NEPTUNE — Having lost two in a row while being held scoreless for the last eight quarters, Neptune needed a jolt against an undefeated Red Bank team that had won each of the teams' last two meetings.

It was the perfect time for Royal Moore to make his Scarlet Fliers debut.

Moore, a second-team Shore Sports Network All-Shore defensive back who was also the team’s quarterback last season while playing at Ocean, became eligible this week after sitting out per the NJSIAA’s transfer rule. He was able to provide the spark needed in running for 140 yards on 19 carries - mostly at running back - as the Scarlet Fliers snapped a two-game skid Thursday night with a 24-7 Shore Conference Class B North victory over the Bucs at Memorial Field. Moore led a ground game that carried 52 times for 258 yards, and also included 68 yards and a touchdown from senior tailback Savior King and a touchdown run by senior O’Shane Curate.

Even with Moore entering the lineup, senior Ralph McLean remained at quarterback, where he threw a 51-yard touchdown to Isaiah Calhoun and added 34 yards on the ground.

After allowing a combined 78 points in their last two games, Neptune’s defense responded with a shut-down effort in holding Red Bank to 131 total yards and zero offensive points. The Bucs (2-1, 2-1) scored on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by standout junior Sadiq Palmer, but were held under wraps the rest of the game.

Moore didn’t find the end zone in his first game of the season, but his 7.3 yards-per-carry average enabled the Scarlet Fliers (2-2, 2-1) to almost exclusively run the ball. Neptune churned out 17 first downs while running on 91 percent of its plays. Moore did run for a two-point conversion on Curate’s fourth-quarter touchdown run, and also caught a pass for seven yards. He took snaps at quarterback, running back and receiver on offense, switched to safety from his usual cornerback spot on defense and also returned kicks.

“After sitting out three games I was excited to get back on the field,” Moore said. “It hurt to be on the sidelines watching my teammates play and going 1-2. We’re happy to get this win and go to 2-2, and we hope to keep building off this.”

“He was everything I expected,” said Neptune head coach Rodney Taylor. “The kid has stepped in and done everything we’ve asked him to do. He had a good game today and got his feet wet in the red and black. He’s going to contribute for us in a lot of different ways.”

When it wasn’t Moore taking handoffs, King, Curate and McLean were able to keep the chains moving behind an offensive line that consistently got a strong push against Red Bank’s front seven. King averaged nearly five yards per carry.

“The offensive line is working together as a unit, and it’s good to seem them finally get a good game,” Taylor said. “They actually didn’t play bad against RBC, we were just overmatched. They did a tremendous job tonight.”

Neptune broke its scoreless drought in unconventional fashion when Red Bank quarterback Jack Navitsky was called for intentional grounding in the end zone with just under three minutes left in the first quarter for a safety. The next 2:40 would produce 14 points as Neptune extended its lead to 9-0 with a 5-play, 37-yard drive off the safety punt. King capped the drive with a 10-yard burst up the middle, and Hunter Daly’s extra point gave Neptune a two-score lead with 12.9 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Red Bank answered promptly when Palmer fielded the kickoff just shy of his own end zone before weaving his way through the Neptune kick coverage for a 99-yard return touchdown. Jack O’Conner’s extra point cut the Bucs’ deficit to 9-7.

The Scarlet Fliers would take control for good, however, in just four plays. McLean gave Neptune a 16-7 lead when he dropped back and hit a streaking Calhoun for a 51-yard score just 1:50 into the second quarter. It would stay that way until the fourth quarter when Curate capped a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run. Every yard on the drive was gained on the ground, and it consumed 6:54 of precious clock.

 

 

In between scores, Moore was gashing Red Bank’s defense up the middle. Defensively, Neptune gave Red Bank next to nothing. A 34-yard completion from Navitsky to Palmer was the Bucs’ longest play of the game, and it came on a first-quarter drive that saw them come up short on fourth-and-eight from the 32.

The Bucs did have their chances in the second half, though. They put together another solid drive early in the third quarter after stuffing Neptune on fourth-and-1 and recovering a fumble, moving from their own 13 out to midfield. The drive was halted, however, when Calhoun won a jump ball against Palmer and wrestled down an interception.

A punt snap that was mishandled by Daly later in the third quarter gave Red Bank the ball at the Neptune 12, but again the Scarlet Fliers were able to keep the Bucs out of the end zone. Consecutive penalties hurt the Bucs and pushed them back to the 19-yard line on second-and-17. Eventually, O’Conner’s 25-yard field goal attempt was no good.

Where a loss Thursday would’ve put Neptune in a 1-3 hole that would’ve been difficult to climb out of, being at 2-2 sets them up for run to the playoffs over the next month. After a bye next week, Neptune takes on winless Colts Neck and Wall teams before two crucial showdowns with Long Branch and Toms River North before the cutoff. Seniors Jaree Parrish and Cameron Calderon have not played the past two weeks for personal reasons, according to Taylor, but are expected back. When they return, a fully-powered Neptune team has its sight set on a championship.

“When we get them back we’ll be all good,” Moore said. “We’re looking to make a run. We want that ring.”

 

Box Score

Neptune 24, Red Bank 7

 

Red Bank Neptune
First downs 6 17
Rushes-yards 25-73 52-258
Passing 4-9-1 2-5-0
Passing yards 58 58
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 6-55

 

Red Bank (2-1, 2-1) 7 0 0 0 – 7

Neptune (2-2, 2-1) 9 7 0 7 – 24

 

Scoring Summary

N – Safety, intentional grounding in the end zone

N – Savior King 10-yard run (Hunter Daly kick)

R – Sadiq Palmer 99-yard kickoff return (Jack O'Conner kick)

N – Ralph McLean 51-yard pass to Isaiah Calhoun (Hunter Daly kick)

N – O'Shane Curate 5-yard run (Royal Moore run)

 

Individual statistics

Rushing – RBR: Trevor Riley 9-46, Alim Godsey 7-23, Sadiq Palmer 2-6, Teddy Mitchell 1-2, Jack Navitsky 6-(-4); N: Royal Moore 19-140, Savior King 14-68, Ralph McLean 14-34, O'Shane Curate 4-25, Hunter Daly 1-(-9).

Passing – RBR: Jack Navitsky 4-9-1 58; N: Ralph McLean 2-3-0 58, Royal Moore 0-2-0 0.

Receiving – RBR: Sadiq Palmer 3-52, Teddy Mitchell 1-6; N: Isaiah Calhoun 1-51, Royal Moore 1-7.

Interceptions – N: Isaiah Calhoun 1-0.