Football – Mike Bickford’s Milestone Night Leads Central Past No. 9 Brick and into A South Title Game
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BERKELEY TOWNSHIP -- With the playoffs no longer an option because of an incident early in the season, Central has put all its effort into winning the Shore Conference Class A South division title. To keep that goal alive, the Golden Eagles had to beat No. 9 Brick on Friday night.
"Tonight was our state semifinal game," said senior running back Mike Bickford. "And next week will be our state final."
The Golden Eagles will be playing for a championship next week thanks to Bickford, who ran for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 carries to become Central's all-time leading rusher and lead the way in a 21-7 Shore Conference Class A South victory over the Dragons, who entered ranked ninth in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Bickford entered as the Shore Conference's leading rusher and piled up 153 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to bring his season total to 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The win puts Central at 7-1 and 6-0 in Class A South. They will face No. 1 Toms River North (8-0, 6-0) next week with the winner claiming the outright division championship. The Mariners defeated Toms River South 55-13 on Friday night.
Central's defense also put forth a standout effort by holding Brick to 140 total yards. The Dragons entered averaging 31 points per game. Brick was without star senior Ja'Sir Taylor, however, who took a big hit on the opening kickoff and did not return. Senior running back Rashon McCall led the Dragons with 76 yards rushing and a 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
After stopping the Dragons on three straight plays to start the game, Central needed just two plays to take a 7-0 lead. A long punt return by Jonathan Gonzalez put the ball at the Brick 44-yard line, and Bickford ran for 21 yards, then a 23-yard touchdown to get the Golden Eagles on the board first.
Brick answered with a 9-play, 65-yard drive to tie the score at seven. A facemask penalty and an offsides penalty against Central helped Brick move the ball across midfield, and later in the drive McCall converted a fourth-and-5 with a nine-yard run. A 10-yard pass from senior quarterback Anthony Costanza to senior wide receiver John Prato gave Brick first-and-goal at the 7-yard line, and two plays later McCall burst up the middle for the score.
Brick thwarted Central's next drive when Cory Englehardt sacked sophomore quarterback Joe Fowler on fourth down at the Brick 28-yard line. Brick quickly moved to the Central 33-yard line, but Bickford was able to intercept a pass that was deflected high into the air to end the Dragons' threat.
Central then went on a 9-play, 78-yard drive to take the lead for good. Bickford had a 23-yard run followed by a 21-yard run to put the ball at the Brick 34. A 19-yard pass from Fowler to Corbin put the ball at the 15-yard line, but a tackle for a loss and an incomplete pass brought up third-and-12. Bickford carried for 10 yards to bring up fourth-and-two, and then lunged across the goal line for a 7-yard touchdown run and a 14-7 advantage.
Central received the second half kickoff and drove 70 yards in seven plays to go up 21-7. Bickford had a 16-yard run, a 23-yard run and a 15-yard catch to set up Corbin's short touchdown run.
Bickford recovered a fumble on Brick's next drive after the Dragons had driven to the Central 17-yard line. The Golden Eagles' defense continued to make plays in the backfield and never let Brick get any traction over the final quarter and a half. Senior Jared Giamo had two tackles for a loss, Bickford had an interception and a fumble recovery, junior defensive back Jonathan Banks had two pass breakups and junior linebacker Ryan Emmetts had a sack to lead the way.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.