Betting on Horses: Fourth-down gamble sends Brick Memorial past Freehold in CJ-4 quarterfinals
FREEHOLD – With under two minutes to play in the third quarter and Freehold leading Brick Memorial by six points, Mustangs head coach Walt Currie made the surprise decision to go for it on fourth-and-two from his own 36-yard line. Then, the chess match was on.
Freehold called timeout as Brick Memorial lined up to run the play. Then, Brick Memorial saw something in the Colonial’s alignment that prompted them to call timeout before running the play. The Mustangs weren’t out there simply to try to draw Freehold offsides. Brick Memorial had found an area to exploit and the Mustangs took full advantage to send themselves to the next round of the playoffs.
Senior running back Jeff Lavarin took a pitch to the near side, got to the corner and sprinted untouched for a 64-yard touchdown to tie the game. An extra point by junior Ryan McCombs gave the Mustangs the lead and the defense did the rest to deliver a gritty 21-13 victory in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
“We called timeout and went to what we thought was a better play,” Currie said. “It really has to do with the ability of our kids to execute in those crucial moments. Those are the types of plays you have to make in a playoff game, especially when you’re a 3-5 football team. Sometimes you have to take risks and I’ll tell you what, we never thought twice about it because we trusted our kids to execute.”
“Coach knew,” Lavarin said. “He said just beat him to the outside, we have faith in you.”
Lavarin’s touchdown and the ensuing extra point gave Brick Memorial a 14-13 lead late in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Tyler Sindel added a touchdown run late in the game after junior defensive back C.J. Lavarin came down with an interception with just over a minute to play. McCombs officially clinched the victory when he recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard to allow the Mustangs to take a knee and run out the clock.
Brick Memorial will play top-seeded Long Branch in the semifinals. The Green Wave are the defending sectional champions and defeated the Mustangs, 40-14, in Week 8.
Sindel ran for a game-high 161 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns. Lavarin added 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns on nine carries. Sophomore quarterback Sha’Kim Shuler ran for 106 yards and threw for 105 yards for Freehold. Senior Jake Hurler caught a 66-yard touchdown pass and senior Matt Krauss had a 3-yard touchdown run.
Freehold went up 13-0 in the first quarter, but Brick Memorial’s defense was lights out from that point on. The Mustangs allowed zero points and just 63 yards over the final three quarters and yielded just 209 yards of offense the entire game. They also forced five turnovers with Lavarin, junior defensive back Mekhi Irving and senior linebacker Kyle McBride securing interceptions and McCombs and sophomore T.J. McArthur recovering fumbles.
“Our defense played awesome,” Currie said. “The front six did a great job containing their quarterback and our secondary really locked down their receivers for most of the game. They had a couple here and there but for the most part we covered really well.”
Freehold forced a three-and-out on Brick Memorial’s first possession and then scored on its first play when Shuler found Hurler on a slant for a 66-yard score. The extra point was not attempted after the snap went off the holder’s hand and bounced to the ground. Hurler picked it up and tried to run it in but was tackled by Brick Memorial’s special teams unit.
Freehold stopped Brick Memorial on three straight plays again before embarking on an 11-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Krauss had an 11-yard catch and Shuler had runs of 18 and 17 yards to set up Krauss’s 3-yard touchdown run. Hurler’s extra point was good to give the Colonials a 13-0 lead with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
Brick Memorial’s triple-option offense was able to get rolling on the next possession when Sindel found McCombs for a 14-yard gain and then broke a 45-yard run down to the Freehold 5-yard line. Two plays later, Sindel knifed in for a 3-yard touchdown to cut Freehold’s lead to 13-7.
Brick Memorial’s next possession resulted in Lavarin’s touchdown and the defense was outstanding to make sure the lead held up. After the Mustangs went ahead their defense allowed only one yard.
“Our kids never blinked when they faced adversity today,” Currie said. “Even down 13-0 they just kept playing hard and trusted each other.”
“It shows the true character we have,” Sindel said. “We never put our heads down. I think it says a lot about our team and how mentally tough we are.”
“I have to give it all to the coaches,” Jeff Lavarin said. “They made us grind it out all game. They said don’t give up and don’t put your head down, keep your eyes open.”
Redemption was also a theme for Brick Memorial. The Mustangs had lost to Freehold, 20-17, in the regular season. On Freehold’s first touchdown Saturday it was C.J. Lavarin who got beat for the touchdown. He redeemed himself with a critical interception late in the game.
“The first play on the slant he beat me,” C.J. Lavarin said. “Coach said ‘you’re going to get one’. I saw the out, beat the quarterback and just picked it. It was crazy.”
Jeff Lavarin thought he had given Brick Memorial the lead in the second quarter with a 69-yard touchdown run, but it was called back on a holding penalty. The negated touchdown wasn’t on him, but he felt the need to get it back.”
“They opened up fiery, 13-0. It was all about retribution,” Jeff Lavarin said. “The touchdown, I got it back. It was a little bit of redemption.”
This time of year, in the playoffs, a little bit can go a long way.
Brick Memorial 21, Freehold 13
|Brick Memorial (4-5)||0||7||7||7||21|
F – Jake Hurler 66-yard pass from Sha’Kim Shuler (no kick, hold failed)
F – Matt Krauss 3-yard run (Jake Hurler kick)
BM – Tyler Sindel 3-yard run (Ryan McCombs kick)
BM – Jeff Lavarin 64-yard run (Ryan McCombs kick)
BM – Tyler Sindel 47-yard run (Ryan McCombs kick)
RUSHING – BM: Tyler Sindel 31-161, Jeff Lavarin 9-90, T.J. McArthur 7-21, Team 1-(-4); F: Sha’Kim Shuler 23-106, Matt Krauss 6-(-2).
PASSING – BM: Tyler Sindel 2-3-0 15, Anthony Albanese 0-1-0 0, Jeff Lavarin 0-1-0 0; F: Sha’Kim Shuler 6-16-2 105, Matt Krauss 0-3-1 0.
RECEIVING – BM: Ryan McCombs 1-14, Jeff Lavarin 1-1; F: Jake Hurler 2-88, Matt Krauss 3-14, Quincy Davis 1-3.
INTERCEPTIONS – BM: Mekhi Irving 1-0, Kyle McBride 1-0, C.J. Lavarin 1-10.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.