Manasquan Rallies Past A.L. Johnson to Reach Central Jersey Group II Semifinals
MANASQUAN — Damaso Jaime is used to dealing with a bad ankle, but when he rolled it on a kickoff return to start the second half and had to be helped off the field, his return to the game looked highly questionable.
But in Manasquan’s first playoff game in two years at a packed Vic Kubu Warrior Field, there was no way Jaime wasn’t going to get back on the field.
“I don’t have the best ankle and I roll it a lot,” Jaime said. “I couldn’t put any weight on it. Mr. Hyland (Manasquan athletic trainer) said maybe we should get some x-rays. I said maybe we can wait.”
Jaime returned later in the third quarter and came through with three huge plays to help the third-seeded Warriors rally for a 33-29 victory over sixth-seeded A.L. Johnson in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs on Saturday afternoon. His 31-yard reception on his first play back provided a crucial fourth-down conversion that led to a touchdown. He then returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and finally hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jerry Maher in the fourth quarter that gave Manasquan the lead for good.
“I had to finish. I had to do it for my team,” Jaime said. “They’re my brothers and they would do the same for me.”
“You look at him rolling his ankle on a kick return trying to make something out of nothing and then he tell us he’s not coming out of the game,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price. “Then he comes back and has two brilliant catches, one of which he has to catch up to with a sprained ankle, and he scores. To me that kind of encapsulated the whole game.”
Manasquan will play second-seeded and undefeated Roselle (9-0) in the semifinals next Saturday.
The Warriors (8-1) rallied from a pair of two-score deficits in the second half against a Crusaders team that gave them trouble with their flexbone triple-option offense. Johnson (5-4) led 16-13 at halftime, then took a 23-13 lead early in the third quarter. The game was close to slipping away from Manasquan, but the Warriors showed the kind of perseverance and determination that has keyed their resurgent season.
“It’s in our hearts, it’s just something that we have,” said senior Adam Schreck. “We don’t panic. It’s not who we are.”
On the drive following Jon Duffy’s 34-yard touchdown run that put Johnson up by 10, Manasquan went 69 yards in 11 plays to cut the deficit to three points. Maher connected with Schreck for 14 yards on third-and-12 to move the ball into Johnson territory. Later in the drive Jaime returned in clutch fashion by catching a 31-yard pass from Maher on fourth-and-5 to give Manasquan a first down at the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Schreck dove forward to bring in a scoring strike from Maher to make it 23-20.
The Crusaders answered quickly, however, when a 63-yard run by Joe Turek set up quarterback Vincent Crisafi’s three-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, but Johnson had regained its two-possession advantage with a 29-20 cushion. That’s when Jaime fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 20-yard line, cut toward the home sideline and weaved his way into the end zone for an electric 80-yard touchdown that made it 29-27.
“He gives us everything, and we know Damaso is ready to go at any time,” said senior middle linebacker Jack Mallett, who led the defense with three tackles for a loss. “To see him get hurt took a little out of us, but to see him pop up off the bench and say he’s fine and make a big play like that, that was all we needed to have confidence in ourselves to go out there and win the game.”
It took three-plus quarters, but Manasquan’s defense was able to solve Johnson’s rushing offense with two critical fourth-quarter stops. Following Jaime’s kickoff return touchdown, the Warriors stopped the Crusaders on three straight plays to get the ball back with 10:21 left in the game. A 21-yard catch by Schreck on a bullet pass by Maher moved the ball to the Johnson 38-yard line. Then, on second-and-14 from the 32-yard line, Maher and Jaime connected for the winning touchdown. Maher pump-faked to give Jaime time to create separation, and the pass was right there for the wide receiver to run under and bring down for a touchdown.
“I always tell Jerry in practice to throw it out there and let me get under it, and that’s exactly what he did,” Jaime said. “Jerry put it exactly where it had to be.”
On the next drive, senior defensive back Peter Mills intercepted Crisafi on fourth-and-four and Manasquan converted three first downs upon getting the ball back to close out a hard-fought victory and advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“At halftime coach Price said if we put a 1 in the wrong column we’re done,” Jaime said. “We showed a lot of guts in the second half to come back.”
“That’s the one thing about these kids, they understand that it has to come from within them,” Price said. “They pulled it together, and I’m so proud of them.”
Manasquan began the game with by forcing a Johnson punt and then driving 42 yards on six straight runs by junior running back Connor Morgan, who rumbled for 128 yards on 27 carries. Morgan polished off the scoring jaunt with a five-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors up 6-0. Johnson took a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter when Crisafi broke free on a 70-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper.
A 64-yard run by senior fullback Tommy Meyer on Manasquan’s next possession set up sophomore Canyon Birch for a 2-yard run that put the Warriors back up, 13-7. Johnson’s option game continued to give Manasquan’s defense trouble and drove 65 yards in nine plays to retake the lead, 14-13, on Duffy’s 10-yard run with 5:36 left in the half. The lead grew to 16-13 when a snap went over the head of punter Tommy Antonucci and he was tackled in the end zone for safety.
Manasquan regrouped, however, thanks to an inspiring show of toughness by Jaime and a defense that came up with clutch stops late in the game. Manasquan is now two playoff wins away from its 12th sectional title. Contending for state titles is what Manasquan has done better than any other Shore Conference program, and after two down years the Warriors are back where they expect to be this time of the year.
“It feels good to win, to see smiles in the locker room, to see kids happy going home,” Price said. “It was depressing here for a while.”
Manasquan 33, A.L. Johnson 29
Johnson (5-4) 0 16 13 0 — 29
Manasquan (8-1) 6 7 14 6 — 33
M — Connor Morgan 5-yard run (kick failed)
J — Vincent Crisafi 70-yard run (Mike Casalino kick)
M — Canyon Birch 2-yard run (Adam Schreck kick)
J — Jon Duffy 10-yard run (Mike Casalino kick)
J — Safety, punter tackled in end zone
J — Jon Duffy 34-yard run (Mike Casalino kick)
M — Adam Schreck 10-yard pass from Jerry Maher (Adam Schreck kick)
J — Vincent Crisafi 3-yard run (kick failed)
M — Damaso Jaime 80-yard kickoff return (Adam Schreck kick)
M — Damaso Jaime 32-yard pass from Jerry Maher (kick failed)
Rushing — J: Vincent Crisafi 14-95, Joe Turek 9-95, Jon Duffy 14-86, Nick Fischetti 5-33, Brandon Rapp 3-4; M: Connor Morgan 27-128, Tommy Meyer 6-94, Canyon Birch 1-2, Jerry Maher 3-(-11).
Passing — J: Vincent Crisafi 1-4-1 12; M: Jerry Maher 5-8-0 108.
Receiving — J: Brandon Rapp 1-11; M: Adam Schreck 3-45, Damaso Jaime 2-63.
Interceptions — M: Peter Mills 1-0.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.