Tucker Caccavale’s Career Day Helps Manasquan Rout Middletown South
MANASQUAN - Senior quarterback Tucker Caccavale has become the perfect representative of this year's Manasquan team.
He has had his ups and downs but has not stopped working hard, and when he puts it all together, it is something to behold.
Caccavale was the engine behind the score heard around the Shore in Week Five as he went 17-for-23 for a school-record 350 yards passing and four touchdowns in an eye-opening 38-0 win over Middletown South, ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, in a nondivisional game at Vic Kubu Warrior Field on Saturday. The Warriors (4-1) also limited the Eagles (2-2) to 157 total yards, becoming the first team in 11 years to shut them out while registering their first shutout victory since 2009.
Offensively, an unranked Manasquan team that was averaging 19 points per game showed its potential when everything is clicking, while also opening up the passing attack dramatically.
"We played well, and it was just a big step for our program,'' Caccavale said. "That's how good we can be. We've just got to stay on that level."
"We've showed in flashes that we can play like this, but it just hadn't been very consistent,'' senior tailback Joe Murphy said. "Today, we said we can't be scared of these guys after they handled us at The Swamp last year, and we came out and gave them all they could handle."
Caccavale, who was the starting quarterback last year, began this season only playing on defense after losing a competition with fellow senior Will Pezzollo for the starting quarterback spot. However, Pezzollo went down with a season-ending torn ACL in a loss to Red Bank Catholic in the second game of the season, so the Warriors again turned to Caccavale.
In his third game back at the helm, he delivered one of the greatest passing performances of any quarterback in Manasquan's storied history on Saturday. His completions, passing yards and touchdown passes are all single-game school records, according to head coach Jay Price. The Warriors racked up 462 total yards of offense and posted the most points against Middletown South since a 38-7 loss in the playoffs to Moorestown in 2007, while handing the Eagles their most lop-sided defeat since a 58-13 loss to Neptune in the 1998 Central Jersey Group III final.
"My quarterbacks coach, Mr. (Brian) Lee, he said, 'You've just got be a leader out there,''' Caccavale said. "Just stay positive and everything will fall into place. My dad was also saying stay positive and everything will fall into place."
"It shows a lot about Tucker as a person and his ability to deal with adversity,'' Murphy said. "He showed he won't quit on us and will be the type of player we know he can be and lead this team."
It was actually the Eagles who had the early momentum when they started the game by driving to the Manasquan 18-yard line, but a fumbled exchange on a zone read play was recovered by the Warriors. Manasquan responded by driving 81 yards in seven plays, weathering a penalty that negated a touchdown and concluding the drive when Caccavale found wide open senior Joe Fittin on fourth down after his defender slipped for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. Fittin finished with seven catches for a career-high 142 yards in the win.
The normally run-heavy Warriors threw the ball on six of their first seven plays to set the tone for the afternoon by opening up the passing game.
"We knew we were going to throw a little bit more than we did (previously), and once we started doing well with it, our coaches said to just keep going with it,'' Caccavale said. "Coach (Lee) was saying to step into my throws and just be calm out there. I knew the game was going to be on my shoulders a little bit, and I just had to step up."
"We figured they were going to try to load the box against (Joe) Murphy and James (McAlary) because of the great games they've been having,'' Fittin said. "We took advantage of our one-on-one match-ups with Tanner (Cowley), myself and the other receivers, and the line did a great job of giving Tucker time."
After the defense came up with another stop, the Warriors' passing game went back to work, spearheading an eight-play, 65-yard drive keyed by a 26-yard catch by junior Matt Paturzo. Caccavale capped the drive by throwing a fade to the corner of the end zone to the 6-foot-5 Cowley, who snatched it over a defender for a 15-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 10:46 left in the second quarter.
The teams then traded possessions after an interception by Fittin and one by Middletown South senior defensive back Andrew Wisialko. A sack by senior defensive lineman Matt Forst ended the Eagles' ensuing drive, and the Warriors put together one more scoring drive before the half. They went 79 yards in 10 plays, with the big play coming on a 52-yard catch-and-run by Fittin, and took a 17-0 lead into the locker room after a 25-yard field goal by kicker Raul Perez. Caccavale was 13-for-19 for 236 yards passing in the first half.
Manasquan rode that momentum into the second half, as Murphy took a handoff on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter and raced 71 yards down the Manasquan sideline to push the lead to 24-0. The defense, which limited the Eagles to 49 total yards in the second half, then came up with another stop to set up another long touchdown by Murphy.
The Eagles elected to bring pressure against Caccavale, who was not sacked once in 24 dropbacks in the game, and the Warriors dialed up a middle screen at the perfect time. Caccavale floated a pass over the top of the rush, and Murphy took it and ran 72 yards for a touchdown to blow the game open at 31-0 with 7:36 left in the third quarter.
"We've been practicing that all week, drawing that up for weeks now, and we were ready to run it,'' Murphy said. "When the time came, we executed it to perfection."
Caccavale later put the cherry on top with a 13-yard touchdown pass to senior fullback Jack Bianco for a 38-0 advantage with 11 minutes left in the game on a drive that was set up by an interception by McAlary. The Warriors held Middletown South senior quarterback Kyle Brey to 7-for-16 passing and 60 yards, picking off two passes, to become the first team to shut out the Eagles since Wall beat Middletown South 24-0 in the 2002 Central Jersey Group III final.
"We just had to stop all the quick slants and the running game, and once they went to the air, our secondary did great,'' said Cowley, who also plays linebacker.
The Warriors not only pulled in a power-point haul that should go a long way toward home games in the state playoffs, they also found out they have a quarterback capable of taking over a game who won't fold at any sign of adversity.
"It's a terrible thing that happened to Will, but we knew Tucker would step up and get the job done for us,'' Fittin said.
"This is just the icing on the cake,'' Caccavale said about Saturday's performance after his early-season ups and downs. "We've just got to keep it going, and I'm very humbled right now."
Manasquan 38, Middletown South 0
. Ma MS
First downs 17 10
Rushes-yards 26-112 30-97
Passing 18-24-1 7-16-2
Passing yards 350 60
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties 8-60 3-25
Middletown South (2-2) 0 0 0 0 - 0
Manasquan (4-1) 7 10 14 7 - 38
Fittin 26-yard pass from Caccavale (Perez kick).
Cowley 15-yard pass from Caccavale (Perez kick).
Perez 25-yard field goal.
Murphy 71-yard run (Perez kick).
Murphy 72-yard pass from Caccavale (Perez kick).
Bianco 13-yard pass from Caccavale (Perez kick).
Rushing - Ma: McAlary 5-1, Murphy 10-88, Bianco 4-5, Meseroll 4-7, Sperduto 3-11. MS: O'Connell 19-71, Concepcion 6-33, Brey 3-(-12), C. Rogers 2-5.
Passing - Ma: Caccavale 17-23-1 350. MS: Brey 7-16-2 60.
Receiving - Ma: Fittin 7-142, Paturzo 1-26, Cowley 3-61, Birch 1-7, McAlary 2-16, Murphy 1-72, Bianco 2-26. MS: Wisialko 3-25, O'Connell 1-20, Hendrickson 1-6, S. Pereless 2-9.
Interceptions - Ma: Fittin 1-20, McAlary 1-0. MS: Wisialko 1-15.