MANCHESTER TWP. - Barnegat junior Brian Finucan had never played high school football prior to this season, and yet he has been able to jump right in as the team's starting quarterback and perform beyond reasonable expectations for a first-year varsity signal-caller.

Finucan's secret is pretty simple, and should hardly be a secret by now: throw it to No. 89.

No. 89 is junior tight end Sean Morris, who torched Manchester Friday night for 152 yards on five catches with touchdown receptions of 26 and 53 yards in a 28-20 Bengals win.

The victory pushes Barnegat to 3-0, which is the third time in the young history of the program that the Bengals have been 3-0. Barnegat reached the mark in 2010 and 2013.

Barnegat junior Sean Morris caught five passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns Friday vs. Manchester. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Barnegat junior Sean Morris caught five passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns Friday vs. Manchester. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"Our goal was to come in here, go 3-0 and that's what we did," Barnegat coach Rob Davis said. "We had different guys step up, we had some guys cramping up and this and that, but we stayed together and toughed it out."

Morris keyed Barnegat's first three scoring drives, which all came consecutively after Manchester jumped out to a 6-0 lead. He hauled in a 28-yard catch to set up a one-yard plunge by senior running back Dillon Muratovic that tied the game, then broke off touchdown plays on each of Barnegat's next two drives.

"Every play, you've got to have the mindset that you're going to score," Morris said. "Every play that I get the ball, I'm thinking touchdown right away. You've just got to lower your shoulder and tough it out and get downfield."

First, Morris caught a pass on a designed rollout by Finicuan and raced up the left sideline to score from 26 yards out. On the next Bengals possession, Morris caught a pass over the middle, eluded one tackler and was off to the races for a 53-yard touchdown.

"He's option one before anybody," said Finucan, who also plays with Morris on the Barnegat basketball team. "I love throwing to this guy. We've been working all offseason. This is my first year playing football. I came out, and we just linked."

Morris even pulled down a 38-yard Hail Mary pass from Finucan by going up over two defenders, but he came down 12 yards short of the goal line as the second-quarter clock expired.

"He's a playmaker," Barnegat coach Rob Davis said. "He's a Division I kid that makes plays."

Prior to that long pass to end the first half, Manchester cut the Barnegat lead to 20-12 on a 36-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Jerry Ward, who found daylight on the right side and tightrope-walked the sideline en route to the endzone.

Ward also keyed Manchester opening drive, which resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore Devin Zamot. Ward broke off runs of 45 and 15 on the drive to put his team in position to score first.

After a scoreless third quarter in which each team squandered an opportunity in the red zone, Barnegat broke the second-half silence by extending its lead to two scores. Following a fumble by Ward that junior defensive tackle Anthony Grimes recovered on the Bengals 17, Finucan took Barnegat 83 yards in 12 yards with Muratovic finishing off the drive on a five-yard touchdown run. Barnegat kept the ball on the ground for the entire drive, led by junior running back Charlie Cotton's 48 yards on seven carries.

The Bengals appeared to put a serious dent in the Hawks' hopes of extending their start to 0-3 when junior Mark Belvet blocked a Manchester punt hard enough for the ball to roll through the end zone for a safety.

Manchester stayed alive, however, by executing an onsides kick on the ensuing free kick, with Ward tapping the ball on the ground and recovering it just as it reached the required 10 yards - in this case, at the Manchester 30 yard-line.

Ward led Manchester into Bengal territory and on 2nd-and-17, the senior quarterback found senior Jalen Glenn up the seam for a 35-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch. Ward then hit freshman Trevor Pruitt for the two-point conversion to make the score 28-20 with 1:56 left.

With Manchester saving just one timeout for the final drive, Barnegat needed just one first down to effectively end the game and the Bengals got it on a third-down run by Cotton. That capped a 23-carry, 114-yard night for the junior tailback.

Muratovic was the other head of the Barnegat rushing monster on Friday, amassing 54 yards on 10 carries to go with his two touchdown runs.

"We've got athletes," Muratovic said. "When you have athletes like we do, you're going to make a lot of plays on both sides of the ball."

Ward finished with a game-high 146 yards on 23 carries for the Hawks. Finucan, meanwhile, was 8-for-10 with 191 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Combined, the two quarterbacks were 17-for-20 with 253 yards and three touchdowns.

"We've got a young team and we came in here and battled," Davis said. "We beat a good Manchester football team that's been winning games, so I'm really proud of the effort we showed tonight."

Finucan's nearly perfect game stands out, especially considering his novice status when it comes to varsity football. According to the junior signal-caller, the credit belongs to his coach.

"Coach Davis is a genius," Finucan said. "He's been doing this long enough and he knows what he's talking about. Just listen to him and you're going to be alright."


Box Score

Barnegat 28, Manchester 20

First Downs2012
Passing Yards19162


Barnegat (3-0, 2-0)1280828
Manchester (2-1, 2-1)660820


Scoring Summary

M - Devin Zamot 1-yard run (run failed)

B - Dillon Muratovic 1-yard run (kick missed)

B - Sean Morris 26-yard pass from Brian Finucan (run failed)

B - Sean Morris 53-yard pass from Brian Finucan (Finucan run)

M - Jerry Ward 36-yard run (pass failed)

B - Dillon Muratovic 5-yard run (pass failed)

B - Safety (blocked punt)

M - Jalen Glenn 35-yard pass from Jerry Ward (Trevor Pruitt pass from Ward)


Individual Statistics

Rushing - B: Charlie Cotton 23-114, Dillon Muratovic 10-54, Brian Finucan 8-(-3), Caleb Schafer 1-(-5); M: Jerry Ward 23-146, Jalen Glenn 6-17, Devin Zamot 5-5, Lamont Lett 1-(-7)

Passing - B: Brian Finucan 8-10-0 191; M: Jerry Ward 9-10-0 62

Receiving: B: Sean Morris 5-152, Juan Abraham 2-34, Charlie Cotton 1-5; M: Jalen Glenn 4-49, Trevor Pruitt 1-18, Caleb Schafer 2-(-1), Devin Zamot 2-(-4)


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