Searight helps Monmouth pull out win over Holmdel
By Art Gordon – Shore Sports Network contributor
TINTON FALLS - In a game that saw a total of 10 fumbles, 15 penalties and 11 punts, as well as injuries to both starting quarterbacks, Monmouth Regional found a way to persevere and pull out a 21-13 win over Holmdel to tie its win total from all of last season.
The Falcons (2-1, 1-0) were able to hold off a Hornets (1-3, 0-2) in the Class A Central game after Holmdel drove to the Falcons’ 7-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game following the recovery of an onside kick. Junior Isaiah Searight sealed the win for Monmouth when he stepped in front of a flood pass flag pattern and intercepted the ball in the end zone with five seconds left to play to touch off the celebration.
“I have never been on the sidelines for a game like this,” said Monmouth coach Rich Mosca, whose coaching career spans more than 40 years. “I don’t know how or why it happened, but we recovered, and it’s a win.”
Monmouth started the game on a positive note when it took the opening kickoff and went 65 yards in seven plays, with quarterback James Green taking it in from 10 yards out. The first of three extra points by Nick Costa gave Monmouth a 7-0 lead only three minutes into the game.
However, Green, who has been the offensive catalyst for the Falcons this season, would play only four more snaps and would not return after suffering bruised ribs on a scramble on a fourth-and-17 play. Meanwhile Holmdel’s best all-around player, junior fullback/linebacker Frank Condito, re-injured an ankle on the first series of the game that he had originally injured against Rumson.
Holmdel would soon also lose junior starting quarterback Jeff Harris to a bruised shoulder after taking numerous hits while attempting to pass. The Hornets replaced Harris with the combination of senior running quarterback Matt Dixon and junior passing quarterback Erik Alvino.
The score remained 7-0 at halftime, as the defenses on both teams were playing lights out. Holmdel didn’t registered its initial first down until there were two minutes left in the half when Dixon scrambled 49 yards, but turned the ball over on the next play.
The Hornets tied the score on Monmouth’s first possession of the second when junior defensive back Adam Ibrahim picked up a Falcons’ fumble and sprinted 30 yards for a touchdown to tie it 7-7 just three minutes into the third quarter.
Monmouth answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, all on the ground. Senior running back Azavia Gibson was the workhorse on the drive, carrying six times for 50 yards. Searight, who replaced the injured Green at quarterback, also had a key 18-yard run on the drive on a zone read keeper.
“I had a good read on the play and saw the defensive end close, so I tucked it and took off,” Searight said.
“We have three or four really good backs, and we like to rotate them,’’ Mosca said. “The first series it was senior running back Dylan Brown, and on the second touchdown drive it was Azavia Gibson.”
Searight capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 14-7 lead.
“Coach called a quarterback sneak, and I knew I had a lot of size so I just elevated,” Searight said.
After the Falcons’ defense came up with another stop, a 45-yard punt by Holmdel was returned 50 yards by Gibson to the Hornets’ 39-yard line and the Falcons were in business again. Seven plays later, sophomore Eli Velez powered in from five yards out to give Monmouth what proved to be the game-winning touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 1:17 left in the game.
However, Holmdel wasn’t going down without a fight. The Hornets proceeded to complete their first passes of the game in the final 1:17 to make it interesting.
Sophomore wide receiver Mark Scherzer took a screen pass 45 yards down to the 12-yard line, and two plays later, Alvino hit sophomore Peter Savrides on a hitch at the 2-yard line. Dixon then scored on a two-yard run to cut Monmouth’s lead to 21-13, which stayed that way when the extra point attempt was blocked.
Holmdel then recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Monmouth 39-yard line with 37 seconds left. On second down, senior Joe Tages caught a pass that was tipped for a 20-yard gain to the 19-yard line with 20 seconds left. A 12-yard pass from Alvino to Tages then put the Hornets at the 7-yard line with 10 seconds to go.
That’s when Searight came up with his game-sealing interception to allow the home fans to exhale.
“Coach always says to read two to one (receivers) and when two went out, I jumped on one and made the play,’’ Searight said. “Coach Mosca will put us in the best position to win.”
The Falcons now travel to Raritan, which is in the midst of a 14-game losing streak, in a bid to move to 3-1 next week.
“We played poorly, but it is a win, and now we move to next week”,’’ Mosca said.
Monmouth 21, Holmdel 13
TEAMS 1 2 3 4 FINAL
HOLMDEL 0 0 7 6 13
MON. REG. 7 0 7 7 21
MR: JAMES GREEN 10 YARD RUN. NICK COSTA KICK
HOL: ADAM IBRAHIM 30 YARD FUMBLE RETURN. KICK GOOD
MR: ISAIAH SEARIGHT 1 YARD RUN. COSTA KICK
MR: ELI VELEZ 5 YARD RUN. COSTA KICK
HOL: MATT DIXON 2 YARD RUN. KICK BLOCKED
TEAMS HOLMDEL MONMOUTH
1ST 6 15
RUSHING 22-85 56-288
PASSING 4-12-1 87 2-4-21
PENALTIES 4-25 5-40
PUNTS 7-36 4-19
FUMBLES 6-3 4-2
RUSHING: HOL: JEFF HARRIS 2-5, MATT DIXON 1-49, MARK SCHERZER 1-11, ADAM IBRAHIM 8-20. MR: DYLAN BROWN 10-68, ELI VELEZ 14-46, AZAVIA GIBSON 14-88, ISAIAH SEARIGHT 11-76, JAMES GREEN 4-8, MICHAEL REARDON 3-2
PASSING: HOL: JEFF HARRIS ERIK ALVINO MR: JAMES GREEN 1-1-6 ISAIAH SEARIGHT 1-3-15
RECEIVING: HOL: WILL VAN NAME 1-45, PETER SAVRIDES 1-10, JOE TAGES 2-32 MR: DARRYL GAMBLE 1-6, DYLAN BROWN 1-15
INTERCEPTIONS: ISAIAH SEARIGHT