Freshman Jake Clayton ignites second-half surge to propel No. 6 Point Boro past No. 11 Colts Neck
POINT PLEASANT BOROUGH – Even though Colts Neck had just driven nearly 70 yards to tie the score with under 30 seconds left in the first half, Point Boro head coach Brian Staub was confident about the way his team would respond at the start of the third quarter. He felt even better after freshman Jake Clayton got his hands on the ball.
The Panthers’ standout freshman scooped up a bouncing ball on the second-half kickoff, cut toward the visiting sideline, and raced 77 yards to the end zone to give the Panthers the lead right back, igniting a 21-point third quarter swell that sent Point Boro, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16, to a 42-20 Shore Conference Colonial Division victory over No. 11 Colts Neck on Saturday night at Al Saner Field.
“At halftime we just said to ourselves that it was a new game, 0-0,” said senior quarterback Matt Oliphant. “We made our adjustments and when Jake took that kick back it really set the tone for the second half and got the boys fired up.”
“When Jake Clayton took it to the house it gave us that juice,” said senior two-way lineman Charles “Boom” Davison.
“We were excited to see how they would respond and we had full confidence they were going to rise to the occasion,” Staub said. “We fully believe in our strength and conditioning and speed and agility training that that it’s up there with the hardest in the Shore. We saw that pay off. We were relentless.”
Senior running back Jake Croce followed with a 56-yard touchdown run and Oliphant punched in a 6-yard touchdown run later in the quarter to open up a 35-14 advantage. Colts Neck senior running back Chris Scully kept the Cougars alive with a 44-yard touchdown run to cut their deficit to 35-20, but Point Boro’s triple-option attack continued to march up and down the field and went ahead by three scores again on Oliphant’s 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Oliphant ran for a game-high 202 yards on 22 carries and Croce added 112 yards rushing on just eight carries. Clayton’s kickoff return touchdown was his second score of the day. In the second quarter, he took a pitch from Oliphant and raced 31 yards for a touchdown that put Point Boro up 14-7.
“Huge,” Point Boro head coach Brian Staub said of Clayton’s emphatic debut. “On all of our best offenses in the past we’ve had that third guy, whether it was Brandon Cipriano in ’17 or Connor Cilento the last few years. And now we have Jake Clayton, and also Brian Simoes, who didn’t really get to show it but is a big-play threat, too. We love what we have with those two guys as the third option along with Oliphant and Croce.”
Scully ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns, also scoring on a 42-yard run to give Colts Neck a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening series. Quarterback Dom Beninato threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Aiden Diaz with 22 seconds left in the first half to send the game to halftime deadlocked at 14.
Last season, Point Boro won the Independence Division title and mostly ran roughshod over division opponents. St. John Vianney was the only team to give Point Boro a game when the Panthers eked out a 19-13 overtime victory during the final week of the regular season. Against the rest of the division, they outscored opponents 177-19, including a 39-0 win over sectional finalist Raritan. That division featured Group 3 and Group 2 public schools plus SJV. Point Boro is now in the Colonial Division and the only school of similar size is Raritan. Colts Neck is a Group 4 school along with Manalapan, Long Branch, and Red Bank Regional. Size across the offensive and defensive lines is usually the biggest issue smaller schools face when playing their larger counterparts. Point Boro was able to pass its first test with high marks.
Despite Scully rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns, Point Boro limited Colts Neck to 185 total yards on the ground and didn’t get bullied by a Colts Neck offensive line that features 6-foot-7 tackle Charlie Whalen and averages 270 pounds across the five positions. On the other side, Point Boro’s offensive line paved the way for the Panthers to rush for 380 yards on an average of 9.7 yards per carry.
“We were ready for that challenge,” Davison said. “We have the speed with 11 (Oliphant), 40 (Croce), 5 (Clayton), and 23 (Simoes). We can get to the edge and get six, seven yards per carry. They trust us and we trust them.”
“The offensive and defensive lines played out of their minds,” Oliphant said. “All offseason they were in the weight room and we were speed training at 5:30 a.m. as a team. We battled them in the trenches.”
“It’s no secret what (Colts Neck) is going to do (on offense), they’re really good at it and they have the personnel for it,” Staub said. “It was just an unbelievable scheme from our defensive coaches and our coordinator Shane O’Connor and our scout team repping it up all week. We wanted Scully to stutter or cut before the line of scrimmage because when he hits the hole hard he’s going to get seven or eight yards. We did a pretty nice job on one of the best backs and best lines in the Shore.”
It also helps that Point Boro’s Flexbone offense doesn’t require its linemen to win their matchups with brute strength. A zone-blocking scheme with angles and misdirection allows a comparatively smaller offensive line to win with athleticism in space.
“The scheme absolutely helps and it’s an equalizer,” Staub said. “It’s so hard to mimic in practice.”
Colts Neck received the opening kickoff and it appeared the Cougars’ drive was going to stall out at the Point Boro 37-yard line, but Beninato scrambled for a 14-yard gain on third-and-8. Two plays later, Scully found room up the middle and zipped into the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Point Boro answered on the next series when Oliphant broke off a 55-yard touchdown run to tie the score 7-7. Colts Neck then went three-and-out on its next possession and Point Boro took over at midfield after a punt. Oliphant pulled the ball on four straight carries to get the ball down to the 31-yard line where Clayton took an option pitch on third-and-6 and scored on his first high school carry for a 14-7 Point Boro lead.
Colts Neck then embarked on a 13-play drive that began at its own 35-yard line and was assisted by three Point Boro penalties totaling 35 yards. A 10-yard run by Scully gave the Cougars first-and-goal at the 9-yard line but Point Boro’s defense held firm and forced a field goal attempt that was unsuccessful.
A holding penalty short-circuited Point Boro’s next drive and forced a punt. Colts Neck took over at its own 33-yard line with 2:29 left in the first half and Beninato immediately moved the ball across midfield with a 22-yard run and a 17-yard pass to Tesio Carabello. On third-and-10 from the 17-yard line, Beninato connected with Diaz over the middle for a touchdown with 22 seconds on the clock, sending the game to halftime tied 14-14.
Another notable aspect of Point Boro’s victory was how well many of its new starters performed. Oliphant and Croce were All-Shore selections last season and Davison was an all-division selection on the cusp of an All-Shore spot but the Panthers graduated a litany of standout seniors whose production needed to be replaced.
“You’re starting to see our program being built where, yes, we had a phenomenal senior class last year but we have some first-year starters who are just ready to go,” Staub said. “We have a lot to improve on but we’re excited about the way we started.”
No. 6 Point Boro 42, No. 11 Colts Neck 20
|Colts Neck||Point Boro|
|Colts Neck (0-1, 0-1)||7||7||6||0||20|
|Point Boro (1-0, 1-0)||14||0||21||7||42|
CN – Chris Scully 42-yard run (Aidan Manasso kick)
PB – Matt Oliphant 55-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
PB – Jake Clayton 31-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
CN – Aiden Diaz 17-yard pass from Dom Beninato (Aidan Manasso kick)
PB – Jake Clayton 77-yard kickoff return (Brayden Forfar kick)
PB – Jake Croce 56-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
PB – Matt Oliphant 6-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
CN – Chris Scully 44-yard run (kick failed)
PB – Matt Oliphant 5-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
RUSHING – CN: Chris Scully 19-146, Dom Beninato 10-36, John Sherrod 2-3; PB: Matt Oliphant 22-202, Jake Croce 8-112, Jake Clayton 1-31, Dylan Reitmeyer 5-21, Brian Simoes 1-8, Colin Obser 2-6.
PASSING – CN: Dom Beninato 9-20-1, 96; PB: Matt Oliphant 0-1-0, 0 (spike).
RECEIVING – CN: Tesio Carabello 3-41, Jack Lefkowitz 2-20, Aiden Diaz 1-17, Chris Scully, 2-12, David Fichtenbaum 1-6.
INTERCEPTIONS – PB: Brian Simoes 1-10