By Matt Stypulkoski - Shore Sports Network contributor

MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP – Point Boro started strong and never stopped in a 34-0 win over Manchester Township in a Class B South showdown on Friday night that gave the Panthers sole possession of first place in the division.

“This week we got back to our basics,” Point Boro coach Sean Henry said. “Our kids were flying around the field.”

One of Henry’s talking points with his team prior to the game was getting on top early by scoring with the first drive. His team decided to do him one better and scored on the first two possessions of the night, just 2:17 apart.

On their opening possession, the Panthers (3-1, 3-0) marched downfield with a 12-play, 78-yard drive capped by Jack Fitzsimmons’ one-yard quarterback sneak. After recovering a fumble just over a minute later, Point Boro took advantage of a short field and used a three-play, 27-yard drive to open a 14-0 lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Fitzsimmons to sophomore wideout Hayden Frey.

“We knew if we jumped on them early it would kind of take the wind out of their sails,” Fitzsimmons said. “That was very important to us.”

Fitzsimmons paced the Panthers offense with four touchdowns – two rushing and two passing. He finished the night 3-for-5 for 67 yards passing in addition to 48 yards rushing on 13 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Larson.

“As an option team, the two [passing] touchdowns were big,” Henry said. “He controlled the offense all night. He made his reads all night. He was impressive defensively as well. He had a heck of a night.”

As good as Fitzsimmons was, the real star performance was turned in by the whole of the Panthers’ defense, which never allowed Manchester (0-4, 0-4) to get into a rhythm on its way to registering its first shutout since 2011. Point Boro forced four turnovers and held the Hawks to just 80 yards on the night.

As a result, the Panthers spent most of the night working with a short field on the offensive side of the ball. Point Boro started just two of its eight drives behind its own 35 and began three drives already on the Manchester side of the field.

“Our defense this year has been fantastic,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve been playing a little hard-nosed with a chip on our shoulder. Setting up [the offense] in their red zone, that’s definitely huge for us. We get the short field, a couple-play drive, and we score.

The Panthers also added some strong special teams play to the mix when Devin Connelly brought a punt back 65 yards to extend the lead to 21-0 late in the second quarter.

“I just started moving and I saw two guys on the right,” Connelly said. “So I cut back left and into the open field, one man to beat. I got past him and it was great blocking all around.”

The Hawks' defense managed to force two turnovers on the night – Daniel Hourigan picked up a fumble in the first half and Alex Lunn scooped up a loose ball after Point Boro had a field goal blocked in the fourth quarter.

With the victory, coupled with previously unbeaten Lakewood's loss to Jackson Liberty on Friday afternoon, Point Boro is the last team without a divisional loss. The Panthers still have plenty of big Class B South games looming against Central, Barnegat, Jackson Liberty and Lakewood as they shoot for their first division title since 2005 on the heels of a one-win season.

Box Score
Point Boro 34, Manchester Township 0

.                                  PB              MT

First downs                 9                  3

Rushes-yards          42-233        33-75

Passing                   3-5-2            1-1-0

Passing yards           67                 15

Fumbles-lost            2-1               3-3

Penalties                  2-20             1-5

Point Boro (3-1, 3-0) 14  7  13 0 – 12

Manchester Township (0-4, 0-4)  0  0  0  0 – 0

Scoring summary

Fitzsimmons 1-yard run (Ansbach kick).

Frey 25-yard pass from Fitzsimmons (Ansbach kick).

Connelly 65-yard punt return (Ansbach kick).

Larson 15-yard pass from Fitzsimmons (kick failed).

Fitzsimmons 1-yard run (Ansbach kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing – PB: Fitzsimmons 13-48, Na. Husak 13-47, Gene Franceschini 4-18, Connelly 3-6, No. Husak 3-1, Ross 1-(-4), Hynes 4-61, Cawley 1-2. MT: Holguin 11-37, Reynolds 5-5, Stokes 2-0, Rodrigues 5-17, Cooper 8-16, Ientile, 2-0.

Passing – PB: Fitzsimmons 3-5-2 67. MT: Rodrigues 1-1-0 5.

Receiving – PB: Frey 2-52, Larson 1-15. MT: Reynolds 1-5.