By Scott Clayton - Shore Sports Network contributor

MIDDLETOWN – The end result of Middletown South’s 24-21 win over Brick Memorial in a nondivisional game Friday night was not a shocker in itself, but how it came to be is a different story.

The Eagles (5-2), No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, trailed the No. 9 Mustangs 14-0 in the first half, and 21-14 with just 4:18 to play and 89 yards to cover, yet rode the right arm of junior quarterback Matt Mosquera and the hands of junior receiver Tom Coffey to an improbable win. All the more unlikely was that Middletown South had no need for overtime thanks to Mosquera, who nailed the game-winning 22-yard field goal with 1.8 seconds left in the game.

Junior quarterback/kicker Matt Mosquera pointed the way to a comeback victory for Middletown South with 267 yards passing and a touchdown as well as the game-winning field goal in the final second to beat Brick Memorial. (Photo by Middletown South Eagles Football & Cheer)

Mosquera and Coffey connected five times on the final two drives of the game, gaining 93 yards. For the game Mosquera was 25-for-36 passing for 267 yards. Coffey made seven catches for 134 yards and a third-quarter touchdown that briefly tied the game at 14.

“At that point in time it's desperation. We’re playing for a playoff seed and so are they,” Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci said. “You’ve got two great football teams with the same record and the same thing on the line.”

Not content to just go 89 yards for the game-tying score, a penalty and two incomplete passes found the Eagles  in a third-and-15 situation from their own 5-yard line and less than four minutes to play. Mosquera was able to escape pressure to his right and looked set to keep it himself for a long shot attempt to reach the first down marker. He checked downfield just in time to see Coffey breaking open towards the sideline and fired the ball for a 25-yard gain.

“I think (that play) was the make-or-break play,” Mosquera said. “I had to escape the pocket and Tom Coffey…I have all the faith in the world in that guy. He just worked back to me and found the open space.”

The Mustangs (4-3) gifted the Eagles a first down on the next set of downs, committing an offsides penalty on third-and-3. Three plays later, Coffey was at it again, this time snagging a 32-yard pass to the Brick Memorial 3-yard line. Sophomore James McCarthy pounded it in from there to tie the game at 21 with 1:48 to play.

Just 34 seconds later, Middletown South had the ball back at its own 38. Mosquera and Coffey teamed up for two passes for 32 yards, but it was a short pass in the left flat to Spencer Pereless that was the drive’s biggest. Pereless broke free from three Memorial tacklers for a 22-yard gain to the Mustangs’ 11. Two plays later, Mosquera, who also handles the placekicking and punting duties for the Eagles, booted his team to victory from 22 yards out in the final second.

The victory increases the likelihood of The Swamp hosting a game in the Central Jersey Group IV bracket. Brick Memorial still has the possibility of hosting a playoff game in South Jersey Group V, when the tournament begins in three weeks.

“This is what we do,” Brick Memorial coach Walt Currie said after the game. “We play close games and we survive sometimes and we don’t survive sometimes. We’ve got tough kids that are going to give it their all for 48 minutes and that’s what we saw tonight. Tomorrow we are going to look at the film and make corrections and try to be a better football team tomorrow morning than we were tonight.”

Junior quarterback Tim Santiago was valiant in defeat for Brick Memorial, carrying the ball 21 times for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Santiago also linked up with senior receiver Karl Kumm for a 32-yard first-quarter touchdown that gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead. Santiago suffered an injury in the fourth quarter and missed one series but returned to action.

Being held to less than 3 yards per carry, Middletown South adjusted its approach and created a “rushing” attack off wide receiver screen passes on a second-quarter touchdown drive. Mosquera was perfect on the drive, completing all seven of his passes before junior running back Cole Rogers got the Eagles on the scoreboard with a 5-yard touchdown run.

After Brick Memorial had taken a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard Santiago run, McCarthy made a defensive play that kept his team’s hopes alive. A blocked punt gave the Mustangs the ball back deep in Eagles territory, but on third-and-15 from the South 15, McCarthy rushed from his left outside linebacker spot for a strip sack of Joe Hans, who replaced an injured Santiago for one series. McCarthy recovered his own forced fumble for good measure.

“That was a huge play there,” Antonucci said. “Their kicking game is just as good as ours. I’m thinking there we may be down 10, looking to score two touchdowns in a best-case scenario to win the game. It definitely changed the momentum.”

“We knew we had to make a big play,” McCarthy said. “I thought they were going to run the ball since that’s what they were usually doing.”

Middletown South’s defense held Brick Memorial’s offense to minus-4 yards on its last three possessions of the game.

“That’s the history of this game,” Antonucci said. “Every time we play them it seems to come down to something like this.”

Box score

Middletown South 24, Brick Memorial 21

 

Brick Memorial (4-3) 7 7 0 7 - 21
Middletown South (5-2) 0 7 7 10 - 24

B – Santiago 14 run (Cuppari kick)
B – Kumm 32 pass from Santiago (Cuppari kick)
M – Rogers 5 run (Mosquera kick)
M – Coffey 33 pass from Mosquera (Mosquera kick)
B – Santiago 1 run (Cuppari kick)
M – McCarthy 3 run (Mosquera kick)
M – Mosquera 22 FG

Team Stats

.                   Brick Mem. Midd. South
First Downs              13 19
Rushes-Yards         49-185 29-76
Passing                    2-9-0 25-36-1
Passing Yards              65 267
Fumbles-Recovered   2-1 2-2
Punts-Avg                 6-36.2 4-30.8
Penalties                  7-40 3-20

Individual Statistics
Rushing: (B) Santiago 21-69, Owen 20-76, Cathey 5-38, King-Harling 2-4, Lavarin 1-(-2). (M) Rogers 17-60, Mosquera 7-6, McCarthy 3-12, Dube 2-(-2).
Passing: (B) Santiago 2-9-0 65. (M) Mosquera 25-36-1 267.
Receiving: (B) Kumm 2-65. (M) Coffey 7-134, Leandro 8-50, Badrick 4-25, S. Pereless 4-34, Marron 2-24.
Interceptions: (B) Clayton 1-0.