Jake Czwakiel returns to All-Shore form, leads No. 5 Middletown South over No. 9 Colts Neck
MIDDLETOWN – There was an unfillable void on Middletown South’s football team when do-it-all senior Jake Czwakiel was out of the lineup. The offense wasn’t the same without him under center. The defense lacked the extra bite he provides with his dynamic play in the secondary. The special teams unit sorely missed one of the top kickers in the Shore Conference.
Replacing Czwakiel after he suffered an ankle injury during Week 0 was next to impossible and required multiple players just to fill his spots. He did return to the lineup in Week 2 after missing basically two full games, but it was his performance on Friday night that signaled a return to form for the All-Shore standout.
Czwakiel ran for 101 yards and a touchdown, returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, and kicked a 26-yard field goal and three extra points, showcasing his impact in all three phases to lead Middletown South, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16, to a 30-14 nondivisional victory over No. 9 Colts Neck during a rainy night at The Swamp.
Czwakiel scored on a 4-yard run in the first quarter and broke a 63-yard run that set up another touchdown in the second quarter. His field goal put Middletown South up 23-7 and his pick-6 gave the Eagles (3-2) a commanding 30-7 lead with four minutes left in the game.
“This is certainly the best I’ve felt this year,” Czwakiel said. “My team is behind me and that’s the best part. We have great camaraderie here and it feels amazing to be back out here.”
“He’s so cerebral; he brings so much more to the game than just his athleticism,” said Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. “He’s a student of the game, he’s our captain on the field on offense and defense. He’s our leader, and when we didn’t have him we struggled. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent yet but he’s pretty close and he’s dangerous (again).”
Senior running back Donovan Summey ran for a 1-yard touchdown that was set up by Czwakiel’s long run and finished with 35 yards rushing on eight carries. Senior Colin Gallagher ran for 51 yards on eight carries and had another outstanding game on defense that included 14 tackles and a forced fumble that senior defensive back Jesse Burbank returned 85 yards for a touchdown.
Colts Neck senior running back Chris Scully ran for 141 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Senior quarterback Dom Beninato capped the scoring by throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Eric Loureiro with 56 seconds left in the game. Beninato also ran for 47 yards on eight carries.
While Antonucci wasn’t completely pleased with his team’s performance, he was encouraged by his team answering the call in a crossroads game they could not afford to lose.
“That’s what it’s all about. It’s an out-of-division game with a very good opponent and an opportunity for power points for both teams, so this was a must-win for us,” Antonucci said. “We had to win this game tonight and we talked about it all week long. We just have to clean some things up and get better. Little by little we’re trending in the right direction and getting healthier.”
Middletown South received to begin the game and drove 70 yards across nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. Czwakiel had rushes of 11 and 10 yards on the drive while Gallagher had an 18-yard run that moved the ball to the 22-yard line. Three plays later, Czwakiel was in the end zone on a 4-yard run to put the Eagles ahead.
Colts Neck moved to the Middletown South 35-yard line on its first drive but was forced to punt. The Eagles took over at their own 13-yard line and quickly moved out to the 32 on runs of three and 16 by Gallagher. On the next play - the first snap of the second quarter - Czwakiel kept it on a read option and weaved his way through the Colts Neck defense for a 63-yard gain down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Summey plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Middletown South lead.
“It was a run left and I pulled it when I really shouldn’t have, but the line made great blocks and opened the hole for me,” Czwakiel said.
Middletown South took that 14-0 lead into halftime. Colts Neck had the ball first to begin the third quarter and embarked on a promising drive on the legs of Scully and Beninato. Scully had a 14-yard run and Beninato followed with a 22-yard gain down to the Middletown South 28-yard line. But on third-and-three from the Middletown South 21-yard line, Gallagher stripped the Colts Neck ball carrier and Burbank was there to scoop it on the hop and return the fumble 85 yards for a touchdown. The extra point missed its mark, but Middletown South had turned a potential one-score game into a three-touchdown advantage with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
Colts Neck went back to work and this time finished off a 15-play, 80-yard drive that chewed seven minutes and 53 seconds off the clock. The Cougars converted two fourth downs on the drive, including Scully muscling his way across the goal line on fourth-and-one for a 2-yard touchdown to get his team on the board with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles answered with an eight-play drive that culminated with Czwakiel connecting on a 26-yard field goal for a 23-7 lead with 4:20 on the clock. Then, Czwakiel put the game away when he jumped a wheel route and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, giving Middletown South a 30-7 lead with four minutes remaining.
“Credit that to the defensive staff, we repped that play all week in practice and the second I saw it I was ready for it,” Czwakiel said. “They were in twins and out of that they run curl, wheel. The second the back went out to run the wheel I was ready for it and the defense made great downfield blocks to lead me.”
Middletown South put in many of its defensive reserves on the last series. Colts Neck scored the game’s final points when Beninato found Loureiro for a 39-yard touchdown to cap a five-play 71-yard drive.
In Week 5, Middletown South had a reprieve from the American Division gauntlet, but Colts Neck was coming off consecutive victories and by no means represented a layup for the Eagles. With No. 2 Red Bank Catholic on the schedule next week and No. 1 Donovan Catholic looming on Oct. 20, Middletown South couldn’t afford to fall below .500. The Eagles entered the week 13th in the United Power Rankings for South, Group 4 with the top 16 qualifying for the NJSIAA Tournament. The power points from beating Colts Neck will have them climbing the rankings, and the power points earned from playing non-public schools the next two games will provide a boost regardless of the results.
“The road is right there,” Antonucci said. “It’s going to be tough; obviously our group is stocked with talent. The goal is to make sure we’re in and we get a home game out of it, and hopefully we get everybody healthy, start winning some football games, and find ourselves back there in that championship game.”
“We had a little bit of bad luck at the beginning of the season but that’s part of football and you have to deal with it,” said Czwakiel about the injuries to himself, Summey, and several other teammates. “We’re getting healthy and getting back to playing Midd. South football.”
No. 5 Middletown South 30, No. 9 Colts Neck 14
|Colts Neck (2-3)||0||0||0||14||14|
|Midd. South (3-2)||7||7||6||10||30|
MS – Jake Czwakiel 4-yard run (Jake Czwakiel kick)
MS – Donovan Summey 1-yard run (Jake Czwakiel kick)
MS – Jesse Burbank 85-yard fumble return (kick failed)
CN – Chris Scully 2-yard run (Aidan Manasso kick)
MS – Jake Czwakiel 26-yard field goal
MS – Jake Czwakiel 35-yard interception return (Jake Czwakiel kick)
CN – Eric Loureiro 39-yard pass from Dom Beninato (Aidan Manasso kick)
RUSHING – CN: Chris Scully 29-141, Dom Beninato 8-47, John Sherrod 3-0; MS: Jake Czwakiel 6-101, Colin Gallagher 8-51, Donovan Summey 8-35, Liam Curley 1-2.
PASSING – CN: Dom Beninato 6-12-1, 58; MS: Jake Czwakiel 3-6-0, 26.
RECEIVING – CN: Eric Loureiro 2-43, Logan Bresnahan 1-6, Michael Petruzzi 1-5, Chris Scully 2-4; MS: Donovan Summey 1-12, Jesse Burbank 1-10, Owen Richter 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS – MS: Jake Czwakiel 1-35.