Bash Brothers: Leblo and Groschel power Brick past Freehold
BRICK TOWNSHIP – If the question is what can Jimmy Leblo and Cole Groschel do on the football field, the answer is simple: a little bit of everything.
The Brick seniors were at their multi-faceted best on Friday night to account for all five of the Dragons’ touchdowns as they used a big second half to roll past No. 9 Freehold, 34-15, at Keller Memorial Field in an important Shore Conference Colonial Division matchup.
Leblo threw two touchdown passes – both to Groschel – ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass from Groschel and returned an interception for a touchdown. Groschel had two touchdown catches, a touchdown pass and had two interceptions on defense as the Dragons handed Freehold its first loss of the season and earned revenge from a playoff defeat a season ago.
“We couldn’t let them go 3-0, this is a division game now,” Leblo said. “And they took a state championship away from us last year. I thought we could have beat Long Branch (in the Central Jersey Group 4 final) but they beat us. This was a big game for us to show what we have.”
“We lost to them to go the state finals last year in a real tough battle and we wanted revenge,” Groschel said. “They have the same group of guys who’ve been playing since sophomore year like us, so we wanted to put it on them our senior year.”
Leblo finished with 102 yards rushing and a 43-yard touchdown on 17 carries, threw touchdown passes of 33 and 15 yards to Groschel, caught a 31-yard touchdown pass and put the finishing touches on the win with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:03 to play. Groschel had 139 yards between receiving, passing and rushing plus two picks on defense. Brick’s defense allowed just 203 yards and forced four turnovers.
Freehold senior quarterback Matt Krauss ran for 100 yards on 26 carries and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Quincy Davis, but also threw four interceptions. Senior Jake Hurler continued his great season with field goals of 30 and 41 yards, and also combined with senior linebacker Knox Stokes to record a safety.
Trailing 8-7 at halftime, Brick outscored Freehold 27-7 in the second half, including 20 points in the fourth quarter. The momentum began to swing in the Dragons’ favor late in the first half when senior defensive back Mike McGuigan made a diving interception in the end zone off a tipped pass with 3.5 seconds left to prevent Freehold (2-1, 2-1) from extending its lead. The Colonials had driven from their own 32-yard line, fueled by a great 32-yard catch in traffic by junior wide out Mar-Zhon Brinson, and converted a fourth-and-5 from the Brick 28-yard line.
“McGuigan was in the perfect spot at the perfect time,” Leblo said. “He’s a ball hawk. In my personal opinion, he’s very underrated.”
“It was a great play by Mike,” said Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz. “He made a big play and that held the game close. Mike’s always been that kid where even though he’s 5-foot-6 he’s going up and getting the ball. He believes it's his.”
One adjustment Brick made in the second half was going to more huddle-based play-calling rather than its usual method of using hand signals to relay plays from the sideline. The Dragons’ players felt Freehold knew their hand signals and were able to get a jump on their offensive plays.
Another adjustment was putting the game in the hands of its best offensive playmakers. Brick was having trouble getting plays in from the sideline and that meant Leblo calling his own plays in some instances.
“We had technical difficulties in the coaches’ headsets and we didn’t know what was going on, and we were getting frustrated,” Leblo said. “I just set, let’s go. I picked my own brain and called what I had to call.”
“Me and Jim basically said to the coaches, ‘We’ve been playing tougher forever, let us run the offense and let’s do something special’,” Groschel said.
Freehold had a 5-0 lead early thanks to the safety and Hurler’s two field goals. Brick’s first-half score, which momentarily gave it a 7-5 lead, came when Leblo scrambled to his left and found Groschel for a 33-yard touchdown on third down.
Brick came out a different team in the second half and took the lead for good on the opening series of the third quarter. Leblo had a 27-yard run and then ripped off a 43-yard touchdown to give the Dragons (2-1, 2-1) a 14-8 lead.
The Dragon’s lead grew to 21-8 early in the fourth quarter when Groschel took a handoff from Anthony Prato on a jet sweep and fired a 31-yard touchdown pass to Leblo on fourth-and-18. The Dragons had moved to the Freehold 18-yard line but a penalty and a sack had pushed them back to the 40-yard line.
Freehold answered on the ensuing possession when Krauss connected with the 6-foot-6 Davis for a 12-yard touchdown that made it a one-possession game. The score was set up by a 43-yard catch and run by Hurler down the visiting sideline.
Freehold then stopped Brick on three straight downs to get the ball back with 5:10 to play, but Brick’s defense came up with another turnover when Groschel picked off Krauss on fourth down and returned it 42 yards to the Colonials’ 28-yard line. Four plays later, Leblo delivered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Groschel, who dove to make the catch in the back-right corner of the end zone to give the Dragons a 27-15 lead.
On the very next offensive play, Leblo picked off Krauss and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to put the finishing touches on Brick’s victory.
“Playing them the last two years, it was a lot easier on the (defensive) calls,” Groschel said. “At the end when we made the pick we knew exactly what was coming because we’ve seen in for the last two years.”
“I saw the pick-6 coming the whole way,” Leblo said.
Brick 34, No. 9 Freehold 15
Freehold (2-1, 2-1) 5 3 0 7 – 15
Brick (2-1, 2-1) 0 7 7 20 – 34
F – Safety, Jake Hurler and Knox stokes tackle Cole Groschel in the end zone
F – Jake Hurler 30-yard field goal
B – Jimmy Leblo 33-yard pass to Cole Groschel (Jake Wynkoop kick)
F – Jake Hurler 41-yard field goal
B – Jimmy Leblo 43-yard run (Jake Wynkoop kick)
B – Cole Groschel 31-yard pass to Jimmy Leblo (Jake Wynkoop kick)
F – Matt Krauss 12-yard pass to Quincy Davis (Jake Hurler kick)
B – Jimmy Leblo 15-yard pass to Cole Groschel (kick failed)
B – Jimmy Leblo 37-yard interception return (Jake Wynkoop kick)
RUSHING – F: Matt Krauss 26-100, Matt Grady 3-10, Sha’Kim Shuler 4-8, Jake Hurler 1-0, Mar-Zhon Brinson 1-(-1); B: Jimmy Leblo 17-102, Joe Armooh 7-32, Cole Groschel 8-13, Anthony Prato 2-11, Jake Wynkoop 1-(-2), Team 0-(-9).
PASSING – F: Matt Krauss 12-28-4 86; B: Jimmy Leblo 5-10-0 83, Cole Groschel 2-2-0 43, Anthony Prato 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING – F: Jake Hurler 1-43, Mar-Zhon Brinson 1-32, Steven Cirillo 4-22, Makhi Theomsy 3-14, Quincy Davis 1-12, Sha’Kim Shuler 2-0; B: Cole Groschel 5-83, Jimmy Leblo 1-31, Mike McGuigan 1-12.
INTERCEPTIONS – B: Cole Groschel 2-47, Jimmy Leblo 1-37, Mike McGuigan 1-0.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.