Second-half surge sends RBC past Long Branch for Freedom Division title
RED BANK – Long Branch had just driven 80 yards for the game-tying score in the final seconds of the first half and was set to receive the kickoff to begin the third quarter. All the momentum seemed to have swung toward the Green Wave, but inside Red Bank Catholic’s locker room, there was no panic.
“We came out a little shaky in the first half but we got it together in the locker room and started rocking in the second,” said senior quarterback Steve Lubischer.
The Caseys, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, erupted for 34 points over the final two quarters, including 27 unanswered points to close the game, to pull away from No. 4 Long Branch and secure a 41-14 victory that clinched the Shore Conference Freedom Division title on Friday night at Count Basie Field. It is the Caseys’ second straight division title and 13th in program history.
“Any time you win a championship to any degree it says a lot about a team,” said Red Bank Catholic head coach Frank Edgerly. “We have a bye on the back end of this so if you win it feels good and if you lose you have to sit on it for two weeks, so this one was important on a number of levels.”
“We played a little slow in the beginning but ended up picking it up,” said senior two-way lineman Tommy Smith. “We had a little halftime adjustment on offense and on defense, we really just came out trying to challenge ourselves to play to our potential.”
Lubischer completed 9 of 14 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a 49-yard touchdown, while junior running back Billy Guidetti ran for 67 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver M.J. Wright caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns and junior tight end Kevin Bauman had two critical catches to set up touchdowns, finishing with 71 yards on three receptions.
Red Bank Catholic’s defense bent but didn’t break against a formidable Long Branch offense that churned out 337 yards. Jack Zenkert had a fumble recovery on a muffed punt that led to an RBC touchdown and senior linebacker John Columbia had a strong game that included a fumble recovery after a strip-sack by Smith, which also led to a Caseys touchdown. RBC has allowed 14 points or fewer in all six games this season.
Long Branch standout junior running back Jermaine Corbett was limited to 88 yards rushing on 15 carries and did not play from the mid-way point of the third quarter on because of an injury. Senior quarterback Marc Dennis had a career game, however, with 219 yards and two touchdowns on 14 of 22 passing while senior wide receiver Matt Clarke hauled in five catches for 118 yards and sophomore wideout Jayon Farrar caught a 50-yard touchdown pass. Dennis also had a 1-yard touchdown run.
It was all defense early until RBC used a sudden-change play to spark a touchdown drive. A booming punt by senior Ryan O’Hara was mishandled by Long Branch’s punt returner and Zenkert flew in to dive on the loose ball and give the Caseys (6-0, 5-0) possession at the Green Wave 41-yard line. On the first play following the turnover, Edgerly dialed up a flea-flicker and Lubischer found a wide-open Wright for the game’s opening touchdown. Lubischer’s initial read was downfield but he felt the rush and had to scramble out of the pocket. Wright was wide open on the numbers and Lubischer’s pass was a bit underthrown, but his trusty receiver bent over, secured the pass and raced into the end zone.
“Option No. 1 was (Jaden) Key into their boundary but we had some pressure and came back to (read) No. 2,” Edgerly said. “That’s one of those plays where the ball is in the air and you’re holding your breath until it’s caught.”
With 2:09 left in the first half and Red Bank Catholic’s defense playing well, it looked like the Caseys would take a lead into halftime. Long Branch had other ideas.
The Green Wave drove 80 yards in the final two minutes of the first half and drew even at the break on Dennis’s 1-yard touchdown surge with no time left on the clock. Corbett had a 20-yard run to the RBC 30-yard line and Clarke took a quick screen down to the RBC 1-yard line with four seconds left.
O’Hara bombed the kickoff out of the end zone and a penalty on Long Branch put the Wave at their own 10-yard line to start the third quarter. Dennis hit Niles Montgomery for 11 yards on the second play to get the ball out to the 25-yard line, but suffered cramps after the play and had to come out of the game. He remained out for the rest of the series, which was a huge blow to the offense. Junior Nicholas Reilly entered for three plays – all handoffs to Corbett – and the Caseys were able to load the box and force a punt.
RBC then marched 61 yards in six plays to take a 14-7 lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Lubischer to Wright. Lubischer scrambled for a 23-yard gain to move the ball to the Long Branch 29-yard line, and two plays later he found Wright in the right flat, who turned it up and into the end zone.
Long Branch responded again, however, with a three-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Corbett ripped off a 30-yard run to the RBC 40-yard line and, after a holding penalty, Dennis found Farrar for a 50-yard touchdown pass that tied the score. Dennis pump-faked a short route to draw the safety up, allowing Farrar to blow past the coverage for the wide-open pitch and catch.
Just as he’s done all season, junior Sean Rossback provided a spark with a big return on the ensuing kickoff to give the Caseys the ball at the Long Branch 31-yard line. Guidetti ran for a touchdown on the next play, but a holding penalty negated the score. The Caseys didn’t flinch as Lubischer found Bauman on a corner route for a 29-yard gain down to the 6-yard line, and two plays later Guidetti powered in for a 3-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
“Sean Rossback’s return I think was the difference tonight,” Edgerly said. “You can point to a number of plays but I think Sean’s returned ignited us and we converted it into another score. Those things impact both sidelines, not just ours, so to be able to capitalize on that went a long way toward this game going the way it did.”
Another special teams play helped the tide continue to turn RBC’s way. The kickoff following Guidetti’s touchdown run was bobbled by Long Branch’s returner and went out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Corbett was out of the game at this point, leaving after injuring his leg on the 30-yard run on Long Branch’s second scoring drive. A false start penalty then moved the ball back to within inches of goal line. Long Branch was able to avoid giving up a safety, but could only move the ball out to the 5-yard line before punting.
Red Bank Catholic enjoyed great field position after forcing the three-and-out and needed just two plays to get into the end zone. Starting at the 41-yard line, Lubischer connected with Bauman for a 39-yard gain to set up Guidetti for a 2-yard touchdown run. O’Hara was not able to attempt the extra point after the hold was bobbled, leaving the score 27-14 in favor of RBC.
Long Branch hit another big play on the next drive when Clarke got behind the defense for a 50-yard gain, but RBC buckled down thanks to a third-down sack by Smith that forced a fourth-and-15. The Caseys broke the game open on the next series when Lubischer broke contain and ran for a 49-yard touchdown to put RBC up 34-14.
A tackle for loss by senior linebacker Steve Cmielewski was followed by Smith sacking Dennis and knocking the ball loose. Columbia fell on the fumble and two plays later Guidetti scored on a 15-yard run to make it 41-14. RBC had five possessions in the second half and scored on all five until the backups took over for the final two plays of the game.
“This was the first time we’ve really had legitimate adversity and the first time we’ve really been challenged,” Edgerly said “They go 80 yards to close out the half and it’s 7-7 and they get the ball to start the second half. You never know until you know how your team’s going to respond, and to come out the way we did, I’m very encouraged.”
No. 1 Red Bank Catholic 41, No. 4 Long Branch 14
|Long Branch||Red Bank Catholic|
Long Branch (4-1, 4-1) 0 7 7 0 – 14
Red Bank Catholic (6-0, 5-0) 0 7 20 14 – 41
RBC – M.J. Wright 41-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)
LB – Marc Dennis 1-yard run (Joseph Mazza kick)
RBC – M.J. Wright 21-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)
LB – Jayon Farrar 50-yard pass from Marc Dennis (Joseph Mazza kick)
RBC – Billy Guidetti 4-yard run (Ryan O’Hara kick)
RBC – Billy Guidetti 2-yard run (run failed)
RBC – Steve Lubischer 49-yard run (Ryan O’Hara kick)
RBC – Billy Guidetti 15-yard run (Ryan O’Hara kick)
RUSHING – LB: Jermaine Corbett 15-88, Marc Dennis 16-21, Jah’Kwan Gordon 5-36, Team 1-(-5); RBC: Billy Guidetti 14-67, Steve Lubischer 5-60, Jake Wolfe 2-9, Steve Cmielewski 1-(-1).
PASSING – LB: Marc Dennis 14-22-0 219; RBC: Steve Lubischer 9-15-0 202.
RECEIVING – LB: Matt Clarke 5-118, Jayon Farrar 2-49, Niles Montgomery 4-44, Zahdierr Blueford 1-9, Jah’Kwan Gordon 1-0, Jermaine Corbett 1-(-1); RBC: M.J. Wright 5-85, Kevin Bauman 3-71, Jaden Key 1-46.
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