Football – TR North Rolls the Dice, Beats Rumson in OT Thriller
RUMSON - Ray Carlson has been an integral member of the Toms River North football team's secondary but Mariners head coach Dave Oizerowitz another idea in mind for Carlson for this week's road game at Rumson-Fair Haven - arguably the biggest regular-season game Toms River North will play this year.
Carlson played wide receiver for the first time in high school and the gamble paid off beyond anything Oizerowitz could have envisioned for him. To win in Rumson, however, would take one last gamble.
Carlson completed his breakout performance with a 28-yard, one-handed touchdown grab in the second overtime and Toms River North converted the ensuing two-point conversion on a tipped-ball that landed in the arms of senior receiver Dominick Jacob. The Toms River North sideline cleared to celebrate in the endzone as the Mariners beat the Bulldogs, 22-21, in a double-overtime classic.
"Coach Oizerowitz told us to never get down during a dog fight," Carlson said. "That's the hardest team I have ever faced. It was my first day playing offense and sometimes you just have to go out and make big plays for your team."
In his first game as a wide receiver, Carlson hauled in five passes for 166 yards and touchdowns of 67 and 28 yards.
"He is one of the fastest kids in the Shore and we have been working him in intermittently over the summer, but we are so deep at wide out," Oizerowitz said of Carlson. "We saw there was a matchup problem when we went empty against (Rumson). We like Ray against the linebacker and we were getting it all night."
Carlson's last spectacular catch set the stage for Oizerowitz to make the bold decision of going for two and the win rather than take the extra point and a third overtime period.
"I'm a riverboat gambler when it comes to that," Oizerowitz said. "I don't like to wait because, to me, when the ball is on the two, the advantage is to the offense. They played it damn-near perfect and I think it was divine intervention."
After timeouts by both teams, Toms River North lined up for the two-point try and dropped junior quarterback Jake Kazanowsky back to pass. Kazanowsky flung the ball into the endzone off his back leg and Rumson's Gordon Forsyth got his fingertips on the pass. Forsyth could not grasp it, though, and the ball hung up long enough for Jacob to slip in for the catch and the winning two-point conversion.
Both of Carlson's touchdown receptions came on 3rd-and-long plays for Toms River North. The last one was a 3rd-and-13 from the 28 following Rumson's fifth and final sack of Kazanowsky in the game.
Toms River North opened the scoring in the final two minutes of the first half, with Kazanowsky hitting Carlson in stride up the left sideline for a 67-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch on 3rd-and-19.
"It was tied and I heard the play-call and I was like, 'Oh no, this is it right here,'" Carlson said. "Jake hit me in stride with a perfect ball. All I had to do was catch it and go."
Those accounted for two of the three touchdown passes in the game by Kazanowsky, who finished 17-for-30 with 293 yards and also threw three interceptions.
"Like our entire team, Jake's a gutty guy," Oizerowitz said. "He has great arm talent. He threw a few picks I'm sure he's not happy about but when the money is on the line, there is not a better quarterback in the Shore and I don't think it's even close. Their secondary is the best in the Shore Conference; I didn't think we were going to be able to throw on them, so I'm pretty happy with the performance."
Carlson's first touchdown was the only score of the first three quarters. Early in the fourth, Rumson finally broke through and set the stage for the wild finish. Sophomore Geoff Schroeder - taking over for injured starter John Volker, who did not play on Friday - carried the ball on all seven plays of Rumson's 35-yard, game-tying drive. The sophomore broke a 13-yard run to set his team up at the two yard line, then pounded it in for the tying score with 10:01 left to play.
Rumson's short field was the product of a strong defensive effort, quality punting by Justin Burkert and an offense that could not turn good field position into points until the game moved into the fourth quarter.
Toms River North came right back with an answer. After starting the second half 2-for-8, Kazanowsky rediscovered his groove by going back to Carlson. The junior gunslinger hit Carlson for 18 yards to work the ball to the Mariners 49 and on the next play, he climbed the pocket to unleash a strike to Carlson over the middle for 39 more yards.
The drive ended with Kazanowsky finding junior Zach Goodale in the back of the end zone for another go-ahead touchdown pass.
Rumson came back with a drive that advanced to the Toms River North 32 but moved backwards from there and ended on a failed third-down conversion with 1:08 left.
The saving grace for the Bulldogs was the collection of three timeouts they managed to save throughout the half and they burned all three to get the ball back with 41 seconds left on their own 36.
Bulldogs senior quarterback Collin Coles entered the final drive 9-for-21 for 112 yards but rose to the occasion when Rumson had no margin for error. Coles hit junior Patrick Jamin on the sideline to open the drive and scrambled 11 yards for a first down to again stop the clock while pushing the ball to the Toms River North 34 with 20 seconds left.
Coles followed his run with a perfect strike between two defenders for a 22-yard completion to junior Luke Devlin. After Coles clocked the ball with 13 seconds left, Toms River North was flagged for pass interference on the next play, moving the ball to the six-yard line with nine seconds remaining.
With time for only two plays left, Coles got the job done on the first try, lofting a back-foot throw to the right corner of the endzone, where Jamin ran under it and hauled it in for a six-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown grab to tie the game at 14 with three seconds left following the extra point.
Rumson immediately seized the momentum in overtime when Forsyth intercepted Kazalowsky's pass to end Toms River North's possession.
Rumson advanced the ball to the seven-yard line and an offsides penalty inched it up to the two on fourth down, creating a de facto extra-point attempt to win the game. Michael Piperno knocked his first attempt through the uprights, but Toms River North's sideline called a timeout just before the snap.
Needing to do it again, Rumson's snap was high, giving Toms River North enough time to block the kick and extend the game.
The Bulldogs got the first crack at scoring in the second overtime and did just that with a 15-yard connection from Coles to junior David Livingston.
Rumson was two plays away from sealing the game after its fifth sack set up a 3rd-and-13, but Carlson again came through with a big play with the help of his quarterback.
After watching his team block a short field goal and knowing Rumson would get the second chance in the third overtime, Oizerowitz did not want to take his chances with an extended game. He chose to end it with a two-point attempt, win or lose.
In Volker's absence, Schroeder ran for 109 runs on 30 carries while Coles picked up the slack late to finish 13-for-27 with 172 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Rumson's defense also shut down Toms River North's running game, holding the Mariners to minus-11 yards on the ground thanks to the five sacks of Kazanowsky.
The Bulldogs also picked Kazanowsky off three times, with sophomore John Lista and junior Ryan Ruane intercepting the Mariners quarterback on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.
Despite winning the turnover battle, 3-0, and outgaining Toms River North, 311-284, Rumson walked off the field with a tough-to-swallow loss and a banged up team that is feeling the weight of its schedule. The Group III Bulldogs have already played Red Bank Catholic, Wall and Middletown North and will next have to deal with Manalapan next Friday before finishing the year with games against No. 1 Mater Dei Prep, Middletown South and Jackson Memorial.
"When the Shore Conference puts you in the SEC and every game is a war, there is going to be attrition," Rumson coach Jerry Schulte said. "The teams in our division are all probably going to be pretty banged up at the end of the year. They put is in a war every week and at the end of the year, it may come back to bite them in the butt."
"The challenge with the schedule is while you worry about this game, you are actually worried about the next game,' Oizerowitz said. "Sometimes you think about losing the battle to win the war. I don't know if that was the case tonight."
Toms River North had its share of bumps and bruises as well but once again showed its adaptability. Last week, the Mariners won a 42-40 shootout with Manalapan and this week, the survived a field-position game and defensive struggle for three quarters before the game finally opened up.
"You know what kind of roster you have going into the season, but the personality emerges through the experiences they do through out there," Oizerowitz said. "Every year is different. I think we are pretty good, but we're not perfect by any stretch. We have a lot of room to grow."
Toms River North 22, Rumson-Fair Haven 21
|TR North (4-0, 2-0)||0||7||0||7||0||8||22|
|Rumson (2-2, 2-1)||0||0||0||14||0||7||21|
TRN - Ray Carlson 67-yard pass from Jake Kazanowsky (Justin Burkert kick)
RFH - Geoff Schroeder 2-yard run (Mike Piperno kick)
TRN - Zach Goodale 8-yard pass from Kazanowsky (Justin Berkert kick)
RFH - Patrick Jamin 6-yard pass from Collin Coles (Mike Piperno kick)
RFH - David Livingston 15-yard pass from Collin Coles (Mike Piperno kick)
TRN - Ray Carlson 28-yard pass from Jake Kazanowsky (Dominick Jacob pass from Kazanowsky)
Rushing - TRN: Jordan Grey 14-35, Matt Spalletta 4-(-6), Jake Kazanowsky 9-(-40); RFH: Geoff Schroeder 30-109, Collin Coles 3-22, Peter Crowley 5-8
Passing - TRN: Jake Kazanowsky 17-30-3, 293, Dominick Jacob 0-1-0 0; RFH: Collin Coles 13-27-0 172
Receiving - TRN: Ray Carlson 5-166, Zach Browne 6-71, Dominick Jacob 2-26, Zach Goodale 2-17, Jordan Grey 1-9, Jaiden Fraser 1-4; RFH: Luke Devlin 4-72, Patrick Jamin 5-57, David Livingston 2-21, Peter Crowley 1-12, Josh Harmon 1-10
Interceptions-Return Yards - RFH: John Lista 1-21, Ryan Ruane 1-0, Gordon Forsyth 1-0