Nicco Maribo’s Fumble Return TD in Final Seconds Sends Unbeaten Brick Memorial Past Brick
BRICK - Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie summed it up perfectly when trying to wrap his head around the stunning fumble return touchdown by senior Nicco Maribo inside the final minute that sent the Mustangs to a heart-stopping win over their biggest rival on Friday night.
"He's gonna be telling his grandkids about that when he's 90,'' Currie said.
With all hope seemingly lost and Brick looking to run out the clock after a big interception with 1:03 left in the game, the unbeaten Mustangs pulled out a 19-14 victory that will go down as the "Miracle in the Mud" in one of the biggest thrillers in the history of the rivalry.
Standout sophomore linebacker Trey Tallmadge set up Maribo's heroics by stripping Brick ballcarrier Jake Toye, who had played a sensational all-around game for the Green Dragons. Maribo, who is also a baseball player, was right there at his outside linebacker spot to scoop it up like a shortstop. He took off for a 27-yard fumble return touchdown without slipping on the muddy surface for a 19-14 lead that sent the rain-soaked home crowd at DiFabio Field into pandemonium with 48.9 seconds left in the game.
"I was sitting outside, waiting for something to happen," Maribo said. "I saw it come out, and I picked it up and I was just kind of waiting for the whistle to blow it dead, that he was down, and I didn't hear it, so I kept going. It's just crazy."
"I've never seen anything like that," said Currie, who is in his 17th season as the Mustangs coach. "I've seen some crazy stuff. I haven't seen it all, but I'm one step closer to seeing it all after that."
The victory cemented the first undefeated regular season in history for the Mustangs (9-0, 5-0), who are ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16. It clinched the outright Independence Division title for Brick Memorial, which will most likely be a No. 2 seed in the NJSIAA Group 4 playoffs that will be determined this weekend. The Mustangs also dashed the state playoff hopes of the rival Green Dragons (4-5, 2-3), who dropped their fifth straight game.
It's Brick Memorial's first win over Brick in their annual rivalry game since 2020 and just their second in their last 11 meetings.
"Ever since that last day last year when they beat us, I saw all my seniors laying on the ground crying from the loss because it hurt them so much," said Maribo, who also had a pass break-up in the end zone on fourth down in the first half.
"They tell us not to take it personal, but for me I took it personal. I got a lot of friends in that senior class. I was telling them all week it is business, but it's personal to some of us."
Brick Memorial was thwarted on a two-point conversion attempt following Maribo's touchdown and needed one last stop on defense. The Green Dragons tried a desperation hook-and-lateral on fourth down from their own 45-yard line. Brick Memorial senior cornerback Johnny Poukish was right on it to make the tackle and seal the win.
Brick Memorial star quarterback Connor Dietz led the offense with 170 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on a night where it was difficult for him to maneuver in the muddy slop of the soaked field.
"This definitely takes the cake," Dietz said. "This definitely will be the memory I'll never forget on the football field."
Brick had taken a 14-13 lead when Toye lined up in the wildcat and scored on a 4-yard run and senior kicker Kurt Wieboldt Jr. added the extra point with 42 seconds left in the third quarter. The crucial play came when senior quarterback Christian Booker hit senior Travis Trempy for a 13-yard gain to the 1-yard line on third down.
The teams traded possessions in the fourth quarter before Brick Memorial got the ball back at its own 36 with 6:56 left in the game. The Mustangs drove to Brick's 38-yard line, helped by a defensive holding penalty on fourth down that kept the drive alive. Dietz then slipped in the mud on two straight run plays to bring up fourth down.
His pass down the middle was picked off by Brick junior safety Gavin Maffei for what looked like it might be the game-clinching interception with 1:03 left in regulation.
"I'm not going to lie I was pretty upset," Maribo said. "It's hard to come back from that, but I got really good teammates and a couple of them came up to me and said, 'Calm down, we're still good. We're in this.' And I trusted them."
"When I threw the interception, as heartbreaking as it was, I knew with two minutes left that this team could definitely do something with the ball," Dietz said. "Whether we got it back or whether we did it on defense, I knew that we could make a play."
Brick Memorial still had all three of its timeouts, but only had to use one because Maribo took the fumble back on the Green Dragons' second play after the turnover.
"I really thought they were coming out to knee the ball, but I'm sure they won't do that again," Maribo said about running it in that spot.
The game was tied 7-7 at halftime after a 2-yard touchdown run by Dietz and then a 48-yard bomb from Booker to sophomore wideout Germaine Rice.
Brick Memorial took the lead with 6:27 left in the third quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Dietz that was set up by his own 44-yard run down the sideline. The extra point went off the right upright to keep it at 13-7 before Brick went ahead on Toye's touchdown run.
Maribo then had the final say for a win the Mustangs won't soon forget.
"That was an unbelievable play by our defense to stand him up, and an unbelievable play to strip him," Currie said. "I'm so happy for Nicco. He plays with so much passion. He deserved that."