Football – Fast Start, Dominant Defense Get Long Branch Back on Track vs. Wall
WALL TWP. - This year's Long Branch football team has a lot of work left to do to accomplish what last year's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship team did, but Friday after an impressive performance on the road vs. Wall, the longtime Green Wave head coach gave this year's team a ringing endorsement.
"At this point in the season, we are deeper and position-by-position, we are ahead of where we were last year," coach Dan George said. "We are a much better team defensively."
That defense earned the praise from its head coach by carrying Long Branch to a 26-0 win over Wall Friday night despite spending the clear majority of the game on the field.
Against the speedy, swarming Long Branch defense, Wall managed only 44 rushing yards on 35 official attempts and although Crimson Knights quarterback Dylan Richey passed for 164 yards, Green Wave defensive back Devyn Blount picked him off twice inside the red zone.
Wall crossed into the red zone four times on Friday and failed to score any points against Long Branch's unwavering defense. Blount delivered the first stop by intercepting a pass on the one-yard line with under a minute to go in the first half. His first pick was at the 11 yard-line on a play run by Wall from the Long Branch 31.
"That second interception was dynamite," George said.
The Green Wave also sacked Richey five times and tackled him for a loss three more times. Senior defensive tackle Kevin Cerruti set the tone early by tackling Wall sophomore tailback Casey Larkin in the backfield on Wall's third play of the game and then riding Richey down for a sack on the very next play.
Cerruti added two more tackles for a loss in the game and his earlier dominance forced Wall to try to stretch out a speedy Long Branch defense, to no avail.
"I've been blessed to coach some really good linemen, let alone football players," George said. "We're close to 100 Division I scholarship players since I've been here. I have never had a kid play with his hands and feet as well as Kevin Cerruti. He puts on clinics, he fires off and gets rid of people, which is what great defensive players do. He makes plays."
Junior linebacker Jayson Glasper collected two sacks in the second half and Billy Levy picked one up as well. The fifth Long Branch sack was a fumbled snap by Richey that he just feel on.
"We were running a lot of kids in because we were dealing with a couple of injuries," George said of a defense that was without standout linebacker La'Qym Morris. "Kids who weren't here last year, we put them in there and we didn't miss a beat."
While Cerruti jump-started the defense on the first Wall drive, junior running back Jermaine Corbett jump-started the entire team on the opening kickoff. The 5-foot-9 speedster, took the kick at the Long Branch 13 yard-line, carried it up the gut and broke loose toward the left sideline before turning it up for an 87-yard touchdown on the game's very first play.
Corbett then starred on Long Branch's first full possession to make the score 13-0 with 3:06 left in the first quarter. He broke off a 38-yard run, caught a 16-yard screen pass and capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. In all, Corbett ran 45 yards on three carries and picked up 22 yards on two catches during the six-play 66-yard drive.
After getting torched by Corbett on Long Branch's first two possession, Wall shut hom down the rest of the way. After the 87 yard kickoff return and the 67 yards in the second possession, Corbett managed only 16 yards on 11 carries the rest of the way.
As dominant as Long Branch's defense was, just a handful of big plays made the difference for the Green Wave in winning the game. In addition to Blount's goal-line interception and Corbett's kickoff return, Long Branch quarterback Marc Dennis turned two 3rd-and-long plays into points.
The first was a 56-yard touchdown pass over the middle to sophomore Jayon Ferrar on 3rd-and-17 to extend the Long Branch lead to 19-0 with 3:05 left in the second quarter. Ferrar snatched the ball away from a Wall defensive back and sprinted the final 35 yards.
In the third quarter, Dennis capped the scoring by rifling a pass to senior Zahdierr Blueford on 3rd-and-9 on the left side for first-down yardage and Blueford turned it into points by taking off up the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown..
Dennis finished with a strong game throwing the ball, completing 8-of-12 attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. Ferrar was his top receiver with 76 yards on three receptions.
Richey topped his counterpart by throwing for 164 yards on 14-for-23 passing, but his two interceptions both halted promising Wall drives.
Long Branch's win was a strong response by the Green Wave after dropping its first game of the season last week in a 41-14 loss at Red Bank Catholic. This tough stretch of games will continue next week when Manalapan makes a trip to Long Branch.
"I was extremely concerned about a Red Bank Catholic hangover," George said. "We were feeling sorry for ourselves on Tuesday and Wednesday, thinking about all of the things that could have happened that didn't happen in that game.
"We settled in, the kickoff return pumped our kids up and put us in a very good spot and at the end of the day, we continue to play very good defense and make big plays."
Long Branch 26, Wall 0
|Long Branch (5-1)||13||6||7||0||26|
LB - Jermaine Corbett 87-yard kickoff return (kick failed)
LB - Jermaine Corbett 1-yard run (Joe Mazza kick)
LB - Jayon Ferrar 56-yard pass from Marc Dennis (kick failed)
LB - Zahdierr Blueford 41-yard pass from Marc Dennis (Joe Mazza kick)
Rushing - LB: Jermaine Corbett 13-61, Marc Dennis 11-27, Qua'Zahun Dennis 1-4; W: Casey Larkin 13-53, Dale McNally 5-29, Dylan Richey 17-(-38)
Passing - LB: Marc Dennis 8-12-0 160; W: Dylan Richey 14-23-2 164
Receiving - LB: Jayon Ferrar 3-76, Zahdierr Blueford 1-41, Jermaine Corbett 2-22, Niles Montgomery 2-21; W: Tanner Powers 3-60, Casey Larkin 5-45, Kamaal Cofer 2-27, Charlie Sasso 1-13,Teddy Sharkey 2-11, Logan Peters 1-8
Interceptions-Return Yards - LB: Devyn Blount 2-9