POINT PLEASANT – Friday night’s game against Point Boro was one Manasquan had been looking for to for nine months with nothing but revenge on its mind. So when the Warriors found themselves trailing in the third quarter their motivation only increased.

Following three straight Point Boro touchdowns that put the Panthers in front, Manasquan, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, rallied with 21 unanswered points in the second half to emerge with a 42-28 Shore Conference Liberty Division victory.

Senior running back Canyon Birch ran for 176 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries, senior fullback Rashid Tuddles ran for 68 yards and two touchdowns and the Warriors’ defense buckled down with a key stand and two turnovers. The win exacted a measure of revenge from last season when Point Boro won 27-6 in the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals.

“We marked this down on our calendar as soon as we found out (the schedule),” Birch said. “We lost here 293 days ago and there’s no worse feeling than that, and we didn’t want that to happen again. Every lift we had as team you heard the words ‘Point Boro’ every single time. We had it written up on a board. We knew we had to get back here and get some revenge.”

Trailing 21-14 at halftime, Point Boro began the third quarter with a 74-yard drive that tied the score. Running back Bobby Cooper broke off a 37-yard run to the 12-yard line and Kyle Komanitsky took a pitch to the end zone on the next play to tie the score.

The Panthers’ defense then forced Manasquan to punt for the first time in the game before driving 48 yards to take the lead. Senior quarterback Garrett Romer had a 30-yard run inside the Manasquan 10-yard line, and on third-and-goal he plunged in from two yards out to give Point Boro a 28-21 lead with 4:37 left in the third quarter.

Faced with a crossroad, Manasquan produced a sequence that changed the game for good.

The Warriors’ response to falling behind for the first time was a five-play, 75-yard drive to tie the score at 28. The drive began ominously, however, when senior wide receiver James Pendergist was dropped for a 7-yard loss when trying to execute a run out of a wildcat formation. Pendergist was also hurt on the play and did not return to the game. Birch got those yards back on second down to bring up third-and-10, and that’s where senior quarterback Ryan O’Leary made the clutch play of the night.

O’Leary connected with John Foreman for 54 yards down to the Point Boro 16-yard line. Two plays later, Birch scored on a five-yard run to tie pull Manasquan within one point. With Pendergist out the Warriors had to go for the 2-point conversion, and Birch was stopped short to keep Point Boro on top, 28-27.

O’Leary finished the game 5-for-8 for 123 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but also didn’t turn the ball over and made several big throws in his first career start.

“O’Leary’s composure to wait, wait; he thought about running but he saw John at the last minute,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price. “He’s as cool as it gets.”

“He was fantastic tonight,” Birch said. “We couldn’t have gotten a better job from him and he really stepped up in his first game as a starter. Everything he did in the offseason really set him up for tonight.”

On the ensuing Point Boro drive, senior Mike Page forced and recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 23-yard line, and on the next play Tuddles burst up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown. Manasquan converted the 2-point conversion when O’Leary found Foreman, giving the Warriors a 35-28 lead with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

“Those were huge momentum changes, especially when Johnny Foreman had that (54-yard) pass and then the following drive we had a stop ad then another stop,” Birch said. “You could feel it get taken away from them. It was just an awesome sequence of events.”

Manasquan’s defense stopped Point Boro on fourth down near midfield on the next series, and that enabled the Warriors to run more clock with a long drive. Point Boro was able to hold on fourth down at its own 22-yard line, but another turnover resulted in Birch recovering a fumble at the 16-yard line. Four plays later he surged across the goal line for his fourth touchdown of the night to give Manasquan a 42-28 advantage.

Manasquan’s offense was stopped only by the clock in the first half, scoring on all three full possessions. Birch ran for 27 yards on the first play of the game and O’Leary connected with Pendergist for 23 yards on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive. Tuddles’ 14-yard touchdown run gave Manasquan a 7-0 lead.

Point Boro came right back with an 85-yard drive keyed by a 22-yard run by Cooper and a 24-yard run by Romer. Komanitsky finished off the drive with a 5-yard scoring run.

Manasquan responded immediately when Birch ripped off a 61-yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead and then went ahead, 21-7, when Birch capped a 14-play, 82-yard drive with another 5-yard touchdown run. O’Leary made two big throws on the drive, connecting with Riley Callahan for 28 yards on third-and-12 and finding Tuddles for 11 yards on third-and-six.

Point Boro put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive to make it 21-14 at halftime. Romer had a 27-yard run that set up Komanitsky’s 14-yard touchdown run.

Romer finished with a game-high 195 yards rushing while Cooper added 80 yards and Komanitsky had 75 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers have a host of first-year starters on the offensive side and were also missing starting lineman/running back Trent LiVolsi (injury). They didn’t miss a beat in their triple-option offense, however, rushing for 359 yards.

Birch had a big game on both sides of the ball for Manasquan, rushing for 176 yards and four touchdowns, recovering a fumble and recording two tackles for loss.

“He’s a kid who probably could have played here no matter what the calendar says, whether it’s the 1930s or now,” Price said. “He was calling for the ball in the end zone when he didn’t get in and then he comes right back on the next series – I have to check the tape but I think we sent him four straight times and he made two tackles for a loss and forced a fumble. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Birch was quick to credit his offensive line’s play throughout the game.

“We played well offensively and our offensive line was incredible tonight,” Birch said. “They were fantastic opening holes every single spot we ran. Power left, power right, there was a hole big enough for a truck to drive through. It started with them and we fed off it as a team.”

“To a man, they played well,” Price said. “(Point Boro) blitzes a lot and they did a good job on blitz pickup. (Offensive line coach) Billy (Bertscha) did a great job coaching them with blitz pickup and they were good with that tonight.”

 

Box Score

No. 8 Manasquan 42, Point Boro 28 

  Manasquan Point Boro
First downs 16 19
Rushes-yards 41-253 46-359
Passing 5-8-0 2-3-0
Passing yards 123 14
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 2-10 0-0

 

Manasquan (1-0, 1-0) 13 8 14 7 – 42

Point Boro (0-1, 0-1)   7  7 14 0 – 28

 

Scoring summary

M – Rashid Tuddles 10-yard run (James Pendergist kick)

P – Kyle Komanitsky 5-yard run (Christian Aurin kick)

M – Canyon Birch 61-yard run (kick failed)

M – Canyon Birch 5-yard run (Birch run)

P – Kyle Komanitsky 14-yard run (Christian Aurin kick)

P – Kyle Komanitsky 12-yard run (Christian Aurin kick)

P – Garrett Romer 2-yard run (Christian Aurin kick)

M – Canyon Birch 5-yard run (run failed)

M – Rashid Tuddles 23-yard run (Ryan O’Leary pass to John Foreman)

M – Canyon Birch 1-yard run (Tyler Callahan kick)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – M: Canyon Birch 29-176, Rashid Tuddles 9-68, Mike Page 1-5, James Pendergist 2-4; PB: Garrett Romer 24-195, Bobby Cooper 8-80, Kyle Komanitsky 11-75, Christian Aurin 1-12, Izzy Wilson 1-6, Team 1-(-9).

PASSING – M: Ryan O’Leary 5-8-0 123; PB: Garrett Romer 2-3-0 14.

RECEIVING – M: John Foreman 1-54, Riley Callahan 2-36, James Pendergist 1-22, Rashid Tuddles 1-11; PB: Kyle Komanitsky 1-8, Dylan Kleinfeldt 1-6.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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. 

 

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