Dominant Defense Leads Barnegat Past Point Boro
By John Bush - Shore Sports Network contributor
POINT BORO – Even without standout linebacker Manny Bowen, Barnegat’s defense was dominant Friday night against Point Boro in the Jersey Mike's Game of the Week.
Listen to the full game broadcast at the end of this report
The Bengals forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, and received just enough offense to defeat the Panthers, 13-7, in a Class B South game at Al Saner Field.
The win kept Barnegat (5-1, 4-1) in a tie for first place with Central and Jackson Liberty after all three teams won on Friday. Lakewood can make it a four-way tie atop the division with a win Saturday against Donovan Catholic. Point Boro (3-3, 3-2) fell out of first.
Barnegat, in its ninth year at the varsity level, also earned the 50th win in program history. The Bengals managed to survive without the Penn State-bound Bowen, who sat out the game after suffering a concussion in last week’s win over Manasquan.
“He’s a 1-to-5-week thing, we’re going to find out Monday,” Barnegat coach Rob Davis said of Bowen.
“It was a big loss for us,” Barnegat senior lineman Xavier Young said of Bowen. “He’s our brother out here, but we all knew that even though he’s gone we have to raise our game, and we just have to do the best that we can. Just win for him.”
Barnegat’s defense bent but didn’t break and came up with key turnovers throughout against the Panthers, who moved senior Jack Fitzsimmons from quarterback to running back and started junior Noah Husak at quarterback. Fitzsimmons ran 21 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, but was held to 21 yards in the second half.
“It was a big surprise for us because we were expecting No. 9 (Fitzsimmons) to be at QB, but when they moved him back (to running back) it was a big shock,” Young said. “But it was all good, we still just rolled with it.”
Barnegat’s defense set the tone early after Husak threw a 51-yard completion to junior receiver Hayden Frey to the Bengals’ 25 on the second play of the game. Two plays later, Barnegat junior Nick Camarato made an interception in the end zone to end the threat.
Later in the quarter, Barnegat junior Danny Dugan made a diving interception at the Bengals’ 43-yard line. One play later, Barnegat senior quarterback Cinjun Erskine found junior tight end Josh Bowen for 51 yards to the Panthers’ 6-yard line. Erskine followed with a 6-yard touchdown run to give the Bengals a 6-0 lead with 1:33 left in the opening quarter.
Yet another turnover set up the Bengals’ second touchdown when junior Greg Schmalz stripped the ball from Fitzsimmons for a fumble recovery and ran 10 yards to the Point Boro 27-yard line. On third down, Barnegat junior running back Paul Wickwire ran around right end for a 25-yard touchdown as the Bengals took a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
“I just kept my legs moving, kept getting grabbed and got wrapped up, kept moving and scored,” said Wickwire, who finished with 81 yards on 15 carries.
“Paul’s healthy now and we’re going to use him,” Davis said. “He was a little dinged up at the beginning of the year, but he’s healthy right now and he’s our threat.”
Point Boro answered with a 10-play, 62-yard drive, converting two fourth downs, as Fitzsimmons ran seven times for 51 yards. It was Fitzsimmons who finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to pull the Panthers to within 13-7 with 51 seconds left before halftime.
Barnegat then played ball control in the second half with two possessions that each took six-plus minutes off the clock, while the defense continued to make big plays. An interception by Matt Manno early in the fourth quarter ended one Point Boro drive, and Young’s 9-yard sack of Husak left the Panthers with fourth-and-19 from their own 22 with under three minutes left. Barnegat then held Point Boro well short of a first down after a hook-and-ladder play.
Point Boro had one more chance to rally starting at its 20 with one minute remaining, and moved 23 yards to the 43 with 12 seconds left. Husak attempted one last deep pass, but Barnegat senior Ricky Gerena made an interception just inside the Bengals’ 20 and ran out the clock to clinch the win.
“We played 25 different kids on offense and defense, so we’re rotating a lot of guys,” Davis said. “It’s a team thing, a program thing. Nobody’s complaining about playing time, I guarantee you that.”
“Our coaches the entire week were telling us that it’s going to come down to the fourth quarter, either by a field goal or a touchdown,” Young said. “We buckled down and we were able to just pick it up and go.”
Barnegat 13, Point Boro 7
Barnegat (5-1, 4-1) 6 7 0 0 – 13
Point Boro (3-3, 3-2) 0 7 0 0 – 6
B – Erskine 6 run (pass failed)
B – Wickwire 25 run (Lustenberger kick)
PB – Fitzsimmons 13 run (Ansbach kick)
Rushing – B: Wickwire 15-81, McGuinness 11-42, Erskine 9-24, Bass 1-3; PB: Fitzsimmons 21-111, No. Husak 12-10, Franceschini 2-6, Connelly 1-5.
Passing – B: Erskine 4-10-0 79; PB: No. Husak 6-18-4 84.
Receiving – B: J. Bowen 2-68, Gerena 1-6, Bass 1-5; PB: Frey 4-70, .Connelly 2-14.
Interceptions – B: Camarato 1-0, Dugan 1-0, Manno 1-0, Gerena 1-20.
GAME BROADCAST AUDIO
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