BY VIN RAPOLLA
The Ocean Township High School football team should have no problem getting up for tonight’s game.
The Spartans will face their biggest challenge yet as they face off against undefeated defending Central Jersey Group IV champion Brick Memorial, in a game that could determine whether the Spartans could earn a share of the Constitution Division title.
The Spartans enter the game at 4-1, having lost to Toms River East (5-0), while the Mustangs are also 5-0, but have yet to face TRE (they play next week).
In any event, the Spartans are looking forward to tonight’s game, when they hope to prove they are among the Shore’s elite teams. But playing with Brick Memorial and beating them are two entirely different things.
“We know they’ll be tough,” said head coach Sal Spampanato. “This game will be our biggest test of the season.”
Ocean comes into the game coming off an impressive 25-0 victory over Central last week on the road. The team managed 25 points without its starting quarterback, Keith McPherson, and was instead led by sophomore backup Yinka Soda — showing the depth of the team.
“We were real proud of his efforts last week,” said the coach. “He really stepped up for the team.”
McPherson, who was out last week with a slight sprained ankle, will be ready and healthy for the game Friday night.
Offensively, he will be looked upon to make big plays, along with running back Chris Chittum and wide receiver/special teams threat Corey Giddings.
“Chittum is coming off a 111-yard game and has a handful of 100-plus-yard games on the season,” said Spamoanato. “Giddings is really emerging as a weapon on both sides of the ball.”
Add to the mix Dean Athans, who rushed for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 carries against Central, and the Spartans have plenty of firepower to lead the ground attack.
Defensively the team will look to their returning all-division senior middle linebacker, Alex Cabasso, to set the tone.
“Alex is the best all-around player on the team,” said Spamoanato. “He’s an on-field leader who will also play offense if needed.”
Cabasso had 82 yards rushing against Central, including a 53-yard rushing TD.
The team also looks for defensive contributions from sophomore outside linebacker Alex Levy and senior middle linebacker Dean Athans.
“Levy has really stepped up his game the past couple weeks, while Dean is coming off of his best game of the season,” said Coach Spamoanato.
Spampanato and his coaching staff know what they’ll have to do to stay competitive against their toughest opponent of the season thus far. The team’s line coach, Mike Lambusta, will look to pave the way for the rushing game, while quarterback coach Donny Klein will look to keep the offense on the field.
“Our coaches have really done a great job this season, with the rushing game and at the quarterback position,” said Spamoanato.
With Brick returning the nucleus of its state championship team, Ocean will have to control the ball on offense, sustain long drives and keep the ball out of their hands offensively.
Defensively, they’ll have to play their strongest game of the season, not give up big plays, and make Brick earn all of its points. They’ll be particularly weary of the Mustangs’ Garret Graham, the senior tight end who is one of the top offensive threats in the state.
Brick Memorial coach Fred Sprengle is expecting a classic showdown, and added that his team needs to improve its play if it hopes to leave Ocean Township with a win Friday night.
“It’s a monster game,” he said. “We have to correct what we’re doing wrong. We have to eliminate mistakes and penalties.”
With Ocean’s past two victories coming on the road, this homecoming may give the team the edge it will need to beat the defending state champs.
“The guys are really pumped up for the game,” said Spamoanato. “They know it’s a big game and are excited to be home. The guys will be ready.”
Game time is 7 p.m.
The Shore Regional Blue Devils will host out-of-conference foe North Plainfield tonight fresh off a 44-7 drubbing of Mater Dei last week.
The Blue Devils improved to 2-3 with the win, dominating the hapless Seraphs en route to a 28-0 halftime lead. The lead built to 42-0 in the third, as Shore, which is finally getting healthy, made a statement — they don’t plan on losing the rest of the way.
Game time tonight is 7 p.m.
Red Bank Catholic was the only other local team to post a win last weekend, rolling over Manasquan, 28-7.
The Caseys improved to 3-2 with the win — their first ever against the Warriors. That’s quite a few games too, since the two teams have been squaring off since the 1980s.
As usual, Donnie Brown led the way in the win, rushing for 196 yards and two touchdowns, while Kevin Parks caught the go-ahead TD (a 15-yard strike from Kyle Brandon). Ryan Kalish scored the Caseys’ first TD in the second quarter on a 9-yard scamper.
RBC’s defense was equally impressive, as the Caseys continually stymied the Warrior attack. RBC hopes for a similar effort tonight when they host St. John Vianney at 7 p.m. It will be the final home game for RBC this year, as Count Basie Field is scheduled to be renovated.
Game time is 7 p.m.
Rumson-Fair Haven hopes to rebound from a disheartening 28-6 loss to Asbury Park last week when they travel to Keansburg tomorrow.
The Bulldogs did very little right against the Blue Bishops last week, as Asbury Park shocked them time and again with big plays on both sides of the ball. Rumson, which fell to 2-2 with the loss, needs to respond tomorrow against a 2-2 Titans team coming off a bad loss itself — 40-13 to Point Boro.
Game time is 1 p.m.
Another local team needing a better effort this week is the Red Bank Regional Bucs, who were dominated by Neptune last week in a 27-7 loss. They face Freehold Borough tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Freehold.
Monmouth Regional was the latest victim to the machine known as Middletown South last week, losing a 48-0 contest to the team that many feel is the best in the state. Monmouth will look to bounce back tomorrow when it hosts Colts Neck in a 1:30 p.m. tilt.
Long Branch High School comes off its bye week hoping to spring an upset against one of the Shore’s elite teams — Wall Township. Game time is 2 p.m. tomorrow at Shore Regional (Long Branch’s home field is under renovation).