UNION - Following a 42-6 win over Bernards that gave Manasquan the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II title on Saturday night, senior Adam Schreck basked in the cheers and let everyone know what the victory meant.

"We are back!" he yelled. "Manasquan is back!"

The Warriors (10-2) ended an eight-year drought of state titles, their longest since the 1980s, in emphatic fashion to give them a Shore Conference-record 12th overall state championship at Kean University's Alumni Stadium. A group of players who endured consecutive 3-7 seasons, marking Manasquan's first back-to-back losing seasons since 1963-64, went out as champions.

"It just means the world to us,'' said senior offensive lineman Ben Barry. "Coming off back-to-back losing seasons, nobody thought we were going to be good this year. All our friends, they were telling us 3-7 again, even the community. Nobody was expecting this
except for us, and that's what makes it so great."

"I can't even describe it,'' senior Tommy Meyer said. "Going 3-7 the past two years, it's really an unbelievable feeling right now. People were losing faith in us. People thought we were going to finish last in our division, and that just really motivated us the whole offseason."

Barry was part of a dominant offensive line that paved the way for 300 yards rushing, including 132 by junior Connor Morgan that all came in the first half thanks to an ankle injury that sidelined Morgan for the second half. Sophomore Canyon Birch and Meyer combined for 160 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the second half running behind senior left tackle Dylan Pacetti, junior left guard Evan Hilla, senior center Nick Pierro, senior Matt Hanlon at right guard, Barry at right tackle and Schreck at tight end.

"I had two touchdowns, but that wasn't me, that was all the O-line,'' Meyer said. "They blocked tremendously all game."

A defense that did not allow a touchdown in the win set the tone by killing Bernards' opening drive on an interception by junior safety Tommy Antonucci for the first of his two picks on the night.

Manasquan then drove 67 yards in 11 plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a one-yard run by Morgan. The Warriors made no secret of what they were going to do all night as Morgan carried the ball nine times on the drive for 37 yards.

"During film we saw that their defensive line played pretty high, so our goal was to just get underneath their pads, drive them as far back as we could and push them back into the linebackers, and I thought we did a good job,'' Barry said.

Manasquan made it 14-0 with an eight-play, 63-yard drive in which Morgan skirted the Warriors' sideline on his way to a 46-yard touchdown burst with 4:06 left in the first half. However, he was injured with 27 seconds left in the half, meaning Birch was going to be needed to step up in the second half.

That's exactly what he did, as he carried the ball nine times on a 11-play, 48-yard drive that opened the third quarter. Birch's one-yard touchdown pushed the lead to 21-0 with 6:15 remaining, kickstarting a half in which he ran for 89 yards.

"The offensive line didn't skip a beat all night long,'' Manasquan head coach Jay Price said. "It's such a luxury to have a kid like Canyon Birch, who is a total changeup from what Connor is. He's the type of kid where whatever you need, he's going to get you (it)."

"(Birch) showed what he could do (in a win) over RBC,'' Barry said. "At halftime, coach Price told him, 'You're gonna become a legend tonight after we win this game.''

On Bernards' next possession, senior Peter Mills recovered a fumble forced by senior defensive back Damaso Jaime to give Manasquan the ball at the Mountaineers' 38-yard line. Only three plays later, Meyer burst up the middle, breaking four tackles on his way to a 28-yard touchdown to balloon the lead to 28-0 with 4:21 left in the third quarter.

Bernards' (8-4) lone bright spot of the night came when senior Matt Tantleff returned the kickoff 90 yards to cut the lead to 28-6, but that was just a blip on the radar for the Warriors. After an unsuccessful onside kick by Bernards, Manasquan mounted a 12-play, 42-yard drive that ended with senior quarterback Jerry Maher hitting Schreck for an 18-yard touchdown to push the lead to 35-6 with 8:49 left in the game.

An interception by Jaime, Manasquan's third of the night, stifled Bernards' next drive and was indicative of a half in which the Warriors held the Mountaineers to 59 total yards. Meyer then put the cherry on top with a four-yard touchdown run to cap a 38-yard drive set up by Jaime's 41-yard return for the final margin.

All that was left was the celebration for a group of players that endured their share of criticism the past two years only to return Manasquan to its rightful place of hoisting a trophy in December.

"This is the best feeling I've ever felt in my life,'' Schreck said. "I've been waiting all year."

"We're gonna come back in here 20 or 30 years from now, and we'll see the 2016 on the
football board,'' Barry said. "We'll remember this for the rest of our lives."

Box score 

Manasquan 42, Bernards 6

.                               M              B

First downs            18             10

Rushes-yards      52-300        19-108

Passing                 5-5-0           5-20-3

Passing yards        68                63

Fumbles-lost          0-0              1-1

Penalties               6-50              4-31

Bernards (8-4)           0   0   6  0  - 6

Manasquan (10-2)     7   7  14  14 - 42

Scoring summary

M: Morgan 1-yard run (Schreck kick).

M: Morgan 46-yard run (Schreck kick).

M: Birch 1-yard run (Schreck kick).

M: Meyer 28-yard run (Schreck kick).

B: M. Tantleff 90-yard kickoff return (Walsh kick).

M: Schreck 18-yard pass from Maher (Schreck kick).

M: Meyer 4-yard run (Schreck kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - M: Morgan 19-132, Meyer 8-68, Maher 1-2, Jaime 1-6, Birch 23-92. B: M. Tantleff 6-20, Mastronardi 3-9, Gribben 6-48, Caldwell 4-38.

Passing - M: Maher 5-5-0 68. B: Gribben 5-19-2 63, M. Tantleff 0-1-1 0.

Receiving - M: Schreck 2-26, Pendergist 2-38, Jaime 1-4. M: M. Tantleff 3-42, J. Walsh 1-10, Mastronardi 1-11.

Interceptions - M: Antonucci 2-2, Jaime 1-41.

Sign Up For The SSN Newsletter

Please fill out this form to sign up for the Shore Sports Network newsletter.