Defense Buckles Down in Second Half to Lead Top-Seeded Brick Past Neptune in Central Jersey Group IV
BRICK TOWNSHIP -- It's not the way they drew up the gameplan heading into the first round of the NJSIAA Playoffs in Central Jersey Group IV, but the Brick Township Green Dragons used their potent defense to hold off numerous attempts to rally by eighth-seeded Neptune Township and win 20-13 Friday night at Keller Memorial Field.
While stellar for a prime portion of the game, the Green Dragons defense did have it's hands full with an energetic Scarlet Fliers offense who became very mobile in the second half.
"They run a lot of the 3-3 stack and they do a lot of blitzing out of it, so they caught us in a lot of things and sent some blitzes at us that we didn't pick up that well," said Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz. "That kind of hurt us a little bit, but that's a good football team. They might have been 2-6 but they're in the playoffs, so they have every chance to beat us and anybody else on any given day. We're just lucky to get out of here with a win."
Despite all this, the Brick defense came up with several clutch and well-timed plays in situations they needed without exhaustion in the second half. In total they collected three sacks of Chase Fairbanks and came down with two interceptions.
"We've been riding our defense all year," said Zdanowicz. "They did a great job tonight and we're just happy that they were able to stick it out there and get the win for us."
But it didn't take long for either defense to figure out what their opponent was doing offensively, the question was who would do a better job of stopping the run?
Things didn't start off all that well for the Brick offense following a fumble by Ja'Sir Taylor, who redeemed himself with a monster game.
Neptune turned the ball over on downs, then Brick went back to work on a 10-play drive that spanned 4:01 in the first quarter where it was Taylor who scored the first of his two touchdowns on the night while rushing 15 times for 114 yards.
On the heels of a 46-yard pass from Fairbanks to senior wide receiver Kahmar Rice, Neptune ran four plays of its own and came back to tie the game 7-7.
However it didn't take long for the Green Dragons to come roaring back and regain the lead, in fact it only took one play from scrimmage.
After both teams traded punts following their drives, an interception thrown by Fairbanks ended the Neptune drive midway through the third quarter. After Brick turned the ball over on downs, Neptune came back with a quick strike of its own to pull within one point.
The Scarlet Fliers missed the PAT and heading into the half the score was 14-13 in favor of Brick Township, and that's the way it stayed into the fourth quarter.
A Neptune fumble to lead off the second half was followed by punts by both teams the remainder of the third frame, due in large part to a missed 27-yard field goal by the Scarlet Fliers.
Brick received the ball early in the final quarter and drove the ball down the field to apply some much needed breathing room following a punt that gave them the ball on the Neptune 20-yard line.
It was once again Brick Township's defense that foiled a comeback attempt by Neptune late in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Green Dragons and send them to the semifinals, following a control of the final four minutes of the game.
This inevitably ended the game following a series of run plays by Brick.
Brick senior quarterback, wide receiver and free safety John Prato had seven carries for 77 yards and a touchdown plus an interception. Senior running back Rahson McCall had 13 carries for 60 yards on the night for Brick as well.
But it was the performance of Jasir Taylor that had his coach speak highly of him after the game.
"He's the heartbeat of our team, we go as far as he's going to go," said Zdanowicz. "He did a good job today when it came time. He made a lot of good plays for us."
However, despite their efforts in collecting the win Friday night and awaiting the results of Saturday's game between Freehold and Pennsauken to determine their next opponent, Zdanowicz adds there are some things they need to work on.
"We just have to do better blocking," said Zdanowicz. "We have to stay on our blocks better, and we have to execute better on offense."
For bonus content from Shore Sports Network's coverage of the game watch the postgame interview below:
Vin Ebenau is a Shore Sports Network Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @VinEbenau. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.