The Wild South: Late Heroics Vault Brick into A South Title Game
LACEY — Sitting on the sideline and preparing himself for another defensive series, Ray Fattaruso thought he had just saw Brick’s hope for a division title vanish into thin air. Then, came a chance for redemption.
Brick had pulled to within one point of host Lacey on a 13-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Joe Phillips to freshman receiver Jazir Taylor with 28 seconds left in the game, but the extra point was no good. Then, seemingly all at once, Brick’s players spotted the flag near their kicker. It was a roughing-the-kicker penalty on Lacey, and Brick had one more chance.
“I said to coach, ‘I will get in no matter what it takes’,” Fattaruso said.
With the ball placed at the one-yard line after the penalty, Brick head coach Rob Dahl made the decision to go for the 2-point conversion. Fattaruso took the direct snap out of the Wildcat and plowed forward and across the goal line, giving No. 10 Brick a wild, come-from-behind 25-24 Shore Conference Class A South victory over Lacey on Saturday afternoon.
“I gave that last effort to get my torso across the line,” Fattaruso said. “I looked over and saw the ref put his arms up, and it was the greatest feeling ever.”
The victory sets up Brick to play a winner-take-all game versus Jackson Memorial next Friday for the Class A South division title.
“The motto of our program is to never quit, never back down,” Phillips said. “We worked our butts off in practice and we got it done.”
The Dragons (6-2, 5-1) picked up their biggest victory in years without starting quarterback Carmen Sclafani, who missed the game because of a shoulder injury sustained in last week’s game against Toms River North. Phillips, who quarterbacked Brick as a sophomore last season, wasn’t asked to do much throughout the game. Brick played mostly out an I -formation with several ‘Raycat” plays that had Fattaruso taking the snap directly. Phillips was efficient early with safe passes, but when Brick got the ball down 24-17 with 2:24 left, there was no time to play it safe.
“We told Joe to manage the game and that there were going to be some parts throughout the game where he was going to have to make throws,” Dahl said. “As one-dimensional as we were all day I never thought on the last drive when they knew we had to throw was when he’d have his most success. He just had so much poise on that last drive and I’m really proud of him.”
“He stayed calm the whole game, and you have to give him a lot of credit for that,” Fattaruso said.
Phillips finished the game 11-for-16 for 111 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers. On Brick’s game-winning 10-play, 77-yard drive, Phillips went 5-for-8 for 55 yards and the 13-yard touchdown pass to Taylor.
“We were throwing the fling (quick screen) or slant on that drive, and at the end we made a really clutch decision to fake both and go with the wheel route,” Phillips said. “I just tried to keep myself relaxed. I knew we were going to do it.”
Fattaruso’s two-point conversion capped a wild fourth quarter that had the teams combine for 36 points. Brick held a 10-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter before Lacey tied the score on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Kelly to Christian Tutela with 10:38.
Lacey appeared to have found its groove in the passing game, because after a three-and-out by Brick, the Lions (5-3, 3-3) found the end zone again on a 37-yard pass from Kelly to Tutela for a 17-10 lead.
Kelly finished with 276 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Tutela caught five passes for 122 yards and two scores.
Brick would answer immediately, however, with a 7-play, 54-yard drive to tie the score at 17. Phillips hit Drew Scott for 18 yards on first down to move the ball to the Lacey 36, and six plays later Mike Muratore would find the end zone from three yards out, knotting the score with 5:02 left in the game.
Then came Lacey’s turn.
The Lions marched 67 yards in six plays to take 24-17 lead with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter as Kelly threw his third touchdown pass, a 23-yarder to a wide-open Conor Davies on third-and-12. Davies also had a leaping 24-yard catch on the drive to move the ball into Brick territory.
With 2:24 left after the ensuing kickoff, driving 77 yards looked like a tall order for a team that had called just eight passing plays to that point. Instead, Phillips went to work. He hit Taylor for four yards and a first down early in the drive, hit Ja’Quez Johnson for 17 yards on a second-and-15 and found Johnson again for 12 yards on a second-and-10. A late-hit penalty followed Johnson’s 12-yard catch to move the ball to the Lacey 13. Two plays later, Phillips lofted a pass that Taylor easily settled under to pull Brick within 24-23 and set up the final sequence.
“Words really can’t explain all this right now,” Phillips said. “I’m gonna enjoy this and then get right back to work.”
With Sclafani out, Fattaruso saw his number called 26 times in running plays. The junior finished with 139 yards rushing and also played an outstanding game on defense.
“Ray has been more important on the defensive side, and he did a good job flustering Kelly early and getting quarterback pressures,” Dahl said. “He totally lays his body out for the program. He’s that old-fashioned Brick Township football player. He’s spent at the end of the game.”
Fattaruso helped Brick take a 3-0 lead in the second quarter when carried four times for 12 yards to set up Starego’s 31-yard field goal at 6:46. Tommy Leach gave the Dragons great field position at Lacey’s 16-yard line with a 35-yard punt return.
Lacey got going on the final drive of the first half to tie the score at three. Starting from his own 26, Kelly hit Isaiah Brown for 13 yards on first down, connected with Tutela for 13 yards on the next play and then found Mike Bocchini for 43 yards down to the Brick 5-yard line. With just nine seconds left, Lacey ran one more play before settling for a Pat Davis 22-yard field goal.
Brick took the lead in the third quarter with the game’s first touchdown. A 7-yard touchdown run by Muratore capped a massive 14-play, 95-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and gave the Dragons a 10-3 lead.
The battle royal that is Class A South now comes down to one game: Jackson Memorial at Brick for the division title.
“We’re a team that will never quit,” Phillips said. “So we’ll come out and be ready.”
No. 10 Brick 25, Lacey 24
Brick (6-1, 5-1) 0 3 7 15 – 25
Lacey (5-3, 3-3) 0 3 0 21 – 24
B – Anthony Starego 31-yard field goal
L – Pat Davis 22-yard field goal
B – Mike Muratore 7-yard run (Anthony Starego kick)
L – Tommy Kelly 44-yard pass to Christian Tutela (Pat Davis kick)
L – Tommy Kelly 37-yard pass to Christian Tutela (Pat Davis kick)
B – Mike Muratore 3-yard run (Anthony Starego kick)
L – Tommy Kelly 23-yard pass to Conor Davis (Pat Davis kick)
B – Joe Phillips 13-yard pass to Jazir Taylor (Ray Fattaruso run)
Rushing – B: Ray Fattaruso 26-139, Mike Muratore 9-58, Jazir Taylor 2-10, Tim Cardoso 3-10, Joe Phillips 4-2; L: Chris Jensen 11-36, Christian Tutela 4-8, Tommy Kelly 3-(-2).
Passing – B: Joe Phillips 11-16-0 111; L: Tommy Kelly 15-30-1 276, Christian Tutela 0-1-0 0, Conor Davies 0-1-0 0.
Receiving – B: Drew Scott 2-32, Ja'Quez Johnson 2-29, Jazir Taylor 3-26, Tim Cardoso 2-16, Mike Muratore 2-7; L: Christian Tutela 5-122, Mike Bocchini 2-57, Conor Davies 2-47, Chris Jensen 3-37, Isaiah Brown 3-13.
Interceptions – B: Joe Phillips 1-0.