Chris Kaldrovics’ last-second field goal sends No. 8 Middletown South past Manalapan
MANALAPAN – Chris Kaldrovics has made countless kicks from 20 yards and in over the course of his four years at Middletown South, but setting up at the 10-yard line on Friday night in Manalapan was different. This time, the game was riding on his left foot.
“There’s definitely a lot of pressure, everybody is telling you the game is going to be on you, basically,” Kaldrovics said. “Walking out there, you’re a little shaky. You hear the crowd and it’s a big experience.”
Kaldrovics shook off any nerves and delivered in the clutch, splitting the uprights on a game-winning, 20-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Eagles, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a dramatic 17-14 win over Manalapan on Friday night in a Shore Conference American Division game.
“At first, I just hoped, and then I looked up and saw that it went (through),” Kaldrovics said. “I knew I could do it. Overall, I just brought a lot of confidence to the kick and did what I had to do.”
“Chris has been kicking for us forever and we can always rely on him,” said senior quarterback Trevor Brey.
The win gave Middletown South just its second win over Manalapan in the teams’ last seven games against one another, but more importantly, set the Eagles up to make a run at the American Division title.
“A win like this is huge for our team,” Kaldrovics said. “Everyone else doing their job during the game and then me doing my job gave us the win we needed.”
Middletown South started a possession from its own 49-yard line with just under three minutes left in regulation and the score tied at 14. The Eagles (2-1, 2-0) faced a third-and-2 from the Manalapan 43-yard line, but an illegal shift penalty pushed them back five yards. On third-and-7, junior wide receiver Matt Krellin made the play of the game when he hauled in a pass down the home sideline and raced 36 yards down to the Manalapan 12-yard line.
“It was a hitch and go, and on third and long I’m not sure why the (Manalapan player) was biting, but I froze him with a pump fake,” Brey said. “I put it in the window before the safety got there, Matt made a nice catch and broke some tackles to get it close to the goal line.”
Manalapan safety Nick Marzo was closing fast on the ball and the ball, Marzo and Krellin all converged at the ball at the same time. It was Krellin who was able to get his arms around the pass before spinning away and sprinting into field goal range.
“I saw him coming and I guess I was trying to avoid him getting a big hit,” Krellin said. “I was lucky enough to spin out of it to get some yards after the catch and put us in field goal position.”
“There’s probably only one guy on this team that makes that catch and that’s him, and that’s why he was out there,” said Eagles head coach Steve Antonucci. “You’re talking about a two-year starter now who’s got it in the blood. He knows how to play the game.”
Middletown South’s defense was stout throughout the game and allowed just 130 yards of offense (77 rushing) and six first downs.
Tied 7-7 through halftime, Manalapan (0-2, 0-2) pulled ahead late in the third quarter when junior quarterback Sean Kehley connected with senior tight end Alan Presler on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Manalapan responded on the ensuing drive, however, going 71 yards across 11 plays and tying the game at 14 on a 2-yard touchdown run by fullback Vincent Condito.
Manalapan opened the scoring in the first minute of the game when junior linebacker Matt Benedetti tipped and intercepted a pass in the flat and returned it 25 yards to the Middletown South 3-yard line. On the next play, senior running back Dale Sieczkowski scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Middletown South answered with 2:25 left in the first half when Jamie Petrillo took a pitch and scored from one yard out on fourth and goal. The Eagles’ first touchdown was set up by a diving 17-yard catch by senior tight end Matt Krellin on third down.
“We have a lot of guts,” Antonucci said. “We came from behind twice down 7-0 and 14-7, put together some pretty good drives and the kids kept their composure to get a gutty win on the road in a very tough place to play.”
After a lopsided season-opening loss to Pennsylvania power Coatesville, Middletown South now has consecutive victories over Freehold Township (37-0) and Manalapan to sit atop the American Division standings with Toms River North. The formula the Eagles used Friday night will be the one you’ll see all season.
“Nothing we do is going to be pretty,” Antonucci said. “There’s not one player on our team your eyeballs pop out of your head for, but they’re just good, solid football players who are loving playing the game right now. It’s going to be methodical and it’s going to be us playing well on defense and taking advantage of our opportunities.”
No. 8 Middletown South 17, Manalapan 14
Middletown South (2-1, 2-0) 0 7 0 10 – 17
Manalapan (0-2, 0-2) 7 0 7 0 -- 14
M – Dale Sieczkowski 3-yard touchdown run (Jack Dematteo kick)
MS – Jamie Petrillo 1-yard run (Chris Kaldrovics kick)
M – Sean Kehley 11-yard pass to Alan Presler (Jack Dematteo kick)
MS – Vincent Condito 2-yard run (Chris Kaldrovics kick)
MS – Chris Kaldrovics 20-yard field goal
RUSHING – MS: Dylan Walling 6-31, Vincent Condito 7-26, Kenny McCarthy 14-26, Trevor Brey 7-9, Jamie Petrillo 4-7; M: Dale Sieczkowski 15-65, Nico Santorelli 7-20, Sean Kehley 1-(-8).
PASSING – MS: Trevor Brey 3-11-1 70; M: Sean Kehley 6-14-0 53.
RECEIVING – MS: Matt Krellin 1-36, Matt Tardy 1-17, Jamie Petrillo 1-17; M: Alan Presler 3-34, Alex Claro 1-13, Nico Santorelli 1-9, Dale Sieczkowski 1-(-3).
INTERCEPTION – M: Matt Benedetti 1-25.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.