Late Heroics Send Keyport to First Sectional Final Since 2003
What looked to be a defensive showdown heading into the half with a 7-0 Keyport lead, became a back-and-forth third quarter before the Red Raiders went up for good and defeated Point Beach 27-14 in the Central Jersey Group I semifinals, which locks up a rematch with Asbury Park in two weeks.
A defensive showdown is what you would expect between these two teams heading in, but it wouldn't be a playoff game without a little late game excitement right?
For the most part, both teams held the ball for a while in the first half on drives that only resulted in seven points for Keyport, whose defense held up the strongest throughout the game.
"(It was) huge," said Keyport Head Coach Jay Graham explaining his halftime message. "We're up by 7, but our motto was it's 0-0, the balls getting kicked off and we're starting fresh. Keep fighting like we always do...they're a bunch of great kids, and my coaching staff is second to none."
There was no plethora of penalties early on and a relatively meaningless false start on Keyport did nothing to stop their scoring drive.
However, despite a facemask penalty committed by the Red Raiders, two false starts by Point Beach halted their drive to a field goal attempt that sailed wide right.
A 10-play, 5:22 drive by Keyport to begin their first possession saw nine of those plays handed off to sophomore running back Devin Wollner. who carried the ball 31 times for a remarkable 165 yards rushing. It was senior Chris Hogrefe who carried the ball into the end zone for the first score of the night.
An 11-play drive by Point Beach followed, which included the aforementioned penalties and a missed 23-yard field goal attempt.
On Point Beach's next possession came a key interception in the midst of a drive that may have netted a score. This was followed by a five-play drive including a 42-yard catch by senior wide receiver Cody Young.
Keyport had a field goal blocked by junior linebacker Luke Frauenheim of the Garnet Gulls with 11 seconds left in the first half.
Keyport opened up the second half with a three-and-out, and this was followed by Point Beach, aided by an encroachment penalty, to go on an eight-play drive leading to a tie game.
Not to be outdone, Keyport then came back with a score of their own to retake the lead on the heels of a seven-play drive ending with a touchdown.
This is where the third quarter came to a close with Point Beach in possession of the football and hoping to once again tie the score in a back-and-forth second half.
Point Beach had another long drive but ended with a turnover by senior running back Sean Gould who fumbled the ball into the end zone and out of bounds on a 4th down.
After a Keyport punt, the Garnet Gulls pulled back into the game.
Three plays later and Kay-Flagg delivered the dagger that would inevitably send Point Beach home and his team into the finals.
"I saw it (the defense) open up to the right so I decided to take advantage of that with the left move," said Kay-Flagg on the play.
Keyport added on an extra score following three knees inside the victory formation, when on fourth down they handed the ball off to runout the clock.
"These kids are fighters, when they're backs are to the wall, they turn around and fight," said Graham. "That's what happened tonight."
There were also a lot of weapons out of the backfield Friday night for the Red Raiders, one of which was Wollner who Graham spoke highly of after the game.
"Every game he's a guarantee almost," said Graham.
But heading into the championship matchup against Asbury Park, which is also a rematch of last year's semi-finals where Keyport stunned the Blue Bishops in front of their own crowd, Graham adds one thing to take away from this win.
"They work hard and they never give up," said Graham.
For Bonus Content from Shore Sports Network's coverage of this game, watch the post-game interviews below:
Vin Ebenau is a Shore Sports Network Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @VinEbenau. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.