Our Town: Middletown South Maintains Edge on Middletown North in 43-6 Win
MIDDLETOWN - With Middletown South in the midst of its first non-winning season in 29 years and Middletown North ending a four-year drought of state playoff appearances, there was some buzz that this might be the first time in more than a decade that the Lions would challenge Middletown South's supremacy in their annual Thanksgiving showdown.
"For the four years I've been here, there's always been the same talk,'' said Middletown South senior running back Jeremy Concepcion. "Granted, this year there was a little more hype about it, but I didn't doubt in my mind that we could win this game at all."
The Eagles showed on Thursday that the gap is still wide against their rivals when they routed Middletown North 43-6 in a Class A North game at The Swamp for their 13th straight win over the Lions (3-7, 3-3). Concepcion was named the game's offensive Most Valuable Player with 174 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 29 carries, and Middletown South junior defensive back Nolan Pereless was the defensive MVP with a pair of interceptions and a pass break-up. The Eagles now lead the all-time series with the Lions 26-11-1.
The Eagles (5-5, 4-2) rolled up 460 yards of total offense, including 295 on the ground, and senior quarterback Kyle Brey ran for a 15-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion and also threw for 168 yards and a touchdown on 9-for-13 passing.
"We came out, we executed like we normally do, and the scoreboard obviously showed it,'' said Concepcion, who finished the season with 925 yards rushing. "We played sound defense, the O-line did a great job blocking, and we just made plays off of that."
Middletown South dominated from beginning to end, leading 22-0 at halftime and intercepting Middletown North freshman quarterback Donald Glenn four times.
"I was glad to go out with a bang, and glad that the seniors got their last win of the year, and hopefully it takes us into next year," Pereless said. "Coach (defensive coordinator Al Bigos) had us really well-prepared. Anything thrown deep I was there, (and) made sure that nothing was thrown past us. All of our corners, our outside linebackers and our middle linebackers played their coverages well.
The Eagles jump-started the festivities in front of a capacity crowd with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Concepcion for a 7-0 lead with five seconds left in the first quarter. After the defense forced a three-and-out and pinned the Lions at their own 8-yard line, the Eagles made it 14-0 with a seven-play, 34-yard drive that ended on Brey's 15-yard touchdown run with 6:10 left in the second quarter.
Middletown South's defense forced its fourth three-and-out of the first half to set up the Eagles' third scoring drive. They marched 88 yards in 10 plays, with the big play coming on a 31-yard strike from Brey to junior tight end Pat Crowe, eventually scoring on a 14-yard touchdown run by Concepcion. Brey then ran in a two-point conversion for a 22-0 advantage that the Eagles took into halftime after holding the Lions to two first downs and 61 total yards in the first half.
"This is the one game where there is no other atmosphere like it,'' Concepcion said. "Everyone you know is here, and you're playing against guys you know. It's fun, and to come out with a 'W,' there's nothing better than that."
The Lions cut into the lead in the third quarter when junior Troy Thompson snatched a pass tipped by a Middletown South defender and raced for a 63-yard touchdown to trim the margin to 22-6 with 1:07 left in the period.
However, the Eagles came right back with a three-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown run by Concepcion for a 29-6 lead with 11:50 left in the game. Sophomore kicker Matt Mosquera finished the day 5-for-5 on extra points, making him a perfect 34-for-34 for the season.
An interception by senior defensive back Andrew Wisialko set up his own touchdown when Brey hit him on a fade route three plays later for a 63-yard touchdown and a 36-6 lead with 10:04 left in the fourth quarter.
Crowe then put the cherry on top when he snatched a short pass by Glenn and took it for a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:06 remaining for the final margin.
While Middletown North struggled on Thursday, the future still looks promising with Glenn returning after throwing for 1,538 yards and 15 touchdowns, which both may be Shore Conference records for a freshman quarterback. Sophomore running back Chad Freshnock finished the season with 1,018 yards rushing, giving Middletown North two offensive building blocks for the future.
As for Middletown South, the victory at least ended its first non-winning season since going 3-6 in 1984 on a high note, and the future looks bright for one of the Shore Conference's perennial powers despite this season's struggles. The Eagles were ousted in the first round of the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs after having reached a sectional final in 10 of the past 12 seasons, but a large chunk of their starting lineup was sophomores. Plus, the freshman team went unbeaten and outscored its opponents 293-0, so there looks to be more impact players on the way next season, some of whom saw some time on Thursday.
"We've got a lot of big freshmen and a lot of big sophomores coming up and hopefully we can get back to states and win it,'' Pereless said.
Middletown South 43, Middletown North 6
. MS MN
First downs 19 10
Rushes-yards 45-295 22-79
Passing 9-13-1 13-34-4
Passing yards 168 149
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties 4-20 7-60
Midd. North (3-7, 3-3) 0 0 6 0 - 6
Midd. South (5-5, 4-2) 7 15 0 21 - 43
MS: Concepcion 2-yard run (Mosquera kick).
MS: Brey 15-yard run (Mosquera kick).
MS: Concepcion 14-yard run (Brey run).
MN: Thompson 63-yard pass from Glenn (kick failed).
MS: Concepcion 30-yard run (Mosquera kick).
MS: Wisialko 63-yard pass from Brey (Mosquera kick).
MS: Crowe 50-yard interception return (Mosquera kick).
Rushing - MS: Concepcion 29-174, C. Rogers 3-45, O'Connell 6-37, Brey 6-27, S. Pereless 2-9. MN: Freshnock 12-29, Glenn 1-(-4), Betkowski 3-31, Santana 1-(-1), Napolitano 3-16, Pitts 2-8.
Passing - MS: Brey 9-13-1 168. MN: Glenn 13-34-4 149.
Receiving - MS: Wisialko 2-71, Crowe 2-50, Concepcion 1-7, McCarthy 1-24, N. Pereless 1-7, C. Rogers 1-6, S. Pereless 1-3. MN: Betkowski 5-40, Pitts 2-5, Thompson 3-78, Piccini 2-17, Santana 1-9.
Interceptions - MS: N. Pereless 2-25, Crowe 1-50, Wisialko 1-0. MN: Vetrano 1-10.