By Art Gordon - Shore Sports Network contributor

POINT PLEASANT BEACH - The last two weeks, defending Class B Central champion Point Beach was involved in a pair of low-scoring slugfests, splitting the two games and absorbing their first loss last week.

Senior Sean Struncius led a dominant effort up front for defending Class B Central champion Point Beach as it handed Mater Dei Prep its first loss with a 40-14 win on Friday night. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

This week, head coach John Wagner knew his team’s preparation would be different.  He was going up against an undefeated and rejuvenated Mater Dei Prep team that was possibly one of the fastest teams on Point Beach's schedule.  His game preparation was to control the ball and keep their offense off the field, and the Garnet Gulls did that emphatically to send a message that they aren't going anywhere in the B Central race.

In a dominant performance, the Garnet Gulls completely controlled the game as they defeated Mater Dei Prep 40-14 at Donald T. Fioretti Stadium.

Wagner preached all week that they were the defending champs and will play that way until someone them off.

“Coming off a tough 7-3 loss (to Spotswood) and a tough game (against Dunellen), we knew we were going to have to step it up and play with a little more intensity,'' Wagner said.

The early intensity showed with Point Beach (3-1, 1-0) taking a 20-0 lead halfway through the second quarter. The Garnet Gulls scored on their first three possessions and controlled the ball close to 14 of the first 18 minutes of the game against a Seraphs' team that was off to its best start since 1986.

“The past two weeks we were over-matched going up against bigger and stronger kids,” senior right guard and defensive tackle Sean Struncius said.  “We had not played well the last two weeks, and the coaches put it on us.  We wanted to play harder, stay on our blocks, keep driving and dominate."

The Garnet Gulls wasted no time in doing that, taking the opening kickoff and marching 63 yards in 10 plays, controlling the clock for just under six minutes.  Junior fullback Joe Wegrzyniak, who had a career-high 175 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries, ran it in from four yards out, and after the first of four Zach McCartney extra points, they had a 7-0 lead.

The worries of Wagner were never more obvious on the ensuing kickoff when freshman Justice George picked up a squib kick and streaked to the opposite sideline, bringing the ball back 35 yards to give the Seraphs great field position to start their first possession.

However, the Point Beach defense was up to the task and held on fourth down.

“We knew they had a lot of speed and the past two weeks were killing teams with their jet sweep,'' Struncius said. "We wanted to stop them early and force them to run in the middle, and we knew we could shut down their interior game. The first two weeks, we showed a five-man front, but this week we went to a four-man front and played around with our secondary and linebackers.  We wanted to flow to the ball and be aware of cutbacks.”

It only took Point Beach two to take a 13-0 lead as it went 52 yards, with Wegrzyniak scoring his second of four touchdowns for the night on a 16-yard run.

“We knew we had to jump on them early," Wegrzniak said. "I kept telling myself to keep my shoulders down, keep driving and that I can’t go down on first contact."

The Seraphs (3-1, 1-1) again tried to fight back into the game when junior quarterback Christian Palmer took an option run 44 yards to the Point Beach 16-yard line, but the defense held again.

“Our offense played well, but I think the tone of the game was set up by the play of our defense,'' Wagner said.

The Garnet Gulls extended their lead to 20-0 with an 11-play 79-yard drive, all on the ground, that bridged the first and second quarters in just under six minutes. Junior Mike Frauenheim broke three tackles for an 8-yard touchdown to cap the drive.

“We run the Delaware Wing-T offense so we are used to grinding it out,'' said senior tight end/middle linebacker Billy Barry. "We wanted to ground and pound tonight."

The Garnet Gulls' defense forced another three-and-out and then was forced to stop the Seraphs again after a turnover on their 25-yard line. The defense was up to the task as it came up with another big fourth down stop in the red zone on 4th-and-7 from the 9-yard line.

Any thoughts of Mater Dei getting back into the game in the second half were quickly squashed when the Seraphs' were stopped on a 4th-and-17 after a sack by Frauenheim. The Garnet Gulls then marched 65 yards in seven plays with Wegrzyniak scoring his third touchdown on a 2-yard run for a 27-0 lead.

For the second time the Mater Dei special teams tried to get the Seraphs back into the game.  Freshman Eddie Lewis took another squib kick 55 yards to the Point Beach 10-yard line, and one play later, Palmer took a quick snap quarterback sneak into the end zone to cut the lead to 27-6.

Point Beach immediately answered, marching 92 yards in nine plays with the big plays being a 30-yard pass from junior quarterback Jake Fioretti to senior wideout Noah Yates and a 43-yard counter by Frauenheim. Wegrzyniak scored from a yard out to finish the drive.

The Garnet Gulls graduated the Shore's most prolific backfield, the 3-headed monster of Danny Tighe, Kyle Samaritano and Andre Cochran, but have found capable replacements in  Wegrzyniak, Frauenheim, and Jacob DeLorenzo in addition to the return of Fioretti.

"The 'tradition never graduates mentality' is big,'' Struncius said. "We want to keep this thing rolling."

Each team had one more score in them as Mater Dei marched 54 yards in eight plays with senior running back Derek Lopez scoring from 25 yards out and then tacking on the two-point conversion. Point Beach then closed the scoring with just under two minutes left on a 1-yard power run by DeLorenzo.

Box score

Point Beach 40, Mater Dei Prep 14

SCORING
TEAMS            1    2    3    4    FINAL
MATER DEI            0    0    6    8    14
PT BEACH            13    7    13    7    40
PB:  JOE WEGRZYNIAK  4 YARD RUN.  ZACH MCCARTNEY KICK
PB:  JOE WEGRZYNIAK 16 YARD RUN  KICK FAILED
PB: MICHAEL FRAUENHEIM 8 YARD RUN.  MCCARTNEY KICK
PB:  JOE WEGRZYNIAK 2 YARD RUN.  MCCARTNEY KICK
MD:  CHRISTIAN PALMER 10 YARD RUN:  RUN FAILED
PB:   JOE WEGRZYNIAK 1 YARD RUN.  KICK NG
MD:  DEREK LOPEZ 25 YARD RUN.  LOPEZ 2PT RUN
PB:  JACOB DELORENZO 1 YARD RUN MCCARTNEY KICK

STATISTICS
TEAMS            MD           PB
1ST                        6                     20
RUSHING            26-146            48-369
PASSING            3-10-37             2-3-48
PENALTIES                4-29                2-6
PUNTS                 2-27                          0
FUMBLES                    0                      1-1
SACKS                    1                        1

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING:MD:TYSON WHITE 4-(7),DEREK LOPEZ 5-41,CHRISTIAN PALMER 12-101
SAM MILES 2-6, JELANIE MITCHELL 3-5.  PB:  JOE WEGRZYNIAK 18-175, MARSHALL GOMPOS 10-36,  MIKE FRAUENHEIM 14-134,                                JACOB DELORENZO 3-30, JAKE FIORETTI 3-(6)

PASSING:  MD:  CHRISTIAN PALMER 3-10-37.  PB: JAKE FIORETTI 2-3-48
RECEIVING:  MD: SAM MILES 1-9, JASON MANDILE 2-28.  PB:  NOAH YATES 2-48
INTERCEPTIONS:  NONE