By Scott Clayton - Shore Sports Network contributor

BRICK – To defend its state title, Brick had to start by defending its home turf against visiting Princeton on Friday night. The 2013 Central Jersey Group IV champions were more than up to the task, making the Little Tigers one-dimensional as the vaunted Dragons' defense keyed a 48-12 win.

Second-seeded Brick recorded six sacks, forced four turnovers and held Princeton to minus-16 yards rushing. Meanwhile, a new face emerged to help power the Dragons’ offense as sophomore Jay Obenauer rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Carmen Sclafani delivered a typical standout performance with 322 yards of total offense and four touchdowns – a pair each on the ground and through the air.

Brick senior quarterback Carmen Sclafani turned in another standout performance with 322 total yards and four touchdowns to lead the Green Dragons into the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Fully aware of its underdog status, Princeton (7-2) actually opened the game with an unsuccessful onside kick attempt. In just three plays, Brick (8-1) covered the 58 yards needed to reach the end zone for the first of seven times, the final 14 yards coming on Obenauer’s first carry of the game. Obenauer filled in for senior Ray Fattaruso.

Fattaruso, a 2013 All-Shore first-teamer, did not dress for Friday’s game due to a “personal matter,” according to Brick coach Rob Dahl. The senior running back and linebacker will return to the field next week as the Dragons square off against third-seeded Jackson Memorial in a sectional semifinal. In addition to his prominent role on offense, Obenauer also added a sack while filling in for Fattaruso at linebacker. The sophomore was only made aware of his increased role in the game plan on Thursday.

“I knew there was a lot of weight on my shoulders,” Obenauer said. "(Fattaruso) is a big player on both sides of the ball. Everybody on my team was encouraging me, though. After the first drive that’s when I settled in and got my jitters out.”

Tom Leech recovered a fumble to thwart Princeton’s first drive of the game, leading to a 32-yard touchdown run from Sclafani. Brick's success on the ground (270 yards and an 8.7 yards-per-carry average) allowed it to take some chances in the passing game. While Sclafani and the Dragons gained 173 yards and two touchdowns through the air, there were some missed opportunities as well with drops and off-target passes.

“You always strive to be perfect and there were a few missed opportunities today, and I can’t miss those balls in big games like next week,” said Sclafani, whose first six rushes of the game all gained at least 10 yards and a first down. “I’ve never seen holes in a defense as big as I did tonight. We were able to take some shots throwing, knowing that we could go back and gain yards on the ground.”

“We played a sloppy game in my opinion,” said Dahl. “We need to clean some things up if we’re going to compete with a team like Jackson. We want to be able to pass the ball and run the ball against Jackson. We opened it up a little bit tonight. We had some drops, but hopefully we can clean that up next week.”

Sclafani would find the end zone twice through the air in the second quarter, hitting sophomore wideout Ja’Sir Taylor in the left flat for a 5-yard score, and connecting with senior wide receiver Ja’Quez Johnson deep down the middle for a 64-yard score that quickly answered a 1-yard scoring run from Princeton quarterback David Beamer.

Beamer’s touchdown came only after a roughing the punter penalty took an apparent return touchdown by Taylor off the scoreboard and extended the Tigers’ drive.
On Princeton’s next offensive play Leech picked off Beamer over the middle, leading to a 6-yard scoring run from Sclafani and a 35-6 halftime lead for the Dragons. Obenauer added touchdown runs of 22 and 1 yard in the second half.

With the Tigers forced to play catch-up through the air, the Dragons recorded five of their six sacks in the second half. Junior Dan Finelli led the attack with two quarterback takedowns, but the entire Brick defense got in on the act.

“That was kind of the game plan, to jump on them early and make them do things they didn’t want to do which was to try to spread it out,” said senior linebacker James Juliano. “Shutting down the running game early really helped us with that.”

“It’s fun. When we get sacks, we celebrate with each other. We always try to beat each other out with sacks in a game,” senior defensive end Jake Layton said.

Friday night’s win earns Brick the right to host Jackson next week in a rematch of one of the marquee games of the Shore Conference football season thus far. Brick defeated Jackson 30-24 in overtime on October 4, a win that assured the playoff rematch would be held in Brick. Since that game, however, Brick slipped up against a winless Wall squad, while Jackson added a major offensive weapon in transfer Matt Castronuova and has rolled to six straight victories after a 45-7 win over Middletown North on Friday.

Jackson’s streak includes an overtime victory over Red Bank Catholic on November 7 that snapped the Caseys’ streak of 40 straight wins over Shore Conference opponents.

“That’s the best team in the Shore,” Dahl said of Jackson. “Going into the game, we’ll be the underdog. It’s certainly better to have them here, though.”

“In Brick football history they’ve developed some rivalries,” Sclafani said. “Obviously Brick Memorial and (Toms River) South back in the day, but as of recently it’s Jackson Memorial. I think there’s a huge difference since we played them the last time and that difference is the addition of Matt Castronuova. I think he just makes their offense a whole other animal.”

Box score

Brick 48, Princeton 12

Princeton (7-2) 0 6 6 0 - 12
Brick (8-1) 14 21 6 7 - 48

Scoring summary: 

B – Obenauer 14 run (Stackable kick)
B – Sclafani 32 run (Stackable kick)
B – Taylor 5 pass from Sclafani (Stackable kick)
P – Beamer 1 run (kick failed)
B – Johnson 64 pass from Sclafani (Stackable kick)
B – Sclafani 6 run (Stackable kick)
P – Helstrom 6 pass from Beamer (pass failed)
B – Obenauer 22 run (kick failed)
B – Obenauer 1 run (Stackable kick)

Team Stats            Princeton       Brick
First Downs                11               20
Rushes-Yards           19-(-16)    31-270
Passing                    18-35-3       9-19-0
Passing Yards            250            173
Fumbles-Lost               1-1            1-1

Individual Statistics
Rushing: (B) Sclafani 13-149, Obenauer 16-120, Taylor 2-1. (P) Beamer 8-(-24), Helstrom 7-9, Buckley 2-(-4), Danis 1-1, Smallzman 1-2.
Passing: (B) Sclafani 9-19-0 173. (P) Beamer 17-34-3 197, Helstrom 1-1-0 53.
Receiving: (B) Taylor 6-79, Johnson 3-94. (P) Hawes 4-134, Helstrom 5-62, Danis 3-13, Smallzman 3-23, Tien 1-13, Buckley 1-7, Ochoa 1-(-2)
Interceptions: (B) Leech 1-8, Phillips 1-0, Smith 1-27.