Area football teams advance in Central Jersey Group III


Three area Shore Conference teams will play in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey ,Group III playoffs Nov. 20.

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, Ocean Township High School and Red Bank Regional High School — the top three seeds in that order — all won their opening-round games in dominant fashion Nov. 13. As a result, Rumson-Fair Haven will host fifth-seeded Matawan Regional High School (7-3), which edged Hopewell Valley Central High School (7-3), 24-18, in triple overtime.

Ocean Township hosts Shore Conference B Central Division champion Red Bank Regional, which, despite winning the division and downing the Spartans along the way, finished behind Ocean Township in the power point rankings. The Buccaneers beat Ocean Township, 16-6, Sept. 25 in a hard-fought defensive contest, holding Ocean Township’s talented back, Tyler Thompson, to just 65 yards on the ground. Thompson has run for nearly 1,300 yards this season.

Ocean Township coach Don Klein said his team was looking forward to the rematch and that the Spartans (8-1) will do a lot of things differently.

Kenny Pickett ran for two touchdowns and completed 9 of 13 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, while Thompson ran for 119 yards and pair of touchdowns to key the Spartans’ 35-0 win over seventh-seeded Hamilton High School West (4-5).

Ocean Township controlled the game from the outset and gradually pulled away, taking a 21-0 lead into halftime.

Red Bank Regional (9-0), meanwhile, also put on a dominating defensive display, shutting out sixth-seeded South Plainfield High School, 30-0, in its opening-round game to move into the semifinals.

After a scoreless opening quarter, the Buccaneers scored on a short run by Alim Godsey, who had 67 yards on the day, to take a 7-0 lead. Red Bank Regional then added to its momentum when Sadiq Palmer picked up a Tigers fumble and ran it back 60 yards for another touchdown.

Palmer scored on a pair of 4-yard runs in the second half as the Buccaneers pulled away, adding a safety to complete the scoring.

“Our goal has always been to get better each day, each game,” Red Bank coach Nick Giglio said. “It doesn’t matter who you play; if you’re not focused and prepared, you won’t win. Ocean has a great team, and I’m sure they’re going to do things differently, but so are we.”

In Rumson, eighth-seeded Rahway High School (3-6) took a 6-0 lead into the intermission as the Bulldogs (8-1) made several uncharacteristic mistakes.

“Rahway played us very well; you have to give them credit,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Batchler said. “We weren’t happy with the first half, but there was no panic. We lost a fumble, a tipped pass was intercepted and we missed a coverage. It happens.”

It didn’t happen in the second half, as the Bulldogs went on to score 36 points in the third quarter and eliminate any hope of a Rahway upset. Michael O’Conner scored twice and completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to John Kingdon, as Rumson-Fair Haven took control of the game and went on to win, 43-6. O’Conner rushed for 175 yards on 12 carries. Matt Veccharelli added 85 yards on 16 tries and Bryan Hess also carried the ball 16 times, gaining 78 yards. Defensive stalwart Mike Ruane, who leads the team with 114 tackles, added a 2-yard scoring run.

“The first half was a good scare for us,” Batchler said. “We brought our ‘A’ game out in the second half. That’s the way we need to play against Matawan. “

Batchler pointed out that both the Bulldogs and the Huskies have been victorious in their last four visits to a sectional semifinal. The two teams met in Rumson Sept. 18, and Batchler’s team came away with a 17-0 win.

“I’m glad we’re at home,” the Bulldogs coach said.

In other area playoff action, Red

Bank Catholic High School improved to 8-2 overall with a solid 21-14 victory over fourth-seeded Pope John XXIII Regional High School (7-3) in the Non-Public Group III playoffs Nov. 14. The fifth-seeded Caseys will travel to Holmdel to meet top-seeded St. John Vianney High School (10-0) in a semifinal matchup Nov. 20.

Dylan Murphy led the way for the Caseys against Pope John, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 79 yards. The two teams battled through a tightly contested first half, but the Caseys took a 7-0 lead into the dressing room thanks to Murphy’s 3-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

“Our defense was outstanding throughout the game, and I can’t say enough about how our seniors played; they played like leaders,” RBC coach Jim Portela said. “Pope John was moving the ball on their first drive, and we were able to stop them and block their field-goal attempt.”

Pope John tied things up early in the third quarter and appeared to gain momentum. The Caseys, however, showed their resiliency by bouncing right back. Mike Wilen’s 60-yard run set up a short touchdown run by Murphy for a 14-7 RBC lead.

St. John Vianney easily downed eighth-seeded Donovan Catholic (3-6), 41-0, in its opening-round game. The Lancers boast a high-scoring offense and a defense that has posted five straight shutouts, including their last three games.

“They’re obviously a very good team, so we really want to control the ball and limit their ability to make big plays,” Portela said. “We have a great natural rivalry with St. John, and it’s a very positive thing. The atmosphere will be exciting, and I think it will be a fun experience for everyone.”

In Central Jersey Group I action, top-seeded and undefeated Shore Regional High School (9-0) rolled through Burlington City High School (3-6), 36-0. There was little doubt from the start that the eighth seed was overmatched against the powerful Blue Devils.

Shore Regional’s Doug Goldsmith brought the opening kickoff back 90 yards to score the first of his three touchdowns and put the visitors on their heels. Jack Britton and Alex Johnson also scored for the Blue Devils. The Shore Regional defense, which has allowed only 50 points this season, kept the Burlington City offense in check throughout the contest. The visitors also fumbled several times, and the Blue Devils recovered four of them.

Shore Regional will host fourth-seeded Florence Township Memorial High School (6- 3) Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in the sectional semifinals.