Gridiron Gossip: Central Grads Star In College Football

Central Regional grad Thomas Koenig made the All-New Jersey Athletic Conference first team while at the College of New Jersey. (Photo courtesy the College of New Jersey)

Cheers, cheers and more cheers to Mike Gesicki, the senior tight end-hybrid from Southern Regional High School starring for Penn State University.

Plaudits to teammate Manny Bowen, the ex-Barnegat star and a junior linebacker.

The former Ram and ex-Bengal have helped Penn State University earn a berth in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl.

The Nittany Lions, ranked ninth in the Associated Press Poll, will meet the No. 11 University of Washington Huskies on Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. on ESPN in Glendale, Ariz.

Gesicki, who has started in each of Penn State’s 12 games, leads the team in catches with 51 for 501 yards. He is third on the club in touchdown catches with nine and is fourth on the team in scoring with 54 points.

He was named to the All-Big Ten first team offense by the media and to the conference’s second team by the conference coaches after ravaging defenses for the Nittany Lions.

Gesicki averaged 9.8 yards per catch. His longest reception was 35 yards. He averaged 41.8 receiving yards per game. The former Ram is among three finalists for the Mackey Award and is expected to be a high National Football League draft choice in April.

He’s a 6-foot-6, 250-pounder.

Bowen has appeared in nine games and started nine. He made 22 solo stops and added 29 assists. He’s fifth on the team in total tackles with 51. He added one pass breakup, one pass defensed, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.

Bowen is a 6-foot-1, 226-pounder.

Basile honored: Former Brick Memorial player Mike Basile, Monmouth University’s senior safety, made the All-Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference second team.

The strong safety led the nation in solo tackles and made 126 total tackles. He paced the Hawks in solo stops (91) and led the club in assisted tackles (35). He added 9 1/2 tackles for 49 yards lost for first on the Hawks. He notched three sacks for 26 yards lost, picked off one pass, broke up four tosses, defensed five passes, forced one fumble and led the Hawks in blocked kicks (two). He played in 12 games.

Basile was sixth in the final voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the nation’s top FCS defensive player. He’s the first player in Monmouth history named first-team all-conference all four years. He was name the Big South Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year this season.

Basile is a likely NFL draft choice.

More on Monmouth: Redshirt junior teammate Ryan Wetzel, a Freehold resident and a former Colts Neck player, was an All-ECAC second-team selection after starring at guard.

The former Cougar made 23 straight starts at guard. His punishing blocks this year helped pave the way for a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a unit that ranked 10th in the nation in red zone offense.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back Tymere Berry, a former Toms River South player, was among the Hawks’ top defenders, registering 43 tackles (33 solos, 10 assists). He added 4 1/2 sacks for 11 yards lost, returned two interceptions for 36 yards, broke up 14 passes, defensed 16 passes, notched one quarterback hit and blocked one kick through 11 games.

Senior wide receiver Vinny Grasso (Donovan Catholic) was second on the Hawks in receptions (29) and fourth in receiving yards (315). He averaged 10.9 yards per catch. His longest reception devoured 79 yards.

Grasso rushed for 79 yards and one touchdown on three carries, averaging 26.3 yards per run. He blazed 70 yards with a punt return for a touchdown through 12 games.

Junior wide receiver Matt Castronuova (Jackson Memorial) appeared in 12 games, catching six passes for 34 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per grab. His longest reception was 17 yards.

The former Jaguar returned five kickoffs for 98 yards and averaged 19.6 yards per run back. His longest kickoff return was 29 yards.

Duo at the top: Former Brick Memorial player Matt Schleifer (Brick Memorial) and Drew Scott, who played for the Brick Green Dragons, won Centennial Conference postseason honors.

Schleifer made the first team as a return specialist. Scott made the second team as a senior linebacker.

Schleifer, a sophomore, finished the season with 1,296 all-purpose yards, including 1,025 return yards. He averaged a league-high 16.0 yards per return on 23 punt returns. He sped 92 yards for a touchdown on a punt return against Johns Hopkins. He averaged 21.2 yards per return on 31 kickoff returns.

He caught 19 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns through 10 games for the Green Terror.

Scott, who played in 10 games, paced the Green Terror in tackles (72), solo stops (45) and assists (27). He added six tackles for seven yards lost and forced one fumble while breaking up one pass.

Central Regional grad Thomas Koenig made the All-New Jersey Athletic Conference first team while at the College of New Jersey. (Photo courtesy the College of New Jersey)

More on the Green Terror: Sophomore defensive back Alex Rosario (Donovan) appeared in 10 games, making 23 tackles, including 18 solos, and breaking up seven passes.

Sophomore defensive lineman Dan Finelli (Brick) played in nine games and made 27 tackles, including 20 solos. He added two sacks for 10 yards lost, four tackles for 13 yards lost and three pass breakups.

Joe Hynes (Point Pleasant Boro) was a freshman offensive lineman.

Bradley cited: Former Jackson Memorial player Kenny Bradley, an Ithaca College senior linebacker, made the All-Liberty League first team.

Bradley led the Bombers in solo tackles with 36 and was second on the club in assists (49). He finished in a two-way tie for the team lead in total tackles with 85. He added two forced fumbles, 2 1/2 tackles for four yards lost, one sack, four pass breakups and one interception.

He started in each of the team’s 10 games. He’s a 5-foot-11, 220-pounder.

A four-year starter, Bradley finished his career with 315 tackles.

Koenig among the elite: The College of New Jersey senior wide receiver Thomas Koenig, who played for Central Regional, made the All-New Jersey Athletic Conference first team.

He was fifth in the NJAC with 785 receiving yards for the fifth most in one season in TCNJ history. The total was the second highest in the conference this year. He led the NJAC in average receiving yards per game at 87.2 in nine outings.

He was first on the Lions in receptions (43), average yards per catch (18.26), touchdown catches (seven) and longest reception (80).

Glover on the run: Former Jackson Memorial standout Khani Glover, a TCNJ senior running back, enjoyed a big season.

He was first on the Lions in rushing yardage (505), carries (136), rushing touchdowns (three), longest run (41) and rushing yards per game (50.50).

Glover caught 15 passes for 101 yards.

Beverette among the best: Former Lakewood football and basketball standout Tyrice Beverette, a Stony Brook University senior linebacker, made the All-Colonial Athletic Association third team.

He paced the Seawolves in total tackles (96) and solo stops (64). He added 32 assists through 13 games. He made 10 1/2 tackles for 48 yards lost, registered 4 1/2 sacks for 35 yards lost, broke up four passes and forced one fumble for the Seawolves.

A hard hitting Owl: Ex-Lakewood player Chapelle Russell, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, was among the Temple University Owls’ top defenders through his first nine games of the season as he was fourth on the club with 70 tackles through the team’s initial 12 games.

He made 44 solo tackles and added 26 assists. He registered 3 1/2 tackles for 15 yards lost, broke up one pass and forced two fumbles.

Oliver sparkles: Senior defensive lineman Marquis Oliver (Lakewood) was an All-NJAC honorable mention selection at Kean University for the Cougars.

Oliver finished the season with 25 tackles (14 solos, 11 assists). He added 5 1/2 tackles for 36 yards lost and 3 1/2 sacks for 29 yards lost. He broke up one pass, notched two quarterback hits, recovered one fumble and forced one fumble.

More on the Cougars: Sophomore wide receiver David Patterson Jr. (Lakewood) was second on the team in receptions (25), receiving yards (333), average receiving yards per catch (13.3), average receiving yards per game (33.3), receiving touchdowns (four) and points (32).

He finished in a two-way tie for second on the team in overall touchdowns with five and caught one pass for a two-point conversion. He added four solo stops and one assist.

Senior punter Steve Ferlisi, who played for the Brick Green Dragons, averaged 36.6 yards per boot on 41 punts.

His longest punt sailed 63 yards. He added five touch backs and nine fair catches. A total of 12 punts landed inside the opposition’s 20-yard line. Three punts were blocked.

Sophomore wide receiver Jarvis Leaks (Howell) made one catch for 14 yards. He returned two punts for three yards and ran back five kickoffs for 92 yards.

Sophomore defensive back Amani Richardson (Manchester) returned two punts for 29 yards and added one solo tackle, one assisted stop and one tackle for two yards lost. He broke up two passes, defensed two passes and blocked two kicks.

Johnson at Assumption: Seeing action as an Assumption College junior defensive back was Ja’Quez Johnson (Brick).

The former Green Dragon made 19 solo tackles and added one assist in 12 games. He forced one fumble and broke up five passes.

Diawara sees action: Senior defensive lineman Maurice Diawara (Lakewood) played in 10 games at Wagner College, making 12 solo stops and adding one assist.

He made one sack for 13 yards lost, broke up one pass and returned two fumbles for 11 yards.

Trio at Delaware Valley: Locals at Delaware Valley were sophomore quarterback Anthony Fontana (Brick Memorial), sophomore linebacker Billy Walsh (Brick Memorial) and freshman defensive lineman Jack Finelli (Brick).

Fontana, who played in eight games, rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He completed eight of 12 passes for 81 yards and one touchdown.

Walsh made nine tackles, including seven assisted stops, in 12 games. He broke up one pass.

Finelli contributed 10 tackles, including six assists, in 12 games. He broke up one pass and forced one fumble.

Graham an Ivy Leaguer: Junior defensive lineman Brody Graham (Jackson Memorial) was on the University of Pennsylvania roster.

He appeared in 10 games, notching 12 tackles, including six solo stops, while breaking up one pass and adding one fumble recovery for the Quakers.

Giaimo on roster: Former Central player Jarred Giaimo made three solo stops and added three assists at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Young makes hits: Stonehill College junior defensive end Xavier Young (Barnegat) appeared in 10 games, making 21 tackles, including 10 solo stops.

Noesges leads Rowan: Senior linebacker Chris Noesges, a Freehold resident and a former Manalapan player, paced Rowan University in tackles (74), solo stops (38) and assists (36).

He added one interception, one quarterback hit, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.