By Vin Ebenau - Shore Sports Network Contributor

Photo gallery by Ray Richardson.

GLASSBORO — Toms River North has two of the Shore Conference’s best offensive players in quarterback Mike Husni and running back Asante Moorer, but it was a defense that played lights out in the playoffs that keyed the Mariners’ latest championship

In a game that showcased two top defenses, it was the Mariners suddenly stingy unit that was the difference in a 14-7 victory over Williamstown to deliver Toms River North the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V title on Saturday night at Rowan University.

Photo by Ray Richardson.

Moorer scored on a short run with 10:45 left in the game and the Mariners’ defense did the rest by holding the Braves to just 35 yards in the second half. The Mariners kept their perfect record in state finals intact by winning their sixth title in as many appearances. It is the first title for Toms River North since winning the South Jersey Group IV title and finishing 12-0 in 2007.

“Our defense played out of their minds, over the last three weeks they’ve played out of their minds,” Husni said. They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, and we wouldn’t be here without them.”

“Our defensive has been outstanding, they won the state championship for us,” said Toms River North head coach Dave Oizerowitz. “Without their improvement over the course of the season there’s no chance we’re standing here as Group V champs in South Jersey.”

The Mariners’ defense allowed 144 yards on 19 plays to Williamstown in the first half including a 60-yard touchdown run. The halftime adjustments they made kept Williamstown’s versatile rushing attack under wraps, holding the Braves to just 35 yards on 21 plays over the final two quarters.

The defense got a key fourth down stop with under two minutes left in the game, and junior defensive back Darrion Carrington clinched the championship with an interception with 10 seconds left.

“It feels great,” Husni said. “We went 1-9 my freshman year, and it hurt. After that we weren’t going to let that happen again. Last year we went 6-5 and almost had it against Cherokee. We knew if we wanted to win this we had to come out and play with heart.”

Husni and Moorer once again led the charge in the running game with a combined 194 yards rushing on 46 carries. Husni ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and went 5-for-8 passing for 31 yards. Moorer rumbled for 102 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on 23 carries.

“In the first half (Williamstown) played the read-option well, but then in the second half they started guessing wrong,” Husni said.

“Every week they play their entire careers (Husni and Moorer) give us everything they have,” Oizerowitz said. “They’re money players.”

The cold winds at Rowan reminded us of December football, and that turned out to be a classic gridiron matchup between third-seeded Williamstown and fourth-seeded Toms River North in the final of what is usually considered the toughest public school bracket in New Jersey.

Both teams had only three offensive drives in the first half and relied heavily on the run game. Williamstown turned the ball over on downs after an 11-play drive to open the game. Toms River North took possession late in the first quarter and ran 16 plays before breaking the scoreless tie early in the second quarter.

Husni scored on a six-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to give the Mariners a 7-0 lead.

Williamstown had its most successful drive of the night on a three-play for 62-yard sprint. Joe Early took a jet sweep 60 yards untouched down the home sideline to tie the score at seven with 2:30 left in the first half.

The second half was all about the defense on both ends. The Braves Achilles heel throughout the game was penalties, and the Mariners took advantage of the field position.

After the Mariners turned the ball over on downs after nine plays, Williamstown went three and out. Husni was picked off on the fifth play of the next drive, but Toms River North’s defense again forced Williamstown to punt after just three plays.

The Mariners then ran 10 plays before putting themselves ahead for good. Moorer ran the ball up the gut, and with a push from the offensive line he scored the go-ahead touchdown to give North a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Williamstown had two chances to mount a tying scoring drive, but each time the Mariners’ defense shut the door. A fourth-down stop with just under two minutes to play all but sealed the win, but Williamstown was able to get one final possession by stopping Toms River North on three downs and using its final timeout. Carrington went up to grab an interception on the next play, however, allowing Husni to take one final kneel down and set off a celebration that lasted all the way back to Ocean County.

“I tip my cap to Williamstown, they were a very tough opponent,” Oizerowitz said. “There were some things we weren’t doing well up front, and we challenged them at halftime. We said ‘The season is on the line and we need your best 24 minutes’.”

“When you win a state championship it’s sweet, and I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. This one’s gonna last all season - for about a month. Then we have to lift.”