Jersey Mike’s Football Team of the Week: Middletown South
Every week this fall, Jersey Mike’s and Shore Sports Network will be selecting a Team of the Week based on its performance over the past weekend.
The Jersey Mike’s Team of the Week for Week 6 is Middletown South, which stunned then-No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven, 20-3, for a critical victory that kept its playoff hopes intact. Shore Sports Network was at practice Tuesday to present the Eagles and head coach Steve Antonucci with a special game ball and a $500 Jersey Mike’s gift card.
Running back Vinny Condito and quarterback Tyler Cuccia each scored on short rushing touchdowns in the second half as the Eagles ran for 188 yards against an always-tough Rumson front seven, but it was Middletown South’s defense which served as the catalyst for the upset. The Eagles forced three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by Mark Tardy and a timely forced fumble by Chris Lotito that prevented a Rumson touchdown. Middletown South’s defense held Rumson to 168 yards of offense and scored 13 points off turnovers.
Rumson led 3-0 at halftime on a 26-yard field goal by Michael Piperno before Middletown South took the lead for good in the third quarter when a fumble recovery set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Condito. Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles put together a 15-play, 75-yard drive that lasted nearly nine minutes and culminated with Cuccia scoring from two yards out, giving Middletown South a 13-3 advantage. On Rumson’s next offensive play, Tardy put the finishing touches on the victory when he intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
While the second half is when Middletown South took over the game, a marvelous play in the first quarter was what began to turn the tide. Rumson sophomore Geoff Schroeder had busted loose on a 72-yard run to give the Bulldogs a first down at the Middletown South 12-yard line but on the next play, Lotito punched the ball out at the 1-yard line just before Rumson’s running back had crossed the goal line. The ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Middletown South, to say the least, as it enters its Week 7 bye with a 2-4 record. Playing in the supremely difficult American Division has certainly contributed to that with losses to No. 3 Toms River North and No. 4 Manalapan as well as defeats against Long Branch and St. John Vianney, but the Eagles have shown how dangerous they can be in wins over Red Bank Catholic and Rumson.
The Eagles will look to get healthy in the off-week before tangling with Brick (3-3 entering Week 7) on Friday, Nov. 1 in the final regular-season game. Middletown South is currently eighth out of 16 qualifiers in the South Group 4 power rankings, so a win over the Green Dragons in two weeks should solidify a postseason berth.