FREEHOLD -- Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the closing seconds to Howell last week, Freehold went back to work this week to clean up on the turnovers and fourth quarter let down that hurt them against the Rebels.

On Saturday it looked like the Colonials had done just that, jumping out to a three score halftime on their way to a 26-20 Shore Conference Class A North victory over Middletown North, which entered ranked No. 10 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. The Lions came alive midway through the third quarter and had a chance at the end with a last-second Hail Mary, but the pass was broken up in the endzone as time expired and the Colonials held on for the victory.

"We preached all week cleaning up our mistakes and finishing," said Freehold head coach Dave Ellis. "We like to make it interesting as once again we missed extra points, had too many penalties and turnovers. But the boys are resilient and never stopped working. There is a lot to build on from today.”

The Colonials got on the board with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter after the Lions struggled to punt the ball into the wind and Freehold took advantage of the short punt with great field position at the Middletown North 30-yard line. That’s when sophomore tailback Ashante Worthy, who finished with 20 carries for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, found a crease on the second play of the drive and scored on a 28-yard run. The extra point was blocked, however, and Freehold led 6-0.

Freehold's Ashante Worthy breaks free for the first touchdown of the game vs Middletown North. (Photo by Eric Braun)

Middletown North looked to find some momentum on the next drive as it quickly got into Freehold territory, but the Colonials defense, which came up big the entire first half, stopped the Lions on a fourth-and-four from the Colonials own 44-yard line.

Freehold wasted no time making the Lions pay for the short field by putting together a five-play drive that resulted in another score. Once again it was Worthy finding room up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown run to put the Colonials up 12-0 after another blocked extra point.

"(Middletown North) is a great unit on defense but there were holes left with the injury to linebacker Chad Freshnock that we took advantage of," Ellis said. "You have to give credit to Ashante for his patience and making the right reads.”

Freshnock is a standout running back and linebacker for Middletown North and ran for 1,280 yards and 14 touchdowns while catching 23 passes for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns. He left the Lions' Week Two game against Marlboro with an injury and did not play against Freehold.

With the wind at their backs in the second quarter, the Lions looked to have found some momentum with junior quarterback Donald Glenn finding success moving in the pocket to buy time against a relentless Freehold front seven. The loss of Freshnock was really felt on offense as the Lions struggled with their running game with only 50 yards rushing on the day. Faced with a fourth-and-3 in Boro territory, Glenn found a wide-open Demetrius Redway for 10 yard gain. During the run after the catch, Redway fumbled the ball but Brendan Kube pounced on it to keep the Lions' drive alive at the Colonials 28-yard line.

Middletown North's Brendan Kube recovers the fumble vs Freehold. (Photo by Eric Braun).

After three successful runs to get the ball to the Freehold 1-yard line Middletown North fumbled the snap and Freehold recovered. Glenn also injure his forearm on the play and did not return for the remainder of the first half.

The Lions were able to force a three-and-out and with the Colonials punting into the wind from their own endzone and a bad snap corralled by Jake Curry, the punt only traveled fifteen yards.

Without Glenn at quarterback the Lions turned to sophomore Connor Welsh with great field position and 5:48 remaining in the first half. Once again Freehold's defense was up to the challenge, forcing the Lions to go for it on fourth down. Welsh dropped back for a pass and was hammered by Markee Gill and Nick Eccelston to force a fumble and turnover on downs at the Colonials 22-yard line with 3:22 left in the half.

Freehold offense went back to work using the ground-and-pound game of Worthy and Jamel Smith-Rush, who quickly got the Colonials into scoring territory. With 37 seconds remaining in the half, Curry, who finished 5 of 10 passing for 87 yards and rushed 17 for 50 yards and 2 touchdowns, scored on a 2-yard run to put the Colonials up 18-0 after a failed two-point conversion.

Freehold Jake Curry scores against Middletown North. (Photo by Eric Braun).

With the memory of the second-half collapse against Howell still fresh in their minds, the Colonials looked to erase that memory with a score on the opening drive of the second half. Worthy took the opening kickoff 28 yards to the Middletown North 48-yard line where the offense went to work on a 7-play, 48-yard drive that ended with another 2-yard TD run by Curry that put Freehold up 26-0 after a successful 2-point conversion.

As the Middletown North defense came off the field junior defensive back Dwight Wilkerson was yelling to his teammates "This game is not over, come on we still have nine minutes left in the third, lets show some fight!"

The two teams would trade field position on consecutive drives, then things turned in Middletown North’s favor. With Freehold once again marching into Middletown North territory, the Colonials turnover woes appeared when they fumbled the snap and North’s Brock Zenker recovered the fumble.

With Glenn, who finished 19 of 35 for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns, back in the game the Lions found their rhythm and got on the board when Glenn hit junior wide receiver Brendan Kube for a 65-yard touchdown with 3:13 left in the third quarter. The Colonials had up to this point kept the talented wideout under control, but Kube and Glenn found their connection late in the game and Kube finished with 14 receptions for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Middletown North would force another Freehold turnover on the next series when another bad center-to-quarterback exchange gave the Lions the ball on the Colonials 15-yard line after Matthew Dombrowski recovered the fumble. Four plays later, Redway found the first daylight of the day on the ground against the Colonials defense and took the ball 13 yards for the score to cut the deficit to 26-14 with 1.5 seconds left in the third quarter.

“I cannot understand our slow start, we practiced hard all week and thought we were ready," said Middletown North head coach Steve Bush."But I love our heart and commitment to each other as they never quit and fought back.”

With 4:36 remaining in the game and the score still 26-14, the Colonials looked to be putting the finishing touches on the game when Worthy took an pitch 20 yards but was caught from behind by Austin Dewise, who forced a fumble on the tackle and the Lions recovered on their own 35-yard line.

The tandem of Glenn and Kube was on target again as the duo took the Lions 85 yards and cut the lead to 26-20 with 4:06 remaining. Kube would haul in his second touchdown reception on a 3-yard fade route.

Brendan Kube looks for yardage late against Freehold. (Photo by Eric Braun).

Middletown North would get the ball back with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter. North was able to move down to the 22-yard line with 4.2 seconds remaining. On the final play, Glenn dropped back and threw a Hail Mary pass to Kube, who was knocked down on the play but no call was made, and Freehold escaped with a dramatic win.