By Matt Stypulkoski - Shore Sports Network contributor

MATAWAN –  Senior tailback Dahmiere Willis spent most of the night dragging defenders for extra yards on his way to one of the best games by a Long Branch running back in history to push the No. 4 Green Wave to a 40-28 nondivisional win over Matawan on Friday night.

Willis, the Shore Conference’s leading rusher, finished with a career-high 370 yards, which may be a single-game school record, and four touchdowns on 36 carries to make it six straight games with at least 200 yards rushing, including a pair of 300-yard games. He now has 1,800 yards rushing in seven games at a program that has never had a 2,000-yard rusher.

Senior Dahmiere Willis ran for a career-high 370 yards to go with four touchdowns to continue a monster season and help Long Branch knock off Matawan. (Photo by Sport Shots WLB)

“Just when you thought you’ve seen everything, he just pulls an extra gear out,” Long Branch coach Dan George said.

Early on, Matawan managed to put enough points on the board to not only keep up with Willis and the Green Wave, but take a lead into the locker room.

Two touchdowns in a 28-second span early in the second quarter put the Huskies ahead, 14-10.

Devon Spann got Matawan on the board with a five-yard run. Then, on the first play of Long Branch’s ensuing drive, Shawn Ramcheran picked off a pass that set up George Pearson’s 33-yard pass to Justin Ferrara. Spann would add another touchdown late in the quarter that gave Matawan a 21-20 lead at the half.

“Long Branch-Matawan is a war, every single year,” George said. “We knew it was going to be a war. We were concerned – they’ve got some All-Shore players over there – and we’re just happy we made it through.”

But the grind of trying to stop Willis eventually got to the Huskies, and the senior running back only seemed to get stronger as the night went on. He picked up 164 yards on 16 carries in the first half and then bettered that tally in the second half with 205 yards on 20 touches.

“[I like] the fact that they’re just putting it all on me to get it done,” Willis said. “It just makes me work harder, and I just push my team to victory.”

With Matawan consistently stacking the box to try and prevent the run – or at least make it more difficult – the Green Wave (6-1) attempted a handful of passes. But all five pass attempts on the night by Jordan Rodriguez fell incomplete, and George opted to simply ride the hot hand.

Despite knowing that Willis would touch the ball on just about every play, Matawan was unable to cope with his combination of speed and physicality. Of course, the fact that his offensive line was able to repeatedly open holes was helpful, too.

“My offensive line is amazing,” Willis said. “Since the summertime, since scrimmages, they’ve been putting in hard work. They’ve been getting it done for me, they’ve been creating holes for me. They put hands on guys in front of them, and I just get the job done.”

Willis scored on runs of 23 and 84 yards in the first half before adding 23- and 38-yard touchdown runs after the break. He also ran for 60 yards on the first play of the second half to set up Earl Mackason’s eight-yard touchdown on the next down.

Just 45 of Long Branch’s 415 total yards came from someone other than Willis.

Vinny Mota made a 21-yard field goal on the Green Wave’s first drive and kicked a 37-yarder in the waning seconds of the second quarter to get his team within one point. Pearson temporarily regained a 28-27 lead for Matawan in the third quarter with an eight-yard strike to Ferrara, but Willis answered with a pair of touchdowns to give Long Branch its sixth straight win.

With the win, Long Branch remains in the mix for the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group III. The Green Wave entered the weekend with a one-point lead over Carteret for the top spot in the rankings.

“It’s huge,” George said. “I’ve got to be honest with you, I didn’t know how much more our kids had after that win last week against Ocean. Our kids continue just to find the grit.”

Matawan (3-4) entered the weekend ranked fourth in that same section, meaning that the loss leaves them still looking to solidify a spot.

“The first week of the playoffs is next week for us,” Matawan coach John Kaye said.

Long Branch 40, Matawan 28

.                                  LB              M

First downs                14               13

Rushes-yards          50-415           25-91

Passing                    0-5-0            10-23-2

Passing yards              0                184

Fumbles-lost             5-0               3-1

Penalties                  4-25             2-15

Long Branch (6-1, 3-1)  10  10 7  13 – 40

Matawan (3-4, 3-2) 0  21  7  0 – 28

Scoring summary

Mota 21-yard FG.

Willis 23-yard run (Mota kick).

Span 5-yard run (kick failed).

Ferrara 33-yard catch (Phillip run).

Willis 84-yard run (Mota kick).

Spann 1-yard run (Adam Elliott kick).

Mota 37-yard FG.

Mackason 8-yard run (Mota kick).

Ferrara 8-yard catch (Elliot kick).

Willis 23-yard run (Mota kick).

Willis 38-yard run (Mota kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing – LB: Willis 36-370, Rodrigues 7-17, Mackason 7-28. M: Spann 17-71, Caesar 5-38, Pearson 3-(-18).

Passing – LB: Rodriguez 0-5-0 0. M: Pearson 10-23-1 177, Ferrara 1-3-0 (-3).

Interceptions – LB: Cannon 1-0. M: Ramcheran 1-22.