FRIENDS OR FOE – MANASQUAN AND WALL SET TO MEET IN 20TH ANNUAL THANKSGING DAY BASH
By Mike Ready
WALL TOWNSHIP – Manasquan and Wall Township border each other. Many of the players from both schools have known each other since childhood. The beach is a neutral gathering site where they surf, swim and tan together. But when the two schools meet on the football field for their annual Thanksgiving Day game, you can throw all of that out the window.
On Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, the Warriors and Crimson Knights will battle for the Superintendent’s Trophy and all the bragging rights that come along with it.
It’s the 20th edition of the rivalry game in which Wall holds a 10-9 advantage in the series after beating Manasquan,18-7, in last year’s game to break the tie.
Friday night, undefeated Wall (11-0) beat Rumson-Fair Haven, 14-13, in the Central Jersey Group III championship game for their first state title since 2016 and fifth overall in program history. (See page 3 for game coverage.)
Dual-threat quarterback Logan Peters has had a breakout junior campaign for the Knights as a field general and with the numbers he’s put up both running and passing.
He’s completed 62-of-101 passes for 1031 yards and 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions and has rushed for another 478 yards and nine touchdowns on 89 carries for a 5.4 yards per carry average.
A fierce competitor, Peters is also a hard-hitting safety on defense who leads the team with four interceptions along with recording 36 tackles, including 22 solo stops.
The Knights’ first option at running back is senior Casey Larkin, who has rushed for a team-high 834 yards and 11 touchdowns on 137 attempts for a 6.1 yards per carry average. He’s also a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield catching 15 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. Like Peters, Larkin is an elite safety who has three interceptions to his credit along with 29 tackles – 18 solo.
Senior Matt DeSarno has had some big moments and at 6 foot, 200 pounds, he’s counted on for his blocking and his ability to pick up the tough yardage. DeSarno has rushed for 281 yards and six touchdowns on 58 attempts for a 4.8 average and has caught 10 passes for 122 yards.
Senior wideout/cornerback Dale McNally (7-135-3), sophomore tight end/defensive end Blake Rezk (10-144-2) and wide receiver Matt Dollive (10-179-1) are other options for Peters in the passing game.
Senior standout Ian Ackerman, who missed all of last year except for the Thanksgiving game with an injury, anchors both the offensive and defensive lines at tackle. He’s recorded 74 tackles, four tackles for loss and four sacks so far this season.
Sophomore linebacker Charlie Sasso, who had a stellar freshman year racking up 68 tackles, is the team’s defensive MVP. He leads the team with 90 tackles along with three tackles for loss, three sacks, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
Linebacker Colin Riley, who leads the team with 10 sacks and tackles for loss with 13 and has recorded 61 tackles, is having a breakout sophomore campaign and just keeps getting better.
Senior linebacker Dean Terry has come on strong this year with 71 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks and a blocked punt.
Wall’s defense has allowed just 93 points in 10 games for a 9.3 points per game average.
Manasquan was faced with a major rebuild entering the season and is in the midst of an atypical season. They’ve won just four games and have five losses and would like nothing more than to even its season record at 5-5 with a win over rival Wall on Thanksgiving.
They are, however, 4-2 in their last six games after beginning the season with three straight losses.
Despite having a sub-.500 record, their strength of schedule gave them enough UPR points to qualify for the playoffs as a No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA South, Group II tournament. But in their quarterfinal game against fifth-seeded Delran, they took a tough 29-14 loss.
The Warriors rebounded nicely from that loss with a 27-7 win over Barnegat, as senior quarterback Cam Teza passed for over 200 yards with two touchdowns and ran for a 20-yard score.
Teza will lead the Warriors into the Thanksgiving Day game in hopes to end the season – and his high school career – on a high note.
Senior offensive/defensive tackles Garrett Terlizzi – a Bryant University commit – and Dylan Aloe and senior guard/defensive end Charlie Sawitsky anchor both lines and have provided senior leadership throughout the season on the young team.
Another senior, John Forman, has given the wide receiver and secondary spots some stability while putting up some nice numbers while wideout/safety Jack Collings has done the same as a junior.
Freshman running back/cornerback Jhamier Howard has had a breakout inaugural season on both sides of the ball and looks to be a special player moving forward.
Wall will be hosting Manasquan in this year’s Thanksgiving Day game with kickoff scheduled for 11am as the Knights attempt to make it two wins in a row over the Warriors and take an 11-9 lead in the series.