Football – Central Rallies in Second Half to Down Southern and Give Fumando First Win as Coach
Justin Fumando won’t have all the answers in his first season as a head coach, but the new Central boss certainly knew what to say to his team at halftime in the season-opener against rival Southern.
The Golden Eagles rallied from a two-touchdown hole in the second half with three unanswered scores to take down the Rams, 21-14, in a Class A South matchup on Friday at Emmert Field. Sophomore quarterback Joe Fowler threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Denis Corbin on third down to provide the go-ahead score, and junior defensive back Jonathan Gonzalez came down with an interception to seal Central’s third straight win in the series and give Fumando his first victory as a head coach.
“We came in at halftime and made a couple of changes - corrected mistakes - and our kids came out and executed in the second half the way we wanted them to,” Fumando said. “All we asked our kids to do was to play to their individual best, and 11 guys playing as one would make us victorious. It was their effort that won us this game.”
Fowler had a tremendous debut with 168 yards on 15-for-21 passing, including the game-winning touchdown with 1:12 left. On a third-and-four just outside the Southern red zone, all eyes were on Central senior running back Mike Bickford. Instead, Fowler faked the handoff and rolled to his right before finding Corbin behind the defense for the eventual game-winning score.
“Joe is a quiet, confident individual,” Fumando said. “We asked him to make plays when we needed him to and he did.”
Corbin was a huge factor with seven receptions for 95 yard and a touchdown, plus a rushing touchdown. In Central’s new Pro-I offense it was immediately evident the kind of matchup problem he will be for opposing defenses.
“We can always count on Denis, he’s a great player,” Bickford said. “If teams stop the run and load the box our go-to is Denis. He catches everything and it takes more than one guy to tackle him.”
Bickford, who has rushed for over 3,600 yards in his career, including a program-record 2,052 yards as a sophomore, finished with 117 yard and a touchdown on 20 carries. His 23-yard touchdown run off right tackle with 7:53 left in regulation tied the game at 14.
Southern was able to jump out to a 14-0 lead thanks to a standout game from junior Joe Miele. The three-year starter at linebacker and now a running back had a 12-yard touchdown run and later a one-yard plunge to give the Rams (0-1, 0-1) a two-score lead at the break. He also blocked a punt that set up one of his touchdowns, and recorded a sack to end the first half. He finished with 61 yards on 10 carries to lead a balanced Southern rushing attack.
Southern was able to get on the board first when it took advantage of a bad snap on a Central punt, taking over at the Eagles’ 28-yard line. Senior quarterback Sam Cammarata hit junior John Dolphin over the middle for 13 yards, and on the next play Miele burst up the middle for the touchdown.
Central (1-0, 1-0) would get down to the Southern 27-yard line on the ensuing drive, but the Rams were able to hold on and force the turnover on downs. Later in the second quarter with the Eagles set to punt from their own 40-yard line, Miele knifed through the protection and stuffed the punt. Southern took over at the 21-yard line, but consecutive penalties pushed the Rams back to the 41. Two tough runs by Dane Walker and an eight-yard run by Matt Barnett gave them a new set of downs, and Miele took over from there with four straight runs to get the ball into the end zone and put the Rams up 14-0 with 1:09 left in the first half.
Whatever Fumando’s specific words to his players were at halftime, they hit home and produced exactly the results he was looking for. Bickford returned the second half kickoff out to the 46-yard line before breaking runs of 13 and 11 yards to put Central at the Southern 30. Two plays later, Fowler connected with Corbin for a 23-yard gain on third-and-six that gave Central first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Corbin then plowed in for the touchdown to get the Eagles on the board.
Early in the fourth quarter Central started a drive that would result in the game-tying touchdown. Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Eagles went 80 yards in seven plays. The big play on the drive came when Fowler hit senior tight end Andrew Kelly for 35 yard down to the Southern 23. On the next play Bickford broke free for the score to tie the game.
Central had all the momentum now, and forced Southern three-and-out before beginning the game-winning drive. Fowler had an 8-yard completion to Anthony Holloway and a 10-yard completion to Corbin, while Bickford had five carries for 26 yards to get the ball into Southern territory. Southern forced third down, but Central’s coaching staff showed what kind of confidence they have in their young quarterback by putting the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Fowler didn’t let them down.
“We can count on Joe,” Bickford said. “We didn’t know who was going to be our starter, Joe or Eli (Allen), but he came out today and threw dimes. He hit the open receiver every time.”
The Eagles continue their Class A South schedule in Week One against a Toms River East, and will try to build on the success of Friday night while continuing to develop their foundation under Fumando.
“We’re going to hang our hat on our work ethic for four quarters,” Fumando said. “That’s how we want to play football. This was an important game, but our philosophy is the most important game is the next one. We won this game but now it’s onto new business.”
Central 21, Southern 14
Central (1-0, 1-0) 0 0 7 14 — 21
Southern (0-1, 0-1) 7 7 0 0 — 14
S - Joe Miele 12-yard run (Matt Barnett kick)
S - Joe Miele 1-yard run (Matt Barnett kick)
C - Denis Corbin 3-yard run (Shane Black kick)
C - Mike Bickford 23-yard run (Shane Black kick)
C - Joe Fowler 21-yard pass to Denis Corbin (Shane Black kick)
Rushing - C: Mike Bickford 20-117, Denis Corbin 5-12, Kavon Chambers 3-3, Brandon Mickens 1-3, Joe Fowler 1-(-8), Shane Black 1-(-15); S: Joe Miele 10-61, Matt Barnett 7-37, Dane Walker 7-36, John Dolphin 5-20, Vin Miele 1-3, Sam Cammarata 1-(-1).
Passing - C: Joe Fowler 15-21-0 168; S: Sam Cammarata 2-8-1 33.
Receiving - C: Denis Corbin 7-95, Andrew Kelly 1-35, Darius Martorano 2-16, Anthony Holloway 3-14, Ryan Emmetts 1-6, Mike Bickford 1-2; S: Dylan Lane 1-20, John Dolphin 1-13.
Interceptions - C: Jonathan Gonzalez 1-45.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.