Starego Field Goal Lifts Ocean Over Monmouth in US Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic
BRICK - Brick kicker Anthony Starego ended a storybook and landmark high school career on Thursday night by booting the game-winning, 20-yard field goal with 5:21 left in the game to send Ocean County to a thrilling 17-14 win over Monmouth County in the 37th annual U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic on Starego's home field at Brick.
Starego, who has autism, also hit a pair of extra points to earn offensive MVP honors for Ocean County. Following Starego's go-ahead field goal, Monmouth County drove into the red zone before Southern defensive back Logan Sheehan sealed the win with an interception at the 5-yard line with 1:11 left in the game. The win halted a two-game winning streak by Monmouth and cut Monmouth's lead in the all-time series to 20-16-1.
Monmouth had tied the game at 14 on a 5-yard touchdown run by offensive MVP Anthony Gargiulo of Colts Neck and an extra point by Matawan's Mike Creamer with 1:24 left in the third quarter. Ocean set up Starego's game-winning field goal with a 26-yard interception return by his Brick teammate, linebacker Drew Scott, who returned it to the Monmouth County 5-yard line.
Ocean led 7-0 at halftime thanks to a wild play in which Lacey quarterback Tom Kelly threw an interception to Long Branch defensive back Myson Pennington, then ran Pennington down from behind and stripped the ball for a fumble that was picked up by Monsignor Donovan's Vinny Grasso and returned 26 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Monmouth tied it 7-7 in the third quarter when a fumble recovery by Red Bank Regional's Dylan DeVita helped set up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Howell quarterback Connor McGlynn to Red Bank Catholic fullback Frank Olmo with 11:12 left in the third quarter.
Ocean then added a special teams touchdown to its fumble return score with a huge momentum swing in the third quarter. Matawan's Mike Creamer nailed a 42-yard field goal, but it was negated because Ocean jumped offsides and had an unabated path to the kicker. On the ensuing 37-yard try, Jackson Memorial's Marcus Ademilola blocked the field goal, and Manchester's Shaquille Benjamin scooped it up and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Southern linebacker Mason Fazekas, who had three hits for a loss and a blocked punt, earned defensive MVP honors for Ocean County. Matawan defensive end NIck Tomkins, a Dartmouth recruit, was Monmouth's defensive MVP with multiple sacks and a touchdown-saving tackle near the goal line.
Fazekas and Keansburg defensive back Kason Preston were the Sam Mills Award winners for Ocean and Monmouth, respectively. The award is given by each team's coaches to the players who best exemplify the determination and perseverance of the late Sam Mills, a Long Branch legend who was an All-Pro linebacker with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.
Before the game, Matawan beat Brick 18-12 to win the Shore Conference 7-on-7 title. Former Raritan and Middletown South coach Bob Generelli, former Toms River North coach Bob Nani, former Asbury Park Press sports editor and columnist Joe Adelizzi, and Shore Sports Network's own Ed Sarluca were inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame at halftime.