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NEPTUNE -- Brick Memorial always believed that senior Rob Triano had the play-making abilities to be a difference-maker for its offense. For the past two years, however, injuries cut his seasons short.

Finally healthy, Triano got the chance he had been waiting for on Friday night versus Neptune, and sparked a crucial comeback for the Mustangs.

Triano took over at quarterback in the second half for injured starter Joe Hans and ignited the Mustangs’ offense with 113 total yards and a pair of touchdowns in a stunning 27-16 come-from-behind victory over the Scarlet Fliers in a nondivisional game at Memorial Athletic Complex. His 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter pulled Brick Memorial to within three points, and his 30-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter sealed the Mustangs’ third win of the season.

“Rob did an awesome job,” said senior Mike Basile, who totaled 77 yards in his first game back after missing two games with turf toe. “We knew if Joe ever went down we have someone just as good. We have faith in him and know he can lead us to victory, which he did tonight.”

“I was sitting in the locker room getting ready to go out for the second half and coach (Walt) Currie said I was getting the ball,” Triano said. “I changed my mindset real quick and got ready to go.”

Senior quarterback Rob Triano accounted for 113 total yards and two touchdowns in the second half in a 27-16 win over Neptune. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

The Mustangs (3-2) rose their level of play in the second half with Triano under center. Neptune (2-3) out-gained Brick Memorial 120-20 in the first half and held a 9-0 lead at halftime. Neither team was throwing the ball consistently, and Neptune was winning the battle up front.

On Triano’s first drive in the third quarter he led the Mustangs down the field for their first points with a six-play, 41-yard scoring drive. Hans is 6-foot-3 while Triano is 5-foot-8, and his stature enhanced the fakes in their flexbone offense. Suddenly the dive play was doing damage, and junior Connor Owen rumbled for 30 yards on the drive, including a 7-yard touchdown to pull Brick Memorial to within 9-7.

But on the ensuing kickoff, Neptune’s Dyshon Day returned the kick 95 yards for a touchdown to put the Scarlet Fliers up by nine again at 16-7. It would stay that way until the fourth quarter, when a bizarre series of events led to Brick Memorial taking the lead.

Brick Memorial’s defense was in the midst of pitching a second-half shutout of Neptune’s offense, and got Triano the ball back at his own 25 with 6:45 left in the game and trailing by nine. He led a six-play, 75-yard drive and scored on a 46-yard touchdown to pull Brick Memorial to within three points at 16-13.

“Connor Owen had been running hard all night, and he was the deciding factor on that read,” Triano said. “I pulled the ball, saw daylight and took it.”

What happened next stunned everybody in the stadium.

Brick Memorial kicked off to Neptune with 4:30 left in the game, and on the kick the Mustangs recovered at the Neptune four-yard line after the Scarlet Fliers did not pick up a live ball. Three plays later, Owen plunged in from the one-yard line to give Brick Memorial it’s first lead of the game, 20-16, in the most improbable of fashions.

“I had never seen that ever,” said Basile, who along with junior Mike Manso was involved in the special teams fiasco. “I was confused because I’ve never seen that happen, and I started wondering if I should get the ball. (Manso) bailed me out. I was going to pick it up, and he ran in and scooped it.”

Brick Memorial now led by four with 2:43 to play and leaned on its defense to close out the game. The Mustangs, who surrendered just two first downs in the second half, stuffed Neptune on four straight plays to get the ball back with 1:44 left. On fourth down from the Neptune 30, Triano dissected the Neptune defense at the line and beat the blitz with a 30-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Karl Kumm, giving Brick Memorial a 27-16 lead with just over a minute left in the game.

The game started in a driving rain storm but finished under clear skies. The odd plays began on the first series of the game, but didn’t go away as the game progressed.

On the game’s opening drive, Brick Memorial punted twice only to get the ball back when off bounces touched a Neptune player. The Mustangs didn’t score, but moved the ball from their own 19 out to the midfield without gaining a first down. Neptune finally got the ball with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter and drove to the Brick Memorial 18, but was stuffed on fourth-and-one. Brick Memorial would fumble on the next play, however, to give Neptune the ball back at the Mustangs’ 19-yard line. Three plays later, Cameron Calderon scored from three yards out to give Neptune a 6-0 lead.

The Scarlet Fliers would add to their lead late in the half when junior kicker Hunter Daly booted a 27-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 52-yard drive with 1:53 on the clock.

Behind a new quarterback, Brick Memorial was able to reverse its fortunes in the second half. Over the past two weeks they Mustangs have re-branded themselves offensively in switching back to a traditional flexbone option from the pistol spread they ran last season and began this year with. The result has been a team that has grinded out a couple of wins to keep its season going in a positive direction. They may have also found a new quarterback in Triano, depending on how long Hans is out.

“Coach Currie has done a real good job,” Basile said. “In the spread we were real good last year, but this year not as much. The players we have this year work a lot better with that tight set.”

No matter where he is on the field in the coming weeks, Brick Memorial hopes what Triano did on Friday night is just a glimpse of what he can give the the rest of the way. After missing his sophomore season with concussions and sitting out last year with a dislocated shoulder and a stress fracture in his back, Triano is ready to make an impact.

“We’ve been waiting and hoping for Robby to be a difference-maker,” Currie said. “He’s had so many injuries over the past couple of years, and he’s now blossoming as a playmaker. People are going to start to know his name.”

The key for Brick Memorial is to keep it going. The Mustangs answered a 35-7 loss to Jackson Memorial three weeks ago with a 14-10 win over Toms River East last week to move to 2-2. Friday’s win over Neptune put them back in the playoff race, and also gave them a blueprint from which to work off.

“Last week we felt we got the ship righted and we wanted to continue in a positive direction,” Currie said. “You can never quit and you have to play to the end, and the kids did that. Hopefully this is one of those wins that not only helps us down the road, but serves as a reminder for what we need to do.”

Box Score

Brick Memorial 27, Neptune 16

Brick Memorial Neptune
First downs 10 9
Rushes-yards 43-160 36-124
Passing 3-6-0 7-13-0
Passing yards 53 62
Fumbles-lost 5-1 5-3
Penalties-yards 6-55 5-30


Brick Memorial (3-2) 0 0 7 20 – 27
Neptune (2-3) 6 3 7 0 – 16

N – Cameron Calderon 3-yard run (kick failed)
N – Hunter Daly 27-yard field goal
B – Connor Owen 7-yard run (Christian Giordano kick)
N – Dyshon Day 95-yard kickoff return (Hunter Daly kick)
B – Rob Triano 46-yard run (kick failed)
B – Connor Owen 1-yard run (Christian Giordano kick)
B – Rob Triano 30-yard pass to Karl Kumm (Christian Giordano kick)

Individual statistics
Rushing – B: Rob Triano 12-60, Mike Basile 6-54, Connor Owen 10-40, Joe Hans 8-8, Mike Manso 1-4, Dwayne Gudge 3-3, Matt Cathey 3-(-9); N: Aaron Mora 14-69, Shakeem Richardson 16-34, 3-18, Cameron Calderon 3-3.
Passing – B: Rob Triano 3-3-0 53, Joe Hans 0-3-0 0; N: Shakeem Richardson 7-13-0 62.
Receiving – B: Karl Kumm 1-30, Mike Basile 2-23; N: Dyshon Day 2-28, Cameron Calderon 3-21, Jaree Parrish 1-8, Aaron Mora 1-5.