TOMS RIVER -- In search of progress, Brick Memorial went back in time to find its rhythm on offense.

Coming off a lopsided loss to Jackson Memorial and playing without star running back and safety Mike Basile, the Mustangs switched from running the option out of the pistol formation to a traditional, quarterback-under-center flexbone offense. The result was a refocused ground game that churned out 267 yards and paved the way for a 14-10 Shore Conference Class A South win over host Toms River East on Saturday afternoon.

Junior fullback Connor Owen and senior running back Rob Triano each scored rushing touchdowns, and the Mustangs' defense limited Raiders senior running back Matt Gudzak to just 41 yards to move back to .500 at 2-2. Triano also recovered a fumble and had an interception on defense to help Brick Memorial overcome three of its own turnovers and stay on track in A South.

Brick Memorial ran for 267 yards as a team in a 14-10 win over Toms River East.
Brick Memorial ran for 267 yards as a team in a 14-10 win over Toms River East.

“We changed a lot on offense this week, so for it to work out for us and for us to see that we made progress is a great confidence booster,” said senior offensive lineman Jake Lombardo. “Now we feel like we’re on the right path.”

“Once we started thinking about going back under center we figured we might as well go back to the (flex)bone,” said Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie. “And we realized our kids are built to do this better, so it’s something we’ll be sticking with.”

Owen led all players with 84 rushing yards while junior quarterback Joe Hans finished with 68. Six different players carried the ball for Brick Memorial (2-2, 1-2) and five had at least 25 yards. The simplicity of the blocking schemes when under center also helped the Mustangs’ offensive line shake off a couple of off-games. The unit dominated at the point of attack, especially in the first half when they cleared the way for 179 rushing yards.

“The other scheme was a little too much thinking,” Lombardo said. “This frees us up to play hard-nosed football, and we were able to showcase that we have two great power ‘A’ backs.”

“It’s much simpler for the O-line guys,” Currie said. “They can play hard, fast and downhill without worrying about too much.”

Brick Memorial’s first drive came after its defense stopped Toms River East in five plays. What came next was a classic drive straight out of Currie’s old playbook. The Mustangs went 83 yards in 15 plays, draining 7:57 off the clock and taking a 7-0 lead on Owen’s seven-yard touchdown run. All 15 plays were runs and only two went for more than 10 yards. The Mustangs continually chipped away at Toms River East’s defense until there was nothing left.

The Raiders (0-4, 0-3) responded right away, however, on a 46-yard touchdown run by Dom Spalletta on the first play of the second quarter to tie the game at seven. Spalletta found a hole on the left side of the play and beat everyone through the secondary for what stood as the game’s longest play from scrimmage, capping a 4-play, 58-yard drive.

Brick Memorial’s answer was a 7-play, 75-yard drive to take the lead at halftime - and for good. Hans ran for 17 yards and then found Karl Kumm for 28 yards down to the Toms River East 32. Three straight runs by Dwayne Gudge moved the ball to the 10-yard line, where Triano took an option pitch from Hans and walked in for a 14-7 lead with 8:20 to go in the first half.

The score would remain that way for a while thanks to a litany of turnovers. The Mustangs and Raiders combined for five turnovers in the game, including six fumbles (three lost) by Brick Memorial. Triano came up with two of his own in the final three minutes of the first half, recovering a fumble with 2:45 left and then intercepting Raiders quarterback Jerry Caporale on a deep pass intended for Gudzak with 23 seconds left until halftime.

Toms River East drew closer in the third quarter. After recovering a fumble at their own 22, the Raiders moved all the way to the Brick Memorial 10-yard line before settling for a 27-yard field goal by Caporale to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 14-10 with 2:09 left in the third quarter.

Brick Memorial needed a couple of clutch plays late in the game to seal the win, and got them on both sides of the ball. First, with Toms River East facing a fourth-and-2 from the Brick Memorial 30, sophomore Mike Manso sacked Caporale for a 32-yard loss as he tried to scramble around and find an open receiver. Then, with Brick Memorial facing a fourth-and-4 where a first down would end the game, Triano made a diving catch on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage - and intended for Kumm - to give the Mustangs the first down.

“By design that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” joked Currie.

The Mustangs go on the road next week to face a 2-2 Neptune squad that, like Brick Memorial, is trying to shake off a slow start to the season and find its identity on offense. Brick Memorial feels it has done just that in picking up a win without its star player (which it hopes to have back next week) to keep itself alive at 2-2.

“I’m not going to say we didn’t think about winning, but we didn’t even think about 2-2 vs. 1-3,” Currie said. “We were just looking to bounce back from adversity. Looking back, 2-2 is obviously a lot better. We’ve given ourselves a chance.”

Box Score

Brick Memorial 14, Toms River East 10

Brick MemorialToms River East
First downs159
Passing yards3359


Brick Memorial (2-2, 1-2) 7 7 0 0 – 14

Toms River East (0-4, 0-3) 0 7 3 0 – 10

Scoring summary

B – Connor Owen 7-yard run (Karl Kumm kick)

T – Dom Spalletta 46-yard run (Jerry Caporale kick)

B – Rob Triano 10-yard run (Karl Kumm kick)

T – Jerry Caporale 27-yard field goal

Individual statistics

Rushing – B: Conor Owen 18-84, Joe Hans 16-68, Rob Triano 3-37, Dwayne Gudge 8-34, Matt Cathey 4-27, Mike Manso 2-17; T: Dom Spalletta 4-53, Matt Gudzak 14-41, Jerry Caporale 11-26, Jeff Wood 4-13, Ryan Wasilick 1-3, Hector Torres 2-1.

Passing – B: Joe Hans 2-4-0 33; T: Jerry Caporale 3-5-1 43, Matt Gudzak 1-1-0 16.

Receiving – B: Karl Kumm 1-28, Rob Triano 1-5; T: Zach Rosengrant 1-33, Avery Del Valle 1-16, Matt Gudzak 2-10.

Interceptions – B: Rob Triano 1-0.


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