Football – Barnegat Bends Early, Breaks Down Shore Late in Huge September Win
WEST LONG BRANCH - All week leading up to his team's long drive north on the Garden State Parkway Friday evening, Barnegat head coach Rob Davis drilled into his players' heads how significant their Shore Conference Patriot Division game against Shore Regional was.
So when Friday's game started with a Barnegat three-and-out on offense and a Shore touchdown in the Blue Devils' first play from scrimmage, Davis at least had to wonder - if only a little - whether or not his team got the message.
In the wake of that inauspicious start, the Bengals leaned on another message Davis and the coaching staff have been repeating since the start of camp: "Bend but don't break."
Barnegat's defense went from nearly breaking to breaking down Shore's offense as the Bengals ultimately wore down the Blue Devils in a key, 17-14, early-season win.
"We put a lot into this game," Davis said. "That's a chance you take with a team because if you lose, how do you get the kids back up? But we went all into it, the kids bought into it, and we wore (Shore) down."
Shore sophomore Shane McLaughlin broke off a 52-yard touchdown run on his team's first play from scrimmage to pin Barnegat in a quick 7-0 hole. From that point on, Barnegat limited the Blue Devils to 76 rushing yards on 30 carries, with McLaughlin finishing with 46 yards on five carries.
"Since the beginning of our season, the motto has been, 'Bend, but don't break,'" said senior Sean Morris, who helped spark the defensive effort with two sacks and a tackle for loss. "We might give up plays like that, but we can't let it affect us mentally. We have to come back the next play and hit them harder than before."
On the other side of the ball, Barnegat senior Charlie Cotton carried the ball 37 times and rolled up 157 yards on the ground while his offensive line leaned on Shore's offense.
"It's just the linemen," Cotton said. "They did a helluva job out there. They worked their tails off tonight."
According to Davis, Barnegat's sufficient depth to avoid linemen playing both offense and defense made a big difference.
"We have a lot of kids that go one side of the ball," Davis said. "We have 16 or 17 different starters. It's a philosophy we have - throwing a lot of different waves of people out there. That's a good football team over there that's going to be in the playoffs. It's a nice win for our program to win at Shore."
After McLaughlin's touchdown run, Barnegat responded with a 13-play, 79-yard drive that ended with senior fullback Brian Ewan bulldozing into the endzone from two yards out. Cotton ran for 53 yards on 10 carries on the drive and Morris caught two passes for 24 yards to set up Ewan's run.
Ewan also joined Morris in leading the defensive effort that held the Blue Devils under 200 total yards.
"He's the most underrated football player in the Shore Conference," Davis said of Ewan. "He's a four-year starter, our all-time leading tackler, he's the heart and soul of our defense and a great leader."
Barnegat took the lead for good with a drive just before the end of the first half. The Bengals converted on two fourth-down plays, with senior quarterback Brian Finucan hitting Morris for nine yards on 4th-and-4 from the Shore 37 and Ewan picking up two yards on 4th-and-2 from the 20.
With 29 seconds left in the half, Finucan dropped back and fired an 18-yard touchdown strike to junior Devyn DeFilipo, who held on despite being hit at the goal line.
Finucan was an efficient 10-for-16 for 110 yards passing on the game, with Morris collecting 68 of those yards on six catches.
Kicker Aaron Osborn came through with what proved to be the game-winning 35-yard field goal with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Shore came alive in the fourth quarter by stopping Barnegat in the Bengals' own territory, taking over at its own 46 and driving 54 yards for a touchdown that cut the deficit to 17-14. Senior Jack McCrae capped the driving with a touchdown from less than a yard out, with senior quarterback Gil Goldsmith making two big plays on the drive as well. Goldsmith scrambled for a 25-yard gain and hit senior tight end Liam Rempel for 23 yards on the next play to set the ball up on the seven yard-line.
After scoring with 4:10 left, Shore elected to attempt an onside kick and failed to recover. Barnegat responded with two first-down conversions that prove sufficient in draining the clock, with a 19-yard run by Cotton putting the game on ice.
Friday's win to improve to 2-0 puts Barnegat on the inside track for the public division title in the Patriot Division and makes the Bengals the primary challengers to division favorite, Mater Dei Prep. Davis and his team, however, place the premium on qualifying for the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III Playoffs for the first time since 2014, when the current seniors were in eighth grade.
"We had a good run of five straight years where we made it," Davis said. "Maybe it's good for this year that they haven't made it because the kids on this team are real hungry.
"I was crying to them, saying 'This is for you guys.' You guys need to get to the playoffs to show everybody that this program is back on the way up' They played very inspired ball today."
Barnegat 17, Shore 14
|Barnegat (2-0, 2-0)||7||7||3||0||17|
|Shore (1-1, 1-1)||7||0||0||7||14|
S - Shane McLaughlin 52-yard run (Richie Pekmezian kick)
B - Brian Ewan 2-yard run (Aaron Osborn kick)
B - Devyn DeFilipo 18-yard pass from Brian Finucan (Aaron Osborn kick)
B - Aaron Osborn 35-yard field goal
S - Jack McCrae 1-yard run (Richie Pekmezian kick)
Rushing - B: Charlie Cotton 37-158, Mike Godfrey 5-17, Brian Ewan 4-18, Caleb Schafer 2-13; S: Shane McLaughlin 5-46, Jack McCrae 11-39, Gil Goldsmith 11-32, Terry Carlstrom 2-6, Danny Kelly 2-5
Passing - B: Brian Finucan 10-16-0 110; S: Gil Goldsmith 3-7-0 58, Tom Bocco 0-1-0 0
Receiving - B: Sean Morris 6-68, Caleb Schafer 3-24, Devyn DeFelipo 1-18; S: Shane McLaughlin 1-24, Liam Rempel 1-23, Brett Young 1-11