WALL TOWNSHIP — We are in an era of high school football where Thanksgiving Day rivalries are ending year-after-year as teams look to streamline their schedules with a focus on the playoffs. And in truth, most of the matchups around the state don’t have a ton of juice to them.

There are some notable exceptions, however, that serve as reminders of how special the traditional marriage of football and Thanksgiving can be. The annual meeting of Wall and Manasquan sits near the top of that list, and in the Shore Conference, it is king. Regardless of what happened during the season or in the prior week, a win in this game can change everything.

“If you lose it hurts and it stings for a year,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price, whose teams had lost three straight to Wall entering Thursday’s contest. “Divisions, states, winning records; that’s all good, but you can erase a lot of bad things on Thanksgiving.”

The Warriors did just that on Thanksgiving morning at Wall High School Stadium, defeating the rival Crimson Knights, 20-6, to snap a three-game losing streak and even the all-time Thanksgiving series 9-9. Senior quarterback Tommy Antonucci ran for 66 yards and two touchdowns to be selected as Ocean Trophies Player of the Game and senior running back Connor Morgan rumbled for a game-high 83 yards and a touchdown.

The Warriors defense held Wall to 171 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. Juniors Rashid Tuddles and Jack Fabean had interceptions and junior defensive lineman Art Foreman had a fumble recovery as Manasquan concluded its season with a 7-4 record.

“Last year it was almost like I didn’t want to go to Thanksgiving,” Antonucci said. ‘We lost, dad (Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci) lost, and it wasn’t pretty. Obviously, this makes last week (a 27-6 loss to Point Boro in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals) feel a little better because I feel like I didn’t play too well and it was a tough loss. We didn’t accomplish our goal of winning a state championship this year so there was a little more riding on this game, as well.”

“Last year I stayed in my room most of Thanksgiving and I would come out and eat and then just go back to my room and go to sleep,” Morgan said. “(A loss) definitely ruins Thanksgiving, so senior year winning and beating Wall for the first time, it’s already pretty awesome.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Tuddles’ interception and 25-yard return to the Wall 32-yard line set up Manasquan to take a 7-0 lead. Morgan had runs of six and 14 yards to get the ball inside the Wall 20-yard line, and an offsides penalty on the Knights turned a fourth-and-5 into a first-and-goal for Manasquan. Antonucci then knifed his way into the end zone from three yards out for the game’s first touchdown.

Wall responded on the next series after starting at midfield. On a third-and-three from the 30-yard line Wall senior quarterback Eddie Scott broke free for a 20-yard run up the middle. On the next play, he faked a handoff to senior running back Brady McNally and found room off the left side for a 10-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, leaving Manasquan in front, 7-6, through halftime.

Morgan was held in check by Wall in the first half with just 28 yards on nine carries, but got going on Manasquan’s second possession of the third quarter. A 21-yard run that crossed into Wall territory was followed by a 10-yard run and a 15-yard penalty tacked on for a facemask. A pass interference penalty against Wall on third down kept Manasquan’s drive alive, and on third-and-goal from the 9-yard line Antonucci burst up the middle for the touchdown to give Manasquan a 13-6 lead.

After forcing Wall to go three-and-out, the Warriors marched 50 yards in six plays to take a 20-6 lead. Antonucci connected with junior Michael Page for 35 yards to set up Morgan’s 1-yard touchdown run with 9:21 to play.

Wall drove to Manasquan’s 17-yard line on the ensuing possession, but a fumble was recovered by Foreman to end the drive. Wall had another shot inside Manasquan’s end with under three minutes left, but Fabean made a tremendous diving interception on a ball that ricochetted off two players.

Despite the playoff loss last week, the Thanksgiving Day victory was a proper sendoff for a Manasquan senior class that was instrumental in the Warriors shaking off consecutive losing seasons to win a state championship last season and make another playoff run this year. Their last high school football memory will be walking off the field as winners.

“I’m sure I’m going to go home and think about how there’s no more strapping on the pads one more time for Manasquan,” Antonucci said. “My dad actually wrote me a letter this morning before the game, saying how I have to take it in, that it’s my last ride. That was pretty cool, and then to come out and win the game makes it even better.”

“I’m not really worried about the fact we’re not moving on in states because of this win right now,” Morgan said. “Especially since we hadn’t beaten them in three years and to be then as a senior going out, I’m probably going to remember this for a long time.”

 

Box Score

No. 10 Manasquan 20, Wall 6

Manasquan Wall
First downs 10 11
Rushes-yards 43-166 32-126
Passing 2-5-1 5-16-2
Passing yards 44 45
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-40 9-76

 

Manasquan (7-4) 0 7 6 7 — 20

Wall (5-6)             0 6 0 0 —  0

 

Scoring summary

M — Tommy Antonucci 3-yard run (James Pendergist kick)

W — Eddie Scott 10-yard run (kick failed)

M — Tommy Antonucci 9-yard run (kick failed)

M — Connor Morgan 1-yard run (James Pendergist kick)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING — M: Connor Morgan 20-83, Tommy Antonucci 17-66, Canyon Birch 5-24, John Kinneally 1-(-7); W: Eddie Scott 9-74, Brady McNally 21-73, Chevesse Covin 2-(-21).

PASSINGM: Tommy Antonucci 2-5-1 44; W: Eddie Scott 5-15-2 45 Tedy Sharkey 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING — M: Michael Page 1-35, James Pendergist 1-9; W: Dylan Richey 2-27, Romeo Palmieri 1-12, Tedy Sharkey 2-6.

INTERCEPTION — M: Rashid Tuddles 1-25, Jack Fabean 1-0; W: Kamaal Cofer 1-0.

 

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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