Football – Lawson’s OT Touchdown Lifts Asbury Park Over Keyport
ASBURY PARK - Asbury Park junior running back Quadir not only had to watch his team's season-opener from the sideline last week due to an injured shoulder - he had to watch his team lose to Shore Regional, the team he played for last season.
In his first game with his new team Friday against Keyport, Lawson endeared himself to his new teammates by playing the role of the workhorse and the closer.
Lawson plowed into the endzone from one-yard out for the winning touchdown in overtime and Asbury Park pulled out a 20-14 win over Keyport in a rematch of last year's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship game.
The final plunge into the endzone capped a strong debut for the transfer from Shore, who carried 23 times for 112 yards to go along with the game-winning touchdown.
"I came out a little bit nervous during the week once the doctor cleared me," said Lawson, who was out for two weeks with a dislocated shoulder. "But the guys believed in me, I believed in myself after the first quarter and I kept riding my team and they kept riding with me."
"I'm very proud of my boy Quadir," Bishops senior receiver Donte Abrams said. "He's a transfer, he's had a lot to deal with and he stayed calm and executed."
Lawson's touchdown came after a critical fourth-down stop by the Blue Bishops defense on Keyport's first overtime possession, followed by a 16-yard run by quarterback Ja'King Agostini to set Asbury Park up with a 1st-and-goal from the one yard-line. Lawson scored on the next play.
"To me, we have one of the best o-lines and d-lines in the Shore," Lawson said. "The guys are big. We worked hard in the summer in the weight room and it shows in situations like that."
Keyport set itself up with 2nd-and-2 from the 17-yard line in overtime, but Asbury Park stuffed the Red Raiders on both 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-inches, with freshman Anthony Swearine standing running back Greg Robinson up before the line to gain.
The win made the efforts of Lawson, Abrams and freshman receiver Mikai Jones stand up. Abrams returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter and later intercepted two passes - including one in the endzone. He also scored on an option pitch from Agostini on a two-point conversion.
"That's all I try to do - make game-changing plays," Abrams said. "Whether it's an interception, whether it's a tackle, whether it's sacrificing my body - I'm going to do it all for my team to get the win."
Jones, meanwhile, caught just one pass, but it was a memorable one. On 1st-and-10 from the Keyport 18-yard line, Agostini rolled out to his right and floated a pass toward the back of the endzone. With a defender right on him, Jones elevated, caught the ball with his left hand and pinned it against his shoulder pad as he fell to the ground. The total picture was a one-handed catch reminiscent of something from the highlight reel of another receiver who wears No. 13.
"That was a jaw-dropping catch," Abrams said. "That was a freshman. I didn't expect him to do it. I thought it was an interception. The corner played great defense, (Jones) just made an athletic play. That's what athletes do.
"I've seen him make athletic catches, but that? I've never seen him do that. I asked him, 'Who taught you that?'"
In addition to validating the performances of Lawson, Abrams and Jones, the overtime effort by the Blue Bishops helped them avoid a loss that would have dropped them to 0-2 and would have been, in large part, self-inflicted. Asbury Park committed 13 penalties for 113 yards, including 75 penalty yards in the second half.
The timing of the penalties helped keep Keyport in the game more than the volume - the Blue Bishops committed three personal foul penalties on third or fourth down, including a rouging-the-passer penalty that negated an interception and a roughing the punter penalty on 4th-and-15 that gave Keyport an automatic first down.
"It drives you crazy as a football coach, but at the end of the day, they are still 15, 16, and 17-year-old young men," Asbury Park coach Tim Fosque said. "You want them to get in position to make a great choice on the field in terms of staying focused, but (penalties) happen. It drives a coach crazy when you see things like that and if you want to be a good football team, you want to be in good games and compete against good teams, you can't make mistakes like that."
With his team pinned at its own five yard-line in the final minutes of the third quarter, Keyport quarterback Matt Twigg got caught in the endzone on a broken play and as he scrambled to avoid the safety, he was grabbed by the facemask.
That facemask penalty in the endzone was the beginning of a game-tying, 95-yard touchdown drive in which Asbury Park committed four personal foul penalties for 60 yards. The drive ended with Twigg pushing into the endzone on a 3rd-and-goal from less than a foot away from the goal line.
Asbury Park nearly won the game in regulation thanks to a key turnover and another acrobatic catch that nearly won it for the Bishops. After Kharod Young recovered a Keyport fumble on the Red Raiders 26 with 1:11 left, Asbury Park bled the clock to six seconds before using its final timeout with the ball on the 23.
Agostini rolled left and unleashed a pass to the back left corner of the endzone where Javon Higgs pulled in the pass as he went to the ground. Although he secured the ball to the ground, the official ruled Higgs's first foot came down out of bounds, despite his best efforts.
"I thought he had one (foot) in," Abrams said. "It was real close though. I ran up and asked him and he was right there. But hey, it's adversity. We have to play through it and overcome it."
Keyport began to swing momentum in its favor on the last drive of the first half. Out of timeouts with 24 seconds left, the Raiders ran a dive play to fullback Greg Anderson for a two-yard gain to the seven yard-line and had to rush to the line to get off one last play before halftime. Twigg fired a quick pass out to the right and Kameron Lightbourne hauled it in for a seven-yard score as the clock hit all zeros.
While the Red Raiders took advantage of a handful of Asbury Park mistakes, they also missed opportunities of their own. On 1st-and-goal from the six, with his team down 14-0, Twigg threw an interception in the endzone.
Keyport also elected to go for it on 4th-and-22 from the Asbury Park 32 instead of attempting to pin the Blue Bishops deep. After an incomplete pass into double-coverage in the endzone, Asbury Park took over on the 32 and drove 68 yards to take a 14-0 lead.
Asbury Park's win Friday is the second in a row over Keyport after beating the Red Raiders in the Central Jersey I championship last year. Prior to that, Keyport had defeated the Bishops in two straight, winning a Central Jersey Group I first-round game in 2015 and the regular-season meeting last year.
"Week in and week out, we know we're going to get the other team's best," Fosque said. "(Keyport coach) Jay (Graham) did a phenomenal job in terms of getting his team ready for this football game tonight. They came out a much improved team, a hungry team and really created a great football game here."
Now settled into his new team, Lawson projects to be a key player going forward as Asbury Park tries to repeat as sectional champions.
"It feels like I'm back home," Lawson said. "This is where I played Pop Warner, back with friends and family. I love the guys at Shore Regional too, but I'm back home."
Asbury Park 20, Keyport 14
|Keyport (0-2, 0-2)||0||7||0||7||0||14|
|Asbury Park (1-1, 1-1)||6||8||0||0||6||20|
AP - Donte Abrams 55-yard punt return (run failed)
AP - Mikai Jones 18-yard pass from Ja'King Agostini (Donte Abrams run)
K - Kameron Lightbourne 7-yard pass from Matt Twigg (Kausal Kallam kick)
K - Matt Twigg 1-yard run (Kausal Kallam kick)
AP - Quadir Lawson 1-yard run (Kausal Kallam kick)
Rushing - K: Greg Robinson 17-80, Devin Wollner 13-51, Shykim Treadwell 10-31, Matt Twigg 4-0, Julian Castell 2-(-3), ; AP: Quadir Lawson 23-112, Donte Abrams 9-25, Ja'King Agostini 4-22, Javon Higgs 1-(-1)
Passing - K: Matt Twigg 8-13-2 31; AP: Ja'King Agostini 3-7-0 23
Receiving - K: Greg Robinson 4-14, Cameron Lightbourne 3-21, Ryan Mandelbaum 1-(-4); AP: Mikai Jones 1-18, Javon Higgs 1-4, Donte Abrams 1-1
Interceptions-Return Yards - AP: Donte Abrams 2-32