Football – Second-Half Rally Gives No. 6 Wall Thrilling Win over No. 7 Red Bank Catholic
WALL TOWNSHIP — If Wall can keep its outstanding play going and finish off the 2016 season with a championship, the Crimson Knights will look back on a night in October as the moment the team found out what it’s made of.
A pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter by senior Sean Larkin completed a sensational comeback from two scores down as Wall, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to rally past No. 7 Red Bank Catholic, 27-21, in a Shore Conference Class B North game on Friday night.
Larkin’s 64-yard touchdown pass to junior Chevesse Covin on a halfback option pass tied the score at 21, and his 1-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left set up by a 23-yard catch by senior R.J. Janeczek gave Wall the lead for good. Larkin then clinched the win with an interception with 30 seconds left as the Crimson Knights moved to 5-0 for the first time since 2011.
“It’s great, especially what those guys have done to us the past couple of years,” Larkin said. “It’s great to come back and get this vengeance win.”
Wall went 3-7 and 4-6 over the past two seasons, losing to RBC 55-6 in 2014 and 20-0 last season.
“It was tough the last two years but they’ve stuck with this through some pretty low points,” said Wall head coach Dan Curcione. “Now we’re getting some high points, so it feels pretty good.”
Larkin’s phenomenal start continued on Friday night with 163 yard rushing and two touchdowns on 30 carries, plus the touchdown pass and interception. He also had a 1-yard score in the first quarter and ran for 107 yards in the first half.
“Sean is one heck of a football player all around,” Curcione said. “He’s dynamic, and to have him on our side is pretty darn good.”
Junior quarterback Eddie Scott completed 10 of 17 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, and made some clutch throws in the second half to Janeczek, who finished with 92 yards on six receptions.
Wall’s defense continued its superb play in second halves this season by keeping RBC off the scoreboard and holding the Caseys to 39 yards and two first downs. Wall has outscored its opponents 92-7 in the second half this year.
The teams traded touchdown drives on the game’s first three possessions before RBC (3-2, 2-2) got a stop on defense to swing the momentum. The Caseys halted Wall at its own 16-yard line, and were able to take over at the Crimson Knights’ 36-yard line with 7:33 left in the first half. RBC is limited in its passing game since its first two quarterbacks, Steve Lubischer and Tommy Lang, are out with injuries. Facing a fourth-and-11 looked like it was going to be a big problem for RBC, but junior wide receiver Brandon Lombana made an incredible catch over the top of Wall defensive back Shane Richey on a pass from sophomore Jaden Key, and raced the rest of the way to the end zone on a 37-yard touchdown that put the Caseys up 21-7.
Wall went into the half trailing by two touchdowns, but knew it wasn’t far from being able to turn the game around.
“I think we just had to turn the momentum around somehow,” Larkin said. “We knew we were there to make the pays, we just had to step up and actually make the plays.”
“It wasn’t anything crazy - we made a couple of adjustments - but it was them being determined and making plays,” Curcione said.
The first possession of the second half loomed large with Wall receiving the second-half kickoff, but the Crimson Knights’ drive stalled at midfield. Even though his defense struggled in the first half, Curcione never hesitated to put one of the game’s crucial moments in its hands.
Wall punted and pinned RBC back at its own 15-yard line. The Crimson Knights’ defense then forced a three-and-out, setting the table for good field position that started the comeback.
“I have confidence in them,” Curcione said. “We’re not going to get where we want to be if we don’t. You have to play all three phases. We changed field position and that was a positive. You have to punt there. You have to stop them to win a game like this, and I had faith they would do it.”
Taking over at the RBC 45-yard line, Wall quickly moved into scoring position when Scott hit Janezcek down the middle for 34 yards. A five-yard run by Scott on third down gave the Knights first-and-goal, and on third down Scott found older brother Gene, a senior tight end, for a four-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 21-14.
“It was a pivotal moment,” Larkin said. “The momentum change was evident.”
A long kick return by Whelan gave RBC the ball at Wall’s 45-yard line, and a 14-yard pass from Nick Brusca to Max Hazard had the Caseys quickly at the 31-yard line as the fourth quarter began. Three plays later, however, Richey found redemption when he intercepted Brusca’s pass down the middle and returned it 23 yards to squash the Caseys’ would-be scoring drive.
“With Shane it’s not a surprise, he steps up and makes a big play for us pretty much every week,” Curcione said. “I grabbed him right after the touchdown and said ‘forget about it, the kid made a good play’. Shane’s made a lot of those plays for us, and I said ‘there’s going to be a time in the game where we need you to make a play for us, so keep your head up’. Shane is a workmanlike kid. He just kept grinding and playing.”
A sack by sophomore Tom Smith ended Wall’s ensuing drive and kept RBC on top midway through the fourth, but a fumble recovery by Wall senior Mike Andrejco at his team’s 33-yard line proved to be a huge turning point. On the next play, Larkin threw the touchdown pass to a wide-open Covin, and McKernan’s extra point tied the score at 21 6:24 to play in regulation.
“We knew that play was going to be open because the outside zone was working all day and they were biting on it,” Larkin said. “We had it set up. As soon as I released it I knew I threw a good pass, and I have trust in (Covin) that I knew he was going to run under it and catch it.”
Feeding off the momentum, Wall’s defense stopped RBC on three straight plays to get the ball back at the 43 after a big punt return by Janeczek. A 13-yard run on first down by Larkin, followed by an eight-yard run, moved the ball to the Caseys 22-yard line. A pair of penalties pushed Wall back and brought up a third-and-12 from the 24-yard line. That’s when Scott and Janeczek made their biggest connection of the game on a 23-yard gain down to the 1-yard line. Janeczek came out of the slot on a wheel route and Scott lofted the ball up to allow him to leap and bring down the reception. Larkin scored on the next play to complete the comeback.
“We knew going in we were going to need our quarterback to step up and have a good game, and he did,” Curcione said. “We knew he was going to have to make a couple plays. You’re not going to play RBC and just expect to rush 25 times for 300 yards.”
“I felt like it was coming, the way Sean was running and the way they were loading the box,” Scott said. “It was bound to happen where it was going to open up deep down the field.”
Scott also had some key runs for first downs, and had one memorable play where he scrambled for nearly 10 seconds before threading a pass to Janeczek between two defenders for a 17-yard gain.
“He has heart like no other and we knew he had it in him,” Larkin said. “It just took a big game to get him going.”
The biggest game of the year so far brought out the best from the entire Crimson Knights’ roster. Even with plenty of talent and experience, a major question surrounding Wall was if it knew how to win a close game with major stakes. The question was answered Friday night.
“I definitely think it’s our character,” Scott said. “It’s a senior-heavy team now and they’ve been through tough times the last two years. That built character, and they pick up the younger guys and we feed off them. We’re all realizing that this is the time, and we’re coming out and playing like it.”
No. 6 Wall 27, No. 7 Red Bank Catholic 21
Red Bank Catholic
Red Bank Catholic (3-2, 2-2) 7 14 0 0 — 21
Wall (5-0, 3-0) 7 0 7 13 — 27
RBC — Zack Bair 2-yard run (Ryan O’Hara kick)
W — Sean Larkin 1-yard run (Tim McKernan kick)
RBC — Nick Brusca 16-yard run (Ryan O’Hara kick)
RBC — Jaden Key 37-yard pass to Brandon Lombana (Ryan O’Hara kick)
W — Eddie Scott 4-yard pass to Gene Scott (Tim McKernan kick)
W — Sean Larkin 64-yard pass to Chevesse Covin (Tim McKernan kick)
W — Sean Larkin 1-yard run (kick blocked)
RUSHING — RBC: Zack Bair 17-84, Nick Brusca 9-44, Logan Whelan 4-43, Team 1-(-10); W: Sean Larkin 30-163, Eddie Scott 7-22, Chevesee Covin 4-15.
Passing — RBC: Jaden Key 1-1-0 37, Nick Brusca 1-6-2 14; W: Eddie Scott 10-17-0 104, Sean Larkin 1-1-0 64.
Receiving — RBC: Brandon Lombana 1-37, Max Hazard 1-14; W: R.J. Janeczek 6-92, Chevesee Covin 2-67, Gene Scott 2-10, Sean Larkin 1-(-1).
Interceptions — RBC: Sean Larkin 1-5, Shane Richey 1-23.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.