its skill players has made a difference offensively? The Eagles dropped a 58-spot on Ocean, which no one does, and they did it with a balanced offense featuring the passing of Scott Meeker and the running of a stable of weapons. If they are going to continue to play at that level and throw the ball that effectively, see you in December again at the Central Jersey Group III final.

—Manalapan is looking at another tough start, possibly 0-2, as it faces Middletown South this week. It’s a chance for redemption after a 15-8 setback to Jackson Memorial in a season with such high expectations. Unfortunately for the Braves, the first sentiment I heard from numerous people after telling them that score last night was, “Same old Manalapan.” Bob Badders was at the game, and he did report that a bright spot defensively for Manalapan was senior defensive lineman James DeBlase, who had four hits for a loss. DeBlase’s father was killed on 9/11, so I’m sure it was an emotional day for him after going to Ground Zero with his family in the morning, but he certainly did him proud.

—Everything else was fairly expected, from Middletown North battling a solid North Brunswick team before falling 19-6, Freehold Township continuing its trend of playing really well on defense and struggling on offense in a 9-0 loss to Perth Amboy that spoiled new head coach Mike D’Antonio’s debut, Holmdel’s new spread offense and senior QB Mike Cantelli lighting up Lakewood in a 37-14 win that ruined Warren Wolf’s debut, Long Branch’s Miles Shuler putting on a show in a 33-14 win over Colts Neck, and Jackson Liberty fighting hard but failing to solve JFK-Iselin’s triple option in a 21-14 loss.

Finally, let’s get to the stuff from the two games I attended, Point Boro-Manasquan, and Matawan-Freehold, starting with Manasquan’s 21-11 comeback win.

—There’s just something about Vic Kubu Warrior Field that makes Manasquan nearly unbeatable. The Warriors haven’t lost at home since 2007. Even Point Boro coach Calvin Thompson knows, as he is a Manasquan graduate and said that they only lost two games at home total during his years playing for the Warriors in the early 1980s.

—It definitely is huge to have a veteran coaching staff that has seen it all. Manasquan’s coaches didn’t panic one bit after an atrocious first half in which they gained 15 total yards and one first down, fumbled at their own 5-yard line, and got hit for a safety. The players can sense when coaches panic, but Pete Cahill and Co. kept them calm and challenged them to come back from an 11-0 deficit.

—I’m interested to see who becomes Tyler Saito’s No. 1 target in the passing game. He spread it around in the second half, mostly on swing passes and screens, so there really wasn’t one guy like Neal Sterling was last year. I’ll tell you one thing, senior wideout Stefan Baier is a great blocker on screens and run plays on the perimeter.

—Senior Tariq Turner is a punishing runner who is hard to bring down, but he runs a little upright. Point Boro got some good blasts on him yesterday, but he popped right back up after every one.

—Many were wondering why Point Boro didn’t go to Maryland-bound wideout/tight end Ryan Malleck more in the second half yesterday after he had a 20-yard touchdown catch in the first half. Malleck was sick with the flu and hadn’t even practiced the day before, so he was gutting it out, according to Thompson. I’m sure the heat and the dusty field didn’t help things, but you can see on the video that after Malleck scored his touchdown, he didn’t even have the energy to give a high five and looked pretty spent. One thing is for sure, he is a scary weapon in the red zone. When Point Boro can go four-wide and isolate him one-on-one, there aren’t too many defensive players in the Shore who can win that match-up.

—I think Point Boro quarterback John Dunbar has good potential. He can run, and he is dangerous on rollouts throwing the ball. As he gets more experience, he will be difficult to stop. I also think senior running back Jimmy DiOrio plays bigger than he is. He is listed at 5-10, 170, but can run inside the tackles and get yards after contact.

–Point Boro has some solid quickness out of its front seven. Besides having an awesome name, senior defensive lineman Gage Klotz had a fumble recovery and multiple hits for a loss, and linebacker Steve Krohn also had some good moments, including a tackle for a safety.

—Manasquan’s defense was impressive in its resilience, twice stopping Point Boro inside the Warriors’ 5-yard line. Jack Cuttrell is a 300-pound road block in the middle, and Brendan Brock and Turner are two playmakers at linebacker. Junior Christian Morgan also did a nice job up front on both sides of the ball and was given a game ball by Cahill after the win.

—Manasquan senior Ryan Casey may be better known as a tight end from last year, but he was outstanding at defensive end on Saturday. Even though he didn’t get a sack, he had seven quarterback pressures, including one that resulted in an interception that Turner returned for a touchdown, and another that resulted in an incomplete pass on fourth down. Great performance by him that wouldn’t necessarily show up in the box score. Every time Dunbar tried to run play action or roll out, No. 84 was bearing down on him.

—There may be no offensive coordinator in the Shore who knows when to pull the trigger on a screen play or throwback pass better than Manasquan’s Rich Read. He did it in a huge spot against Rumson in a comeback win in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals last year, and he stung Point Boro with a couple on two scoring drives in the second half. It’s a regular part of the Warriors’ game plan, but it all comes down to knowing when to pull it out and use it, and Read has a sixth sense for it.

—Really great job by me on not putting any suntan lotion on until the second half. I figured it was a nice, sunny, breezy day, and by the time I got home from Matawan at about 9:30 last night and looked in the mirror, I felt like Will Ferrell’s character in “Austin Powers” after Dr. Evil ejects him from the table and down into a flaming pit. “Somebody help me! I’m alive, only very badly burned.” I definitely had a little too much sun. After the game, Manasquan assistant P.J. Gibbs asked me if I had a long night on Friday, and then I asked to talk to Christian Spaulding. That was a difficult request, considering Christian Spaulding plays for Middletown South. Christian Morgan, who plays for Manasquan, proved to be a better choice.

And finally, here are the extras from Matawan’s 22-2 win over Freehold.

—Freehold had the right idea with trying to get yards at five or six a clip to shorten the game, but you have to come away with points. Matawan is too potent offensively. You can take 8 minutes off the clock, but the Huskies can come back and score in one play, so teams have to not only drain the clock, but get six. Freehold also really hurt itself with penalties, and that flexbone option is just not built for third-and-long. They can’t have negative plays, and they can’t have penalties. Senior quarterback Sterry Codrington is a converted wideout with great running ability, but passing is not Freehold’s thing.

—Matawan senior McArthur Underwood is the most relentlessly energetic player I’ve seen in recent memory. He never gets tired. He had four tackles for a loss on defense and rushed for over 100 yards on just 12 carries. When Matawan was starting to hang its head on the sidelines in the fourth quarter with senior quarterback Jared Allison out with leg cramps and the Huskies clinging to a 3-2 lead, Underwood got everyone fired up on the sideline and then went out and made more plays. The coaches walked him up from safety/outside linebacker to the line of scrimmage and he darted in for numerous big plays.

—This Matawan group showed me something with its intangibles. When they were dropping passes or giving up sacks or missing defensive assignments and Freehold was hanging right in the game, I thought they might panic as the pressure of being the No. 1 team in the Shore on the verge of possibly being upset would get to them, but they stayed focused.

—Matawan is so explosive that a team can be right in the game one minute, and in the blink of an eye be down by 20. In the span of 3:02 in the fourth quarter, the Huskies scored three times to turn a 3-2 game into a 22-2 lead. Opponents can never feel comfortable against them because that’s how quick it can get away from them.

—Allison said afterward that he is fine and it was only cramping, so that he will be back in form when the Huskies take on Red Bank Regional on Thursday. Allison also had his left ankle taped during the game after tweaking it on a late hit out of bounds by Freehold in the second quarter.

—The most imposing player on Matawan has to be 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior Andre Beaty, the younger brother of senior standout running back/linebacker Keith Beaty. The younger Beaty, who is known as “Juicy” by his teammates, gives them a road block in the middle up front defensively that allows the linebackers to swoop in and clean up the play after Beaty ties up blockers. Only at Matawan do they graduate one 300-pound defensive tackle, Ted Slay, and just have another one to plug right in.

—Freehold’s defense is very fast. They get after the quarterback with multiple rushers, they tackle well in the open field, and they are aggressive. The perfect illustration of their speed was when seniors Derrick Bender and Rameer Wright ran down Underwood from behind way down the field on a 56-yard run to save a touchdown, forcing Matawan to settle for a field goal. You don’t really see anyone catching Underwood from behind.

—I really like the resilience of Matawan senior wide receiver Austin Davis. He dropped three passes in the game, including one that probably would’ve been about a 70-yard touchdown, but he didn’t get down on himself and his teammates kept faith in him. Barnes went back to him for a 25-yard touchdown pass and then unloaded a 64-yard bomb to him for another one. Davis also showed good power early in the game on an 18-yard reception from Allison when he plowed right over a Freehold defensive back. If he eliminates the drops, he could be a major weapon for them this season.

—It appears the Huskies have another good kicker in senior Zeke Vega, who nailed a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter. Vega steps in for an ASM first-teamer from last year, Sean Gleason. He did have some extra points blocked, but those weren’t really his fault.

—Matawan and head coach Joe Martucci awarded the game ball to the family of a former Huskies player who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which was a great gesture.


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One Response to “Smashing Debuts Cap a Memorable Week One”

  1. Jeff Says:

    The Matawan-Freehold game was a mistake laden game. Freehold actually had a chance to win the game if it wasn’t for the mistakes.

    Brandon Weiss played well for Freehold, as he was dominant on the offensive line and made plays on the defensive line.

    Starry Codrington did well for his 1st game at QB with over 100 yards rushing.

    Matawan is very fast and very poised with the ball.

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