WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Freshman safety Mike Basile’s (Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial) interception in the endzone with 1:43 to play, stopped Wagner’s (0-1, 0-0 NEC) drive and sealed Monmouth’s (2-0) 21-16 win over the rival Seahawks on Saturday afternoon.

Mike Basile (Monmouth Athletics)
  • No audio of this game will be available due to technical issues.

Late in the fourth quarter Monmouth’s drive stalled with 3:20 left and the ensuing punt snap went array giving Wagner the ball at the MU 26 yard line. The Seahawks advanced the ball to the Monmouth 13 but two plays later Basile intercepted Wagner quarterback Brian Gehring’s pass in the endzone for MU’s second forced turnover of the day. Without any timeouts remaining for the Seahawks Monmouth was able to run the clock out for their third straight win in the series.

“First of all I have to congratulate our team,” said Monmouth Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “I thought that they did a great job. We knew that this game was going to be one that would go down to the wire. Every game against Wagner seems to have done that. It’s always a full four-quarter football game. it’s always back and forth and you’ve got to take advantage of opportunities  and I thought that our team did an excellent job on both sides of the ball of taking advantage of opportunities, of coming up big in some tough situations and overcoming some adverse situations.”

Senior quarterback Brandon Hill (Audubon, N.J./Audubon [UMass]) threw a pair of touchdown passes and senior running back Kwabena Asante (Silver Spring, Md./James Hubert Blake [WVU]) scored two touchdowns in the win.

Hill completed 20-of-33 attempts through the air for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Asante carried the ball a game-high 20 times for 81 yards and a touchdown, while hauling in four receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Darren Ambush (Dickerson, Md./Urbana) caught four passes for a team-high 61 yards, while Neal Sterling (Belmar, N.J./Manasquan) made two catches for 48 yards. Hakeem Valles (Sicklerville, N.J./Peddie School) reeled in three catches for 25 yards and the first touchdown reception of his career.

Kevin Butler (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway) forced a fumble on the initial Wagner possession that was recovered by Nick Carroll (Bath, N.Y./Bath-Haverling) at the Seahawks’ 35 yard line. Monmouth wasted little time on offense, running six plays for 35 yards and a touchdown. Hill found Asante on a swing pass out of the backfield for a 14-yard touchdown at the 10:43 mark, giving Monmouth a 7-0 lead.

After the two teams exchanged possession, Wagner converted three third down chances before settling for a Bryan Maley 34-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 at the 1:24 mark.

Monmouth responded at the 8:30 mark of the second quarter when Hill capped a nine-play drive covering 74 yards with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Valles. The Hawks then went for two and Greg DePugh (Morris Plains, N.J./Parsippany Hills) connected with Evan Ruane (West Long Branch, N.J./Shore Regional), in spite of an unnecessary roughness penalty, to convert the two-point try and give Monmouth a 15-3 lead with 8:30 left in the first half.

The Hawks got a three-and-out deep in Wagner territory with just over two minutes left in the half. But Monmouth was whistled for running into the kicker, giving the Seahawks new life. Wagner’s hurry-up offense marched down the field and scored on Brandon Peoples’ one-yard run with 17.8 seconds left in the half. The snap on the point after try was botched, resulting in a 15-9 Monmouth lead at the half.

Following a scoreless third quarter in which rain began a factor, the Hawks scored a touchdown early in the fourth, thanks in large part to Asante. The senior running back broke off a 39-yard run to get the Hawks into Wagner territory, caught an 11-yard screen pass and ran into the end zone from 13 yards out. The Hawks went for two, but the try failed, resulting in a 21-9 Monmouth lead with 11:53 left to play.

Wagner immediately responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive, finishing with Gehring’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Smith to cut the Hawks’ lead to 21-16 with 8:24 left to play.

After a stalled Monmouth drive with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter, the Hawks appeared to attempt a fake punt. But the ball could not be handled by one of the up backs and Wagner took over on the Monmouth 26 yard line. The Seahawks advanced the ball to the Monmouth 13, but the Hawks stuffed a run for a two-yard loss and Mike Basile (Brick, N.J./Brick Memorial) intercepted Gehring’s fade pass to the back left corner of the end zone for a touchback to effectively end the game.

Tyler Thompson (Union Bridge, Md./Linganore) and John Sieczkowski (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) had 10 tackles apiece to lead the Monmouth defense. Zak Irizarry (North Brunswick, N.J./North Brunswick) added a sack.

Wagner quarterback Brian Gehring completed 23-of-37 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown. Ralph Greene made a game-high five receptions for 69 yards, while Lloyd Smith had three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Peoples ran for 32 yards and a touchdown.

The Hawks return to action next Saturday, Sept. 20, when they travel to former Northeast Conference foe Duquesne. Kickoff from Rooney Athletic Field is scheduled for noon.

Nest Notes:
-Monmouth has now won three straight against Wagner

-The Hawks won at home against the Seahawks for the first time since the 2003 season
-MU now owns a 12-10 series advantage, playing Wagner all 22 years Monmouth has had football
-Monmouth’s defense registered nine tackles for a loss in the win
-Sieczkowski and Thompson each set career highs with 10 tackles apiece
-Basile, a true freshman, now has two interceptions in two career games
-Both running backs had over 100 all-purpose yards for Monmouth, Asante with 122, Chaney with 118
-All four of Lucas Santangelo’s kickoffs were touchbacks
-Before the INT in the second quarter, Brandon Hill went 82 passes and 6 touchdowns between interceptions (Bryant, Nov. 16 2013)
- Monmouth’s off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2006 and opened the season at home 2-0 for the first time since the 2003 season

Brandon Hill on converted TE Hakeem Valles

“Hakeem  came off of a playing receiver so he’s a very diverse tight-end. He can get up and down the field so he has mismatches all the time when they put backers of even safeties on him. He brings a different aspect of the game with him on the field and he made some big plays today.”

Coach Callahan on Basile’s interception
“Looking at it from where I was on the sideline, it looked like Mike was in a good position as the ball was thrown. It’s going to be in the corner of the end zone, there’s two guys going up for it and I’m hoping our guy comes down with it, that’s for sure.”

Coach Callahan on the Wagner rivalry

“Many times in this twenty-two game series with Wagner. It’s come down to plays like that it crucial moments and you know, there was plays throughout the game i think that that kind of swung the game back and forth for both teams. That’s just the type of rivalry, that’s just the type of series it has been and that play I think was indicative.”

Mike Basile on his interception
“Well we were playing man to man and it was a tight end and I feel confident playing against tight ends. They gave us that route earlier on the previous touchdown so I knew it was coming. When I saw that route, I jumped on it and tried attacking the ball. Coach Clecidor, every day in practice tells us attack the ball when the ball is in the air.”


Gregory Visconi is the assistant Athletic Director at Monmouth University