NEPTUNE - A talented Middletown South team determined to return the program to its elite status in the Shore Conference played with the physical and relentless edge that has characterized many great Eagles teams over the years when it dismantled Neptune in a 41-0 nondivisional victory at Memorial Field on Friday night.

When 17-year head coach Steve Antonucci said, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" to the roars of his players after the win, he was talking as much about the return of the menacing swagger of the great Middletown South teams as he was about the scoreboard.

Middletown South junior Cole Rogers rushed for a career-high 198 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles' 41-0 win over Neptune. (Photo by Middletown South Eagles Football & Cheer)

"I feel like we're bringing South back to what they used to be,'' said junior running back Cole Rogers, who had a huge night. "I feel like this is the team to do it. Everyone's saying it's going to be next year, but I feel like this is the year."

The No. 9 Eagles (2-1) continued their mastery of the No. 7 Scarlet Fliers (1-1) in beating them for the ninth straight time during the regular season since losing to them in the 1998 Central Jersey Group III final. In their last three regular-season meetings, Middletown South has outscored Neptune by a combined 85-0. Coming off a 36-24 loss to state-ranked South Brunswick last week, the Eagles dominated from beginning to end, with Rogers rolling up a career-high 198 yards and four touchdowns on only 20 carries to lead the way.

The Eagles' offensive line of junior center Joe Rutkowski, senior guards Brian Joyce and Kyle Maynes, junior tackle Tom Lopez, and Youngstown State recruit James Wilson, a senior tackle, bullied Neptune up front to pave the way for 356 total yards, including 255 on the ground.

"Unbelievable,'' Rogers said about his line. "They're not going to take a play off for me. They know what they're capable of."

Defensively, the Eagles held Neptune, which put up 30 points in a season-opening win over defending Class B North champion Ocean, to 139 total yards. Senior defensive back Nolan Pereless had two interceptions, including one he returned 57 yards to help set up a touchdown by his brother, Spencer, and senior linebacker Sergio Gonzalez had eight tackles.

"I knew we were coming in strong,'' Nolan Pereless said. "Our defense played great today. Everybody played a big role today and nobody let a play go."

Middletown South set the tone from the outset with a nine-play, 80-yard drive to start the game that culminated with a 35-yard touchdown run by Rogers on a burst up the middle for a 7-0 lead with 8:52 left in the first quarter. The Eagles ran their warp speed no-huddle offense effectively from the beginning, with Neptune's defense often barely able to get set before the ball was snapped.

"On film we saw that they tire out pretty quick, so we just wanted to go, go, go,'' said junior quarterback Matt Mosquera. "We've got a huge offensive line and a great running back with Cole Rogers, so we just wanted to be aggressive."

"We needed to get in the end zone quick,'' Rogers said. "We needed to show we're a dominant team, and we're not going to back down, and that's what we did."

After the defense forced a punt, the Eagles came back with an eight-play drive that ended with a 27-yard field goal by Mosquera, who is also one of the Shore Conference's top kickers, for a 10-0 first-quarter lead. A sack by senior defensive lineman Dan Servidio helped kill Neptune's ensuing drive, and Middletown South came right back with another impressive scoring drive.

Mosquera unloaded a 44-yard strike to junior wideout Tom Coffey that set up Rogers' second touchdown, a five-yard run that made it 17-0 with 7:52 left in the second quarter. The teams traded turnovers until Middletown South was able to put together one more scoring drive before the half thanks to an interception by Pereless that put them in business at Neptune's 19-yard line with 1:13 remaining.

"We played a lot of Cover-2 today,'' Pereless said. "I was rolling over the top, and staying deep really helped out a lot. The key was definitely staying over top of their tall wide receivers and having our linebackers fill holes because we knew they were going to run a lot of 'dive' today."

Four plays after Pereless's interception, Rogers found the end zone for a third time with a 10-yard run on fourth-and-inches to give Middletown South a 24-0 lead at the break. The second half was more of the same, as the defense forced a three-and-out on Neptune's opening possession. The offense picked right back up where it left off with a four-play, 62-yard drive that featured runs of 25 and 28 yards by Rogers before he capped the drive with a 5-yard run for his fourth touchdown and a 31-0 lead that killed any remaining suspense.

Spencer Pereless later added a 7-yard touchdown run following a 57-yard interception return by his brother, and Mosquera booted a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

The Eagles now will get into the meat of their Class A North schedule, with a huge game against No. 4 Manalapan, the four-time defending division champion and a team that has had their number, looming on Oct. 17. They are hoping Friday's dominant performance is the first shot fired in their return to championship status.

"We had to rebound (after the loss to South Brunswick), and we knew (Neptune) was ranked higher than us, so we just wanted to show the Shore Conference that last week isn't going to effect us and we're just going to come back stronger,'' Mosquera said.

Box score

Middletown South 41, Neptune 0

 

.                        M                 N

First downs      17                10

Rushes-yards   36-255       27-67

Passing             9-17-1         5-13-2

Passing yards     101               72

Fumbles-lost       2-0              1-1

Penalties             5-35             6-30

Midd. South (2-1)   10 14 14 3 - 41

Neptune (1-1)          0   0   0  0 - 0

Scoring summary

C. Rogers 35-yard run (Mosquera kick).

Mosquera 27-yard field goal.

C. Rogers 5-yard run (Mosquera kick).

C. Rogers 10-yard run (Mosquera kick).

C. Rogers 5-yard run (Mosquera kick).

S. Pereless 7-yard run (Mosquera kick).

Mosquera 35-yard field goal.

Individual statistics

Rushing - M: C. Rogers 20-198, Grant 6-19, Dube 5-18, Pignataro 2-14, S. Pereless 1-7, Leandro 1-3, Mosquera 1-(-2). N: Parrish 14-53, Curate 4-9, McLean 9-5.

Passing - M: Mosquera 9-17-1 101. N: McLean 5-13-2 72.

Receiving - M: Coffey 4-65, S. Pereless 2-23, Marron 2-11, Leandro 1-2. N: Parrish 1-6, Ellington 2-10, Dunn 1-6, Calhoun 1-46.

Interceptions - M: N. Pereless 2-65. N: Calhoun 1-30.