By Brian Deakyne
With the Bulldogs coming off two straight trips to the Central Jersey Group II sectional final, and a division winner a season ago, they might be taking a back seat as a preseason favorite in the A-Central.
Red Bank Catholic, one of New Jersey’s most storied parochial programs, will be joining the Bulldogs in the A-Central in 2012. The move for the conference, which shuffled some teams around to eliminate the C-Central, puts eight teams into the division, compared to last years six.
Rumson-Fair Haven, which faced previous divisional rival, Matawan Regional, in its previous two trips to the sectional championship game, will be seeing Manasquan — another 2011 playoff team — added to its division, as well.
The Huskies will be leaving the A-Central, moving to the B-North along with Red Bank Regional.
In all, the A-Central will have four teams in the division this year that were playoff-bound a year ago, making them a strong case for the Shore Conference’s toughest division.
Caseys head coach Jim Portela said the team is well aware that teams will be gunning for them, and that they will need their best game each week.
“In the division, everything is a rivalry. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Portela said. “If you look at our schedule, you’ll see that everyone is a geographical rival.”
The Caseys will have divisional games against Manasquan, St. John Vianney and Holmdel, following their season-opening game at Red Bank Regional on Sept. 8.
Likewise, Rumson-Fair Haven will open the season with three consecutive in-division games against Shore Regional, St. John Vianney and Holmdel. RFH’s regular season will wrap up with games against Monmouth Regional and Manasquan — both on the road.
“We’re going to make sure we’re up and excited every week because I think every team is going to be excited to play us,” Portela said.
Red Bank Hopes to Knock off RBC in Saturday Opener
The Bucs, who moved to the B-North in the conference re-alignment, will have a tall task on Saturday, when they open the season at home against Red Bank Catholic.
It will be RBR’s first meeting against the Caseys since 2009, when RBR lost 38-0.
That game will be just the beginning of a brutal schedule for the Bucs. Of their eight regular season games, six of them are against playoff teams, including Matawan Regional, who won the Central Jersey Group II final last year, and Neptune, who won the Central Jersey Group III final a year ago; those games coming in back-to-back weeks.
Red Bank will also face Rumson-Fair Haven, which the Huskies beat in the Central Jersey Group II championship game in December, and, of course, RBC, who nearly upset Delbarton in the semi-final of the Non-Public Group III sectional tournament.
The Bucs will also take on Wall in the second week on the road, a perennial Shore Conference power that was upset in the opening round of the playoffs last season.