Monday Rewind: Bickford’s Monster Game, Thrilling Wins by Wall, Lakewood Highlight Week Five
Central senior Mike Bickford already has a 2,000-yard rushing season on his resume, but he topped himself on Friday night with an amazing performance in a shootout win over Brick Memorial.
Also highlighting Week Five were a pair of divisional thrillers, with Wall rallying in the second half to beat Red Bank Catholic in a Top 10 match-up on Friday, and Lakewood pulling out a crucial Class B South victory over Lacey late in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
Mater Dei Prep also took a big step toward locking up its first division title in program history with a 41-7 victory over defending Class B Central champion Shore Regional. The Seraphs can clinch at least a tie for the championship by beating Asbury Park on Friday night.
Now, back to Bickford.
The Central record book is rapidly becoming Bickford's autobiography as he erupted for a career-high 363 yards and set a school record with seven touchdowns in a 47-35 win that kept the Golden Eagles unbeaten in Class A South games.
He scored on runs of 80, 72, 6, 4, 4 and 46 yards and took a screen pass 70 yards to the house. Central needed all those pyrotechnics to hold off the Mustangs and Tony Thorpe, who ran for 203 yards in the loss.
Bickford became Central's all-time leader in touchdowns with 57, passing Kalyph Hardy's 55. Next up is Hardy's career rushing record, and Bickford needs 547 yards to pass that mark. So far, Hardy's single-game school record of 380 yards set against St. John Vianney in 2011 is safe but Hardy might have to hold his breath to get through the season with that one intact. Hardy ran for 2,000-plus yards as a senior and Bickford did it as a sophomore, and they are the only backs in school history to cross that threshold.
Bickford's 363 yards are the second-highest total in the Shore this season behind only Matawan's Derrick Wiley, who set a school record with 394 in a win over Monmouth. It also marked the fourth 300-yard rushing game so far this season in the Shore Conference, which is insane considering the season isn't even half over yet.
Bickford became the first Shore Conference player to score seven touchdowns in a game since former Manalapan running back Josh Firkser did it against Howell in 2010. The late Aaron Lee of Keyport also accomplished the feat against Donovan Catholic in 2008.
Amazingly, Bickford wasn't the only player involved in a seven-touchdown performance this weekend. Freehold Boro junior Ashante Worthy had a career night in a 52-27 win over Monroe for the Colonials' first victory.
He finished with 490 total yards, going 7-for-19 for 202 yards and two touchdown passes and running for a career-high 288 yards and five touchdowns with a long of 23 yards. That's called getting your first win in style.
I actually covered a seven-TD game back in 2004 by the state's all-time leader in touchdowns, the one and only Knowshon Moreno. It came in Middletown South's 63-7 win over Neptune during his junior year and remains the greatest single-game performance I have ever witnessed.
Moreno ran for what at the time was the Shore Conference record of 420 yards, and he also had like 3 sacks, a fumble recovery and like an 80-yard punt return touchdown that I think got called back. He was absolutely unbelievable in that game, hurdling tacklers and pulling off ridiculous spin moves, and he barely shrugged about it afterward like it was no big deal. People had always wondered what Moreno could do if the coaching staff unleashed him for a full game and that was the answer.
The all-time Knowshon highlight, however, remains him crushing the soul of a Long Branch tackler in the end zone. (At the 1:20 mark below).
Wall coach Dan Curcione has emphasized how much of a difference a year of experience and maturity has made for his senior-laden team, and it clearly showed in a 27-21 comeback win by the No. 6 Crimson Knights over No. 7 RBC on Friday.
The Crimson Knights trailed 21-7 at the half but never panicked, as their defense dominated RBC in the second half (39 yards and 2 first downs) and senior running back Sean Larkin, quarterback Eddie Scott and wideout R.J. Janeczek went to work.
That's a game Wall probably doesn't win in the past few seasons, but the Crimson Knights showed they can close strong against a quality opponent to stay on pace for a potential showdown against Middletown South for the Class B North title in the first week of November. There's a long way to go before that, however, as the relentless B North schedule continues this week with another tough opponent in Middletown North.
All Larkin did on Friday night was run for 163 yards and two touchdowns, make a game-sealing interception on defense and throw a touchdown pass on a halfback option. At halftime, he made the pretzels and hot dogs at the snack bar, played the trumpet in the band and announced the 50-50 winner. In all seriousness, he is the best Wall running back since the days of Blaze Caponegro, who went on to play linebacker at Temple from 2009-2013.
While Wall had some sensational efforts in the win, the play of the game belonged to RBC wide receiver Brandon Lombana. Check out the touchdown catch in which he does his best Randy Moss impersonation by going over the top of the defender to snatch it.
It's a real tribute to the program that L.J. Clark has built at Lakewood that it's getting harder and harder to remember the days when the Piners were a winless laughingstock in the Shore whose program seemingly teetered on the brink of solvency.
Lakewood has now become a perennial contender in Class B South, where the Piners shared the division title last year with Point Boro. They set up a huge showdown with the Panthers this week by pulling out a 30-22 thriller over Lacey with a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game.
Honore Richardson was the hero with a 72-yard punt return for a score to help tie it and then a clutch catch on fourth down that set up the game-winning, 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Zyhier Jones.
The Piners showed how many different ways they can hurt an opponent, scoring through the air and on the ground as well as on the punt return by Richardson and a blocked punt by Josh Lezin that Adi Palmer scooped up and brought back 38 yards for a touchdown. That was enough to hold off the Lions and tailback Jason Giresi, who had 158 yards rushing and a touchdown in the loss.
It looked like the B South race was going to go haywire this weekend as all the division leaders trailed in their games before pulling it out of the fire. In addition to Lakewood's win, unbeaten Point Boro needed a career-high 218 yards rushing by quarterback James Fara, including a 78-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, to rally from a 21-6 hole and beat a much-improved Manchester team by a point.
It took the Panthers' defense stopping a two-point conversion with 1:35 left in the game to lock down a 28-27 victory when Manchester decided to go for two and the win. The victory now sets up the biggest divisional game of the season so far between the two teams that shared last year's title when Point Boro hosts Lakewood on Friday night.
Another team unbeaten in the division, Barnegat, had to dig out of a 15-0 hole in the fourth quarter against winless Jackson Liberty to stay at the top of the standings with a 16-15 victory. A pair of touchdown runs by Jake Schmitz, including a 55-yarder, and a 37-yard field goal by Connor Lustenberger were enough to get it done.
On paper, Mater Dei Prep looked the favorite in the preseason in Class B Central. But given that the Seraphs have never won a division title, they still had to go out and prove it.
They have left no doubt, as they rolled past the team that has had a stranglehold on the division title, Shore Regional, with a 41-7 win on Saturday. Running back Marvin Pierre had three touchdowns and quarterback George Pearson threw for two scores and ran for another. No team has held the unbeaten Seraphs under 35 points this year.
It also was a great day for Pierre in the recruiting department.
Mater Dei Prep can now clinch at least a tie for the Class B Central title by beating Asbury Park on Friday night. It's definitely the dawn of a new era at Mater Dei, which has been fortified by a coach with a championship pedigree in Dino Mangiero, and a host of talented reinforcements who transferred there during the offseason, including Pearson.
---Freehold Township is 5-0 for the first time in school history after a 42-22 win over Perth Amboy in which quarterback Charles Sabbagh threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Adrian Rybaltowski. The Patriots play winless Jackson Liberty this week in a bid to move to 6-0 before facing division rival Howell. Freehold Township is looking to set up a meeting for the Class A North title with the division's 800-pound gorilla, Manalapan, on Nov. 4. The Braves cruised to a 41-8 win over Colts Neck to remain unbeaten.
---That was a huge win, playoff-wise, for Southern. The Rams pulled out a 25-21 victory over Jackson Memorial on a 5-yard touchdown run by junior Joe Miele with 49 seconds left in the game to cap a 19-point fourth quarter comeback. Southern (2-3) vaulted to the sixth spot in power points in South Jersey Group V with the win.
---What a gritty win by Marlboro. The Mustangs (2-3) lose their star, tailback Cameron Caorsi, to an injury in the middle off the game but rally for a 20-14 overtime win against East Brunswick on the road. Johnny Helff, a three-year varsity starter, stepped in and ran for 145 yards in Caorsi's absence to bring it home. They now almost have as many wins as they had combined (3) in the last three seasons.
---Raritan will return starting quarterback Marc Carnivale against Matawan this week after he had been out for three games with a concussion. The Rockets have won two straight after a 42-7 victory over Monmouth in which they rushed for 422 yards, including 335 in the first half, thanks to career-best nights by senior Vito Aleo and sophomore P.J. Buccine. Aleo also had a fun tribute to his spring track teammates as he leaned forward like he was crossing the finish line in a sprint on one of his three touchdown runs.
---Howell has tied its win total from each of the past two seasons after a 24-15 win over Neptune pushed the much-improved Rebels to 3-2. Eddie Morales threw for a pair of scores to lead the way.
---Toms River North entered averaging 50 points per game and actually upped its average with a 55-21 win over Toms River East. The Mariners are turning the "defense wins championships" adage on its head, as that side has been a little shaky. They are more going with the "ridiculously talented offense with a star quarterback and playmakers all over the field wins championships" motto. One of those playmakers, Rutgers recruit Bryce Watts, talked to SSN's Ed Sarluca after the win.