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MANASQUAN – When a team is forced to play younger players out of necessity rather than luxury, the end result is usually not very good. The hopeful pay off, however, is that when those players have physically and mentally matured to the point they can now be viable varsity starters, the experienced they earned under fire will allow them to hit the ground running.

That was the plan for Manasquan both during and after the 2019 season, and in the first game of the 2020 high school football season, the Warriors saw plenty of dividends.

Sophomore quarterback Brett Patten completed 9 of 11 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a touchdown, sophomore tailback Jhamier Howard ran for 77 yards and two scores, junior fullback Cole Kozlowski had a touchdown run, a touchdown catch and an interception and senior wide receiver Jack Collins had four catches for 101 yards as Manasquan took apart Asbury Park, 38-15, on a picturesque Saturday afternoon at Vic Kubu Warrior Field.

The Warriors opened a 28-0 halftime lead that ballooned to 38-0 in the fourth quarter. Asbury Park stopped the mercy rule running clock with a late touchdown and added another against Manasquan’s backups, but it was a game that was thoroughly controlled by the Big Blue.

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“Last year we threw them all to the wolves,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price. “They were stepping in against Donovan Catholic and RBC and they were deer in headlights. We told them, you’re not going to see people like that anymore and you’re a lot bigger and stronger than last year. We were hoping they would be more confident this year and they are.”

It wasn’t just the final score that was impressive for the Warriors, it was the manner in which they accumulated five touchdowns and one field goal. Manasquan’s offense has long revolved around a power running game – and still does – but usually, the Warriors are passing the ball to keep teams honest and take advantage of defenses packing the box with defenders. On Saturday, the Warriors threw the ball for chunk plays and were dangerous through the air. It was an eye-opening aesthetic.

During the preseason it was Patten and Kozlowski working in at quarterback as Price and his assistant coaches were trying to figure out where to fit all the pieces. They decided on starting Patten under center and putting Kozlowski at fullback where he is a threat as a blocker, runner and receiver.

“Koz is a hell of a football player on both sides of the ball and, really, he can play anywhere,” Price said. “And even as a freshman you could see Patten was going to be a very dynamic player. He hasn’t even scratched the surface of where he’s going to be.”

Patten finished the game completing 82 percent of his passes for 195 yards, 175 of which came in the first half. He had seven completions of 20 or more yards and also made plays with his legs, scoring on a 7-yard run in the second quarter and scrambling like a mad man before launching a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kozlowski. The dual-threat element he brings to the quarterback position is something Manasquan has not had in quite a while.

“It allows you to be a whole lot more flexible than we’ve been in the past,” Price said. “I’m going to make about a dozen kids upset, but I don’t think we’ve had a quarterback this good since Eji Paige (Class of 1996) and Dave Tolan (Class of 1992 who played at Virginia Tech). Dave was a pocket passer and Eji had that wiggle and a hell of a ball fake, and Patten is probably a combination of the two of them. He’s something the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Manasquan asserted itself on the opening drive by going 43 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The running game moved the to the Asbury 15-yard line before a sack brought up a 4th-and-18 play. Patten threw a jump ball for the 6-foot-5 Collins, who easily boxed out the defensive back for a 20-yard catch and a first down at the 4-yard line. Three players later, Kozlowski powered into the end zone from the 1-yard line to give Manasquan a lead it would not relinquish.

The Warriors quickly regained possession when junior linebacker Ryan Burns intercepted Asbury Park quarterback Jai’Sun Brown at the Blue Bishops’ 33-yard line. Two plays later, Howard found a crease and turned it into a 28-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 Manasquan lead.

The lead grew to 21-0 early in the second quarter off another turnover forced by the Manasquan defense. After a completion, senior linebacker Tommy Rice poked the ball free and junior linebacker Jack Burns smothered the loose ball to give the Warriors great field position at the Asbury 38-yard line.

A 16-yard run by Patten on third-and-7 moved the chains and on second down from the 25-yard line, Patten escaped a would-be sack, sprinted to the home sideline and fired a pass to a wide-open Kozlowski in the end zone for a highlight-reel touchdown.

“It was exactly how (offensive coordinator Lou) Certo drew it up, with the squiggles and everything,” Price said.

Manasquan’s fourth touchdown of the first half came later in the second quarter, but it could have easily been a five or six touchdown lead if not for a couple of mistakes. After the Patten to Kozlowski touchdown, Manasquan forced a three-and-out and Howard returned the punt 60 yards for a touchdown. It was called back, however, due to a block-in-the-back penalty. The Warriors instead started from their own 38-yard line but quickly moved into the red zone thanks to completions of 32 and 30 yards from Patten to Collins. On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, however, Manasquan fumbled and Asbury Park recovered at the 1-yard line.

Asbury Park was able to move out from the shadow of its own goalposts and across midfield, but an ill-advised throw from Brown was easily intercepted by Kozlowski at the Manasquan 10-yard line. From there, Manasquan mounted a quick-strike drive that was keyed by completions of 31 and 24 yards from Patten to senior wide receiver Aidan Accisano. Patten polished off a great first half with a rushing touchdown with one second left.

The lead grew to 31-0 in the third quarter when a 23-yard field goal by sophomore Jack Dettlinger capped a seven-play, 44-yard drive. Dettlinger was filling in for Robert Pendergist, Manasquan’s dynamic junior wide receiver/defensive back/kicker who was on the sideline but not in uniform.

After the defense forced another three-and-out, junior Patrick Woodford returned a punt 46 yards to the Asbury Park 4-yard line and on the next play Howard scored his second touchdown of the day to make it 38-0 with 4:56 left in the third quarter.

Asbury Park got on the board when Brown connected with Mikai Brown-Jones on a slant that the returning second-team All-Shore wideout turned into a 25-yard touchdown. Na’Jier Massie ran in the two-point conversion to make it 38-8. A 7-yard touchdown in the final seconds from Jai’Sun Brown to junior wideout Lydell Brown accounted for the final margin.

Two victories were had on Saturday afternoon, the one the scoreboard showed the one that came with simply putting on the pads and playing a high school football game in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The week after (Fourth of July) we had something like 75 cases in two towns,” said Price, who is also a volunteer firefighter and lifeguard in Manasquan. “It’s always better when you win, but everybody on the sideline and everybody I spoke to today was smiling ear to ear.”

“I think to a person if you asked in late July/August if we were ever going to play a game, no one thought we’d be out here. Just getting on the field and taking a snap in the game would be a victory for anybody.”

One year after suffering a rare losing season yet setting an invaluable foundation, Manasquan saw the fruits of its labor. Now it’s time to see just how good the 2020 Warriors can be.

“It’s up to them,” Price said. “The sky is the limit for these kids, it really is.”

 

Box Score

Manasquan 38, Asbury Park 15

 Asbury ParkManasquan
First downs1014
Rushes-yards18-9838-154
Passing10-20-29-11-0
Passing yards111195
Penalties-yards2-177-65
Fumbles-lost3-12-1


 1234F
Asbury Park (0-1)0001515
Manasquan (1-0)141410038

 

Scoring summary

M – Cole Kozlowski 1-yard run (Jack Dettlinger kick)

M – Jhamier Howard 28-yard run (Jack Dettlinger kick)

M – Cole Kozlowski 25-yard pass from Brett Patten (Jack Dettlinger kick)

M – Brett Patten 7-yard run (Jack Dettlinger kick)

M – Jack Dettlinger 23-yard field goal

M – Jhamier Howard 4-yard run (Jack Dettlinger kick)

AP – Mikai Brown-Jones 25-yard pass from Jai’Sun Brown (Na’Jier Massie run)

AP – Lydell Brown 7-yard pass from Jai’Sun Brown (Jai’Sun Brown kick)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – AP: Emon Morales 2-32, Jai’Sun Brown 4-31, Na’Jier Massie 7-21, Knasir Alston 2-10, Exiever Chathuant 2-6, Mikai Brown-Jones 1-(-2); M: Jhamier Howard 13-77, Patrick Woodford 7-28, Brett Patten 5-27, Cole Kozlowski 7-24, #10 1-4, #35 1-0, #34 2-(-3), #44 2-(-3).

PASSING – AP: Jai’Sun Brown 10-20-2 111; M: Brett Patten 9-11-0 195.

RECEIVING – AP: Mikai Brown-Jones 5-70, Na’Jier Massie 1-19, Lydell Brown 2-14, Knasir Alston 2-8; M: Jack Collins 4-101, Aidan Accisano 2-55, Cole Kozlowski 2-39, Jhamier Howard 1-0.

INTERCEPTIONS – M: Cole Kozlowski 1-13, Ryan Burns 1-7.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.