Photo gallery by Ray Richardson.

BRICK — Led by a powerful performance from its offensive line, Brick sent a Week One message on Saturday that it doesn’t plan on taking a step back in 2015.

The word “rebuilding” can be put to bed when describing this year’s Dragons squad after it thoroughly handled rival Brick Memorial 36-6 in a season-opening Shore Conference Class A South game at Keller Memorial Field. The Mustangs entered ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and as a slight favorite, but Brick couldn’t have cared less. From the opening snap the Dragons dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, running for 351 yards while limiting Brick Memorial’s triple-option offense to just 165 total yards.

“I think a lot of people underestimated our offensive line,” said senior defensive lineman Jordan Keefe. “There were people on (Twitter) saying they’re bums and they’re not good, and they really took offense to that. They came out determined and on a mission.”

“Our offensive line is really starting to gel and we wanted to make a statement because no one was talking about us,” said senior center Alex Trapasso, a three-year starter. “And with Jay (Obenauer) running the ball it made it that much easier. It just all came together today.”

Obenauer, a junior, ran for a game-high 145 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries while junior wide receiver Ja’Sir Taylor carried six times for 107 yards and a touchdown. The Dragons’ offensive line of Trapasso, seniors Anthony Rusignuolo, Tyler Colonno and John Kozak, junior Liam Poland and senior tight end Nik Tartaglione made sure the lack of a passing game (20 yards passing) didn’t matter by dominating the running game as Brick averaged 9.2 yards per carry.

Brick junior running back Jay Obenauer. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

“There was a lot of talk about Brick Memorial’s defensive line, Mike Nobile, Anthony Nobile and (Chris) Hayes, and also with their offensive line, and coach (Jared) Kite and the offensive line, those kids took it personally,” said Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz, who earned his first career head-coaching victory.”

“They opened some huge holes and Jay Obenauer did a great job along with Rashon McCall of cutting through those holes.”

McCall, a junior, ran for 56 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns on four carries. Senior quarterback Tom Zbranak added 36 yards behind the powerful and motivated big guys.

Defensively, the Dragons stuffed Brick Memorial’s running game, which was expected to excel with senior quarterback Tim Santiago at the helm. Brick never gave its counterparts any room to operate, blowing up plays in the backfield and stuffing anything inside. When the Mustangs tried to get the ball wide on pitch plays the Dragons were there to stop those too.

“(Defensive coordinator Brian) McNamara, coach (Chris) Blackburn, coach (Donovan) Brown, coach (Robby) Brown, they had it down,” Zdanowicz said. “They knew what (Brick Memorial) was doing and took away their options. Just by alignment we knew what they were going to run. We rotated our defense and put our kids in positions to win.”

“Shout out to our defensive line because (Brick Memorial) could not run the ball,” Keefe said. “I think coach McNamara is the best defensive coordinator in the Shore.”

In addition to winning the battle up front, Brick got exactly what it needed from its most dangerous threat. Taylor, who caught 41 passes for 569 yards and 5 touchdowns as a junior, showed his versatility with a momentum-swinging 80-yard touchdown run just before halftime. Taylor is also starting on defense for the first time, and made an impact at cornerback with an interception and a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

“Ja’Sir is a special talent; he’s a game-breaker and he broke the game open or us,” Zdanowicz said.

“Ja’Sir is one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Keefe said. “He has the ability to take off and score on any given play. He even completed a pass today to give us first-and-goal when it looked like he was going to be sacked. He’s just an amazing athlete and I’m glad to have him on our team.”

The game was scoreless after one quarter, but Brick was laying the foundation for its dominance. A penalty short-circuited the Dragons’ first drive and an interception halted their second possession, but they were proving they could run the ball at will. Meanwhile Brick Memorial had ran just six offensive plays when Brick got the ball back at its own 46-yard line with 3:12 left in the first quarter.

Taylor’s interception of Santiago gave way to an 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with Obenauer powering in from five yards out to give Brick a 7-0 lead. Obenauer and Zbranak took turns carrying the ball as Brick moved all the way to the Brick Memorial 25. A sack on third down forced a fourth-and-10, but Brick was able to convert when Taylor took a handoff on a jet sweep and pulled up for a pass. He connected with Matt Schleifer at the five-yard line to set up Obenauer’s touchdown run.

Late in the first half it appeared Brick Memorial (0-1, 0-1) was going get on the board just before heading back to the locker room, taking a bit of momentum with it. A 21-yard run by senior Elie Lavarin moved the ball to Brick’s 15-yard line, but a field-goal attempt by Matt Cuppari was wide right. On the next play Taylor took a jet sweep, found some room down the home sideline and cut back into open space on an 80-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the first half. The game went from potentially being 7-3 with Brick Memorial gaining some traction to Brick beginning to take over with a two-score lead.

“That was really big,” Keefe said. “That hit Memorial hard. They were down 14-0 and wondering how they would come back, and we just kept attacking.”

Midway through the third quarter Brick’s lead grew to 21-0 when Taylor picked up a dropped option pitch and returned it 50 yards for touchdown. Later in the third a fumble recovery by junior John Prato set up a four-play, 14-yard scoring drive that ended with McCall scoring from seven yards out.

Brick Memorial avoided being shut out by driving 74 yards in 15 plays in the fourth quarter. Senior Justin Bates polished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 4:08 left in the game.

Even in a convincing win, however, Brick wasn’t about to let its arch rival get the last word. The Dragons closed out the game with a quick four-play, 47-yard drive to take a 36-6 lead as McCall broke a 33-yard run to set up his own 9-yard touchdown run.

Brick has now won three straight games against Brick Memorial, and has won the last two in blowout fashion. Last season the Dragons opened with a 42-0 wipeout of the Mustangs, and nearly did the same on Saturday afternoon.

“This meant the world to us,” Trapasso said. “We’ve been working for two months for this and when it was game time we were ready.”

As much as goes into this game for both sides, Brick knows the importance of moving on. Last season the Dragons were tripped up by winless Wall in Week Five and ended the season on a sour note with a 44-0 loss to Jackson Memorial. The bitter taste is still in their mouths.

“I think you already know we’re upset with how last season ended,” Keefe said. “We’re real determined this year. We’re just going to keep on going from here.”

 

Box Score

Brick 36, No. 9 Brick Memorial 6

 

Brick Memorial Brick
First downs 8 10
Rushes-yards 38-148 38-351
Passing 2-8-1 1-4-2
Passing yards 17 20
Fumbles-lost 6-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-50 7-55

 

Brick Memorial (0-1, 0-1) 0 0 0 6 – 6

Brick (1-0, 1-0) 0 14 7 15 – 36

 

Scoring summary

B – Jay Obenauer 6-yard run (Javion Harris kick)

B – Ja'Sir Taylor 80-yard run (Javion Harris kick)

B – Ja'Sir Taylor 50-yard fumble return (Javion Harris kick)

B – Rashon McCall 7-yard run (John Prato run)

BM – Justin Bates 6-yard run (kick failed)

B – Rashon McCall 9-yard run (Javion Harris kick)

Individual statistics

Rushing – BM: Tony Thorpe 13-45, Elie Lavarin 7-41, Tim Santiago 13-39, Justin Bates 3-22, Billy Walsh 2-1; B: Jay Obenauer 18-145, Ja'Sir Taylor 6-107, Rashon McCall 4-56, Tom Zbranak 9-36, Matt Schleifer 1-7.

Passing – BM: Tim Santiago 2-8-1 17; B: Ja'Sir Taylor 1-1-0 20, Tom Zbranak 0-3-2 0.

Receiving – BM: Matt Cuppari 1-9, Elie Lavarin 1-8; B: Matt Schleifer 1-20.

Interceptions – BM: Tim Santiago 1-32, Joe Feiden 1-21; B: Ja'Sir Taylor 1-0.

Bob Badders covers football for Shore Sports Network. Reach him at badders@allshoremedia.com.