Neptune Clinches a Playoff Spot by Shutting Out Toms River North
TOMS RIVER — After stifling another potent offense in recording its third consecutive shutout, it’s clear Neptune has developed its identity as it heads to the playoffs riding a surge of momentum.
Senior quarterback Royal Moore threw a touchdown pass to Savior King and returned a fumble for a score, and senior running back Jaree Parrish added a 67-yard touchdown run while the Scarlet Fliers’ defense held Toms River North to 158 total yards as No. 7 Neptune blanked the Mariners, 21-0, on Friday night in a Shore Conference nondivisional game.
Neptune (6-2) needed a win to lock up a playoff spot in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV section, and did so by winning its fifth straight game to unofficially clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round home game.
“I knew everybody was focused because coming over the bus ride was quiet and the locker room was quiet,” Moore said. “I knew everyone was ready for this game.”
For the second straight game, the Scarlet Fliers shut down one of the Shore Conference’s best offenses in holding Toms River North (5-4) scoreless. Sophomore running back Parker Day ran for a game-high 130 yards on 26 carries, but that was nearly all the damage as Neptune allowed just 158 total yards in the win. The Scarlet Fliers did a number on dynamic sophomore quarterback Mike Husni, holding him to 13 yards rushing on 12 attempts and zero passing yards on six attempts. Husni entered the game with 963 rushing yards, 1,039 passing yards and 19 total touchdowns.
“I was very nervous (about defending Toms River North’s offense),” said Neptune head coach Rodney Taylor. “That kid is good and he’s only a sophomore; he’s legit. And they’re pretty big up front, but the kids played well and did everything we coached them to do.”
“The key was staying big up front,” said senior lineman Andrew Holland-Samuels. “It was another game of not letting them get past the first level and keeping everything contained.”
“We came out with a lot of confidence that we were going to shut down whoever was in that backfield,” Moore said.
It was the ninth game for Toms River North, so the result did not affect the Mariners’ power-point totals in South Jersey Group V. The Mariners’ playoff hopes were bolstered when Brick Memorial defeated Southern, 35-7, to knock the Rams out of contention, as Southern would have qualified with a win and potentially eliminated Toms River North.
Neptune is now one of the hottest teams heading into the state playoffs on the shoulders of its shut-down defense and an explosive running game. Parrish has his second long touchdown run in as many weeks while Moore made plays in and out of the pocket to lead the Scarlet Fliers’ offense.
It was all defense in the first half, as neither team could sustain any drives in plus territory. With under five minutes to go until halftime, they had combined for just five first downs. A partially blocked punt by 6-foot-4 junior Isaiah Calhoun gave Neptune the ball at the Toms River North 40-yard line and set the Fliers up to take the lead at the break. Moore hit passes of 15 and 16 yards to Cameron Calderon and O’Shane Curate, respectively, to move the ball to the Mariners’ 22-yard line, and two plays later King made a full-extension catch over the middle from 20 yards out to give Neptune a 7-0 lead.
“It was a running back seam right down the middle,” Moore said. “We put that in this week for this team because they like to come down with their safeties, and it worked pretty well.”
“That was huge because it gave us the momentum and confidence we needed to come out in the second half and play well,” Taylor said. “Savior made a tremendous catch.”
Those would be the only points Neptune would need. Its defense turned it up in the second half to force three turnovers and keep the Mariners out of the end zone. Parrish gave the Scarlet Fliers some cushion when he broke a 67-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make it 14-0. Parrish didn’t get his first carry until the third quarter, but showed off his explosiveness in running for 112 yards on just eight carries. He also had touchdown runs of 86 and 26 yards called back because of penalties.
Following Parrish’s touchdown run, Toms River North moved the ball to the Neptune 31-yard line as it closed in on cutting its deficit in half. But on first down, Day fumbled and the ball bounced right to Moore at the 27-yard line along the home sideline. He scooped the ball up and dodged his way through the first level of defenders. From there he cut it back all the way to the visiting sideline and scored on a 73-yard fumble return to make it 21-0.
“As soon as I got through the first wave I knew there was only one person I had to beat," Moore said. “It’s a good thing it wasn't five more yards, though, because I would’ve gotten caught.”
Neptune began the season ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, but dropped out after a 1-2 start and back-to-back shutout losses to Middletown South and Red Bank Catholic. But after getting Moore in the lineup after three games, and having Parrish and Calderon return after missing time, the Scarlet Fliers have been a completely different team.
Five games and five wins later, they’re back in the Top 10 and headed to the playoffs. Few teams are streaking as fast as Neptune at the season’s most critical juncture.
“We want to go in with this momentum,” Taylor said. ‘We feel confident going in, and we know who we may see up there. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
No. 7 Neptune 21, Toms River North 0
|Neptune||Toms River North|
Neptune (6-2) 0 7 0 14 – 21
TR North (5-4) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Royal Moore 20-yard pass to Savior King (Hunter Daly kick)
Jaree Parrish 67-yard run (Hunter Daly kick)
Royal Moore 73-yard fumble return (Hunter Daly kick)
Rushing – N: Jaree Parrish 8-112, Savior King 11-45, Royal Moore 17-36, Cameron Calderon 2-3; TRN: Parker Day 26-130, Asante Moorer 4-19, Mike Husni 12-13, Darrion Carrington 1-(-4).
Passing – N: Royal Moore 6-9-0 66; TRN: Mike Husni 0-6-0 0.
Receiving – N: O'Shane Curate 3-26, Savior King 1-20, Cameron Calderon 1-15, Marcque Ellington 1-5.