Vintage Victory: Offensive Line Leads Manasquan Over Rival Wall in South Jersey III
MANASQUAN — When Manasquan’s Joe Murphy broke free on a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, it came as an immediate response to a Wall touchdown, and reestablished a two-score lead for the Warriors in their first round playoff game. It was exactly what Manasquan needed at that juncture of the game.
After the Warriors had secured a 29-7 victory over the rival Crimson Knights on Saturday afternoon at Vic Kubu Warrior Field, finding someone to take credit for the game’s pivotal moment was the only issue.
“That was Joe Murphy all the way, that was a running back touchdown,” said senior offensive lineman Matt Forst. “Having a back like that running behind you, you know if you give him a hole he’s going to make that play.”
“The line always does a great job and all those were their touchdowns,” Murphy countered. “The holes were very big. I just had to do like I was 10 years old and run away from everybody.”
It was that kind of day for the No. 1-seeded Warriors (7-2). The offensive line played a near-flawless game in paving the way for Murphy to rumble for 228 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, all while keeping quarterback Tucker Caccavale upright, to advance to the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III playoffs.
Manasquan will host No. 4 seed Delsea, the defending sectional champion, next Saturday. Delsea defeated fifth-seeded Central Regional 46-14 on Friday night.
Jack Bianco added a rushing touchdown and Caccavale finished 8-of-14 for 138 yards. Defensively, senior defensive back Kieran Preston came down with a pair of interceptions, including one in the end zone. Wall senior quarterback Jack Gifford led the Crimson Knights (3-6) by going 12-of-28 for 228 yards and one touchdown. Chris Quinlan caught a game-high five passes for 84 yards while Jack Cluley caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Squaring off against a rival in the playoffs can be tricky for the higher-seeded team, especially in a No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup. Manasquan was able to avoid any pitfalls with a vintage performance that had the running game gaining yards at will, its passing game working efficiently and its defense forcing Wall into becoming a pass-first offense in the first playoff meeting ever between the old rivals.
“When we play Wall obviously it’s a huge game,” Murphy said. “We knew we were going to get their best effort.”
“Conventional wisdom is that you don’t want to play a rivalry game in the playoffs,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price. “But coming off the loss to Rumson I thought maybe this is a good thing. We didn’t look at it as a No. 1 vs. No. 8 game because when we play Wall you throw all those things out.”
Manasquan started the scoring late in the first quarter on its second drive of the game. Back-to-back stops behind the line by Tanner Cowley and Dakotah Jones forced Wall to punt, and Manasquan took over at its own 39-yard line. Caccavale hit junior Matt Paturzo for 30 yards on the second play of the drive, and later hit Preston for 17 yards on fourth-and-5 from the 25. On the next play, Murphy burst through the line for an 8-yard touchdown. Joe Fittin, the holder on the extra point, saw an opening in the Wall defense and ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
It would remain 8-0 into the third quarter when Manasquan extended its lead to two scores on its first drive of the second half. Starting at the 35, the Warriors used four straight runs from Murphy to move across midfield. Caccavale then connected with Fittin for a 30-yard gain down to the Wall 15-yard line. Four of the next five plays were runs by Murphy, and on third-and-goal he found his way across the goal line for a three-yard touchdown. Raul Perez’s extra point game Manasquan a 15-0 lead with 6:00 left in the third quarter.
Wall now began to go almost exclusively to the air and drove down to Manasquan’s 15-yard line on its next drive before an interception by Preston halted the drive.
The Crimson Knights then forced Manasquan to punt near midfield and got the ball back at their own 20 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. A 20-yard pass to Cadell Kennedy and a 16-yard strike to Chris Quinlan moved the ball to the Manasquan 39-yard line. Two plays later, Gifford scrambled out of the pocket and found Jack Cluley standing at the goal line for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Phil Shields’ extra point cut Manasquan’s lead to 15-7 with 10:23 to go in the game.
“That was a big touchdown for them and I’m sure they felt they were back in it,” Murphy said. “Offensively, we knew we had to take the counterpunch and give it back to them.”
Two plays after receiving the ensuing kickoff, Murphy found room down the home sideline for a 60-yard touchdown that pushed Manasquan’s lead to 22-7 with 9:36 left.
“You always talk about wanting to answer a big play with a big play,” Price said. “They went into that drive charged up.”
On the Warriors’ next possession, Jack Bianco polished off a four-play, 52-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run to give Manasquan a 29-7 advantage.
Wall had two possessions over the final six minutes, but Manasquan stopped the Knights on fourth down each time to hold on and advance in the playoffs.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been in a state final (2009),” Price said. “Delsea might be the best team in the (bracket). We’re ready for the challenge.”
South Jersey Group III
1-Manasquan 29, 8-Wall 7
Wall (3-6) 0 0 0 7 – 7
Manasquan (7-2) 8 0 7 14 – 29
M – Joe Murphy 8-yard run (Joe Fittin run)
M – Joe Murphy 3-yard run (Raul Perez kick)
W – Jack Gifford 39-yard pass to Jack Cluley (Phil Shields kick)
M – Joe Murphy 60-yard run (Raul Perez kick)
M – Jack Bianco 18-yard run (Raul Perez kick)
Rushing – W: Jack Gifford 10-30, Pete Miceli 10-13, Cadell Kennedy 4-10; M: Joe Murphy 28-228, Jack Bianco 2-21, James MacAlary 5-14, Joe Fittin 1-12.
Passing – W: Jack Gifford 12-28-2 201; M: Tucker Caccavale 8-14-1 138.
Receiving – W: Chris Quinlan 5-84, Jack Cluley 3-61, Cadell Kennedy 3-52, Pete Miceli 1-4.
Interceptions – W: Rich Eknoian 1-20; M: Kieran Preston 2-0.