KEYPORT - Mater Dei Prep has never won a division title in program history, yet with the talent and coaching staff it imported in the offseason, making a run at the Class B Central championship this fall was almost a foregone conclusion.

In their first real test of the season, the new-look Seraphs showed the breadth of their arsenal in rolling past Keyport 35-7 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 3-0 and grab sole possession of first place in the division. The win stamps Mater Dei Prep as the favorite to wrest the title away from three-time defending champion Shore Regional, which lost to the Asbury Park team that Keyport defeated last week.

Junior quarterback George Pearson (#12) had four touchdowns between rushing and passing to help Mater Dei Prep take sole possession of first place in Class B Central with a win over Keyport. (Photo by Scott Stump)
Junior quarterback George Pearson (#12) had four touchdowns between rushing and passing to help Mater Dei Prep take sole possession of first place in Class B Central with a win over Keyport. (Photo by Scott Stump)

One of their talented newcomers, St. Joseph's-Montvale transfer and former Matawan star George Pearson, accounted for four touchdowns to help lead the way. The junior quarterback went 9-for-14 for 161 yards and two touchdowns passing and also ran for 50 yards and a pair of scores in Mater Dei Prep's spread scheme.

"We've still got a lot of fixing and building to do, but I think we played well,'' Pearson said. "We had one job today, and that was to win. The stats or whatever don't matter, we just had to get that job done."

New head coach Dino Mangiero, a former Rutgers star and NFL defensive lineman, is hoping to replicate the success he had in building Brooklyn's Poly Prep into a perennial power. Three of his former Poly Prep players also transferred to Mater Dei before this school year.

"It's starting to come together,'' Mangiero said. "I just take it one day at a time."

Facing a Keyport (2-1, 2-1) team that already had wins over division contenders Asbury Park and Point Beach under its belt, the Seraphs dominated the first half and never looked back. They took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards in eight plays, keyed by an 18-yard run by senior Marvin Pierre, to take a 7-0 lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by Pearson.

The Seraphs were equally as impressive on defense, ultimately holding Keyport's Wing-T rushing attack to only 65 yards on 34 carries. Sophomore fullback Devin Wallner, who had 268 yards rushing in Keyport's first two games, was held to 10 yards on 11 carries by a defensive front led by Pierre and sophomore defensive end Izaiah Henderson, the latter of whom had a sack and a tackle for a loss.

"We were very multiple up front, and I think that helps,'' Mangiero said. "In high school, when you have to block two, three, four different fronts, I think that makes it difficult."

They came up with a stop on the Red Raiders' initial possession and then Pearson went right back to work. He found junior Russell Ferrisi, one of the transfers from Poly Prep, over the middle for a 50-yard scoring strike that made it 14-0 with 2:56 left in the first quarter.

"We have a lot of new guys coming together, so we're just starting to get a feel what it's like to really play in this league,'' Ferrisi said. "We've got a lot of talent, so we've got to keep putting together pieces of the puzzle."

After Mater Dei's defense forced a pair of three-and-outs, a zig-zagging, 20-yard punt return by senior Eddie Lewis, who has multiple FBS offers, put the Seraphs in business on Keyport's 20-yard line. One play later, Pearson found junior wideout Kyle Devaney over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 21-0 with 7:14 left in the first half.

"We throw the ball a lot, and we've got a lot of RPOs (run-pass options),'' Pearson said. "To me, it's a hard offense to defend and keeps the defense guessing at all times."

Keyport then threatened to get on the board, driving to Mater Dei Prep's 4-yard line. However, Ferrisi killed the threat with an interception on third-and-goal to keep the Seraphs ahead by three scores at the half.

Mater Dei Prep then ended any suspense in the third quarter by digging into its bag of tricks. Devaney, who was the Seraphs' quarterback last year before the addition of Pearson, took a pitch from Pearson and then unloaded a 55-yard bomb to Lewis to make it 28-0 with 4:51 left in the third quarter.

"I think we're the most athletic offense in the Shore,'' Devaney said. "People expected us to do a lot (in the preseason), so we focused in practice last month to just jell together, and we've done that."

Keyport avoided the shutout early in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Chris Hogrefe found senior tight end Zach Frick for a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. Mater Dei answered immediately with a five-play, 43-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Pearson with 8:07 left in the game.

With multiple FBS-caliber recruits, this is arguably the most talented Mater Dei Prep team in its history. After three weeks, the Seraphs have outscored their opponents 112-13. The scary part is they feel they can only get better.

"We have a lot of new pieces and a new coaching staff, and I feel we've done a good job of adjusting,'' Pearson said. "Everything is falling into place."


Box score

Mater Dei Prep 35, Keyport 7

.                               M              K

First downs            13            5

Rushes-yards     27-145      34-65

Passing              10-15-0   4-11-1

Passing yards       216         56

Penalties              7-67         3-17

Fumbles-lost        2-0            1-0

Mater Dei Prep (3-0, 2-0)   14  7   7   7   -  35

Keyport (2-1, 2-1)              0  0    0   7 -     7

Scoring summary

M: Pearson 15-yard run (Maxwell kick).

M: Ferrisi 50-yard pass from Pearson (Maxwell kick).

M: Devaney 20-yard pass from Pearson (Maxwell kick).

M: Lewis 55-yard pass from Devaney (Maxwell kick).

K: Frick 5-yard pass from Hogrefe (Smith kick).

M: Pearson 7-yard run (Maxwell kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - M: Pierre 9-69, Lewis 1-3, Pearson 9-50, McRae 2-13, Devaney 3-8, Closs 3-2. K: Wallner 11-10, Young 2-6, Hogrefe 2-(-6), Robinson 5-9, Treadwell 11-48, Hollingsworth 2-5, Blanks 1-(-7).

Passing - M: Pearson 9-14-0 161, Devaney 1-1-0 55. K: Hogrefe 4-11-1 56.

Receiving - M: Lewis 4-87, Ferrisi 1-50, Henderson 2-36, Devaney 2-41, Pierre 1-2. K: Young 2-46, Frick 2-10.

Interceptions - M: Ferrisi 1-25.

Follow Scott Stump on Twitter at @Scott_Stump


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