No. 1 Middletown South Storms No. 6 Brick Memorial in 21-3 Win
BRICK — When the goal is perfection - and it most certainly is for Middletown South - there are going to be plenty of tests along the way that threaten to derail the ultimate goal. Brick Memorial brought that element to the Eagles for Friday night’s nondivisional game, but once again the Eagles had all the answers.
Middletown South, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and No. 1 in New Jersey, scored all three of its touchdowns in the final 5:17 of the first half and the Eagles’ defense stymied one of the conference’s best offenses in a 21-3 Shore Conference nondivisional victory over the No. 6 Mustangs.
The Eagles forced five turnovers and scored points 14 points off two of them, all while allowing just 176 yards of offense to improve to 7-0. Senior tailback Cole Rogers ran for a game-high 102 yards and a touchdown, senior quarterback Matt Mosquera threw for 120 yards and junior running back James McCarthy scored on a pair of short touchdown runs as the Eagles won their fourth straight game against Brick Memorial dating back to 2009.
“We knew it was a big game, a statement game for us,” Rogers said. “I don’t think we played our best, but it shows what kind of team we are. We’re going to carry that into the playoffs.”
“It was a good test,” Mosquera said. “Coach (Steve Antonucci) said after one of our wins that we are playing playoff teams the rest of the season, so it was already like a playoff game.”
McCarthy and senior defensive back Tom Coffey had interceptions while sophomore defensive end Jake Krellin recovered two fumbles and senior linebacker Dylan Rogers recovered another. Middletown South held Brick Memorial’s potent rushing attack to 3.8 yard per carry and allowed the Mustangs to gain just nine first downs. Since a season-opening loss, Brick Memorial’s offense has averaged 40.6 points per game in the five game that followed, and senior quarterback Tim Santiago entered Friday’s game as the Shore Conference’s leading rusher. He finished with 90 yards on 19 carries, going over 1,000 yards for the season, but was never allowed to break free for one of his signature long runs.
“Our defense was lights out tonight,” Antonucci said. “What a great job by (defensive coordinator) Al (Bigos) and his staff. Our linebacking crew, they are as good as it gets.”
Senior Dylan Rogers along with juniors McCarthy and Kevin Higgins were instrumental in shutting down Brick Memorial’s option offense, and junior strong safety Maxx Imsho was also playing near the line of scrimmage and delivering big hits.
Middletown South has allowed just 6.4 points per game this season and recorded three shutouts.
The scoring came in bunches for Middletown South, and it all happened in a flash just before halftime to erase a promising start by Brick Memorial (5-2). Brick Memorial moved the ball to midfield on its first drive, and after forcing the Eagles three-and-out on their first possession, moved 28 yards to set up Matt Cuppari’s 40-yard field goal to open the scoring with 1:42 left in the first quarter.
Middletown South went to its hurry-up, no-huddle offense on its next drive and quickly moved to the Brick Memorial 15, but Mosquera was intercepted by Brick Memorial sophomore Justin Hans. He returned the pick all the way to the Middletown South 32-yard line, and it looked the the Mustangs were about to cash in to extend their lead. But then the turnovers came. A Brick Memorial fumble was recovered by Krellin to squash a good scoring chance, but the Mustangs were able to get the ball back on an interception by senior defensive back Elie Lavarin.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard late in the first half when their biggest offensive gain set up the only touchdown it would need. Mosquera connected with junior Jeremy Joyce for a 50-yard gain on second-and-eight to set up McCarthy’s two-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead with 5:17 left in the half.
“We had some hitches called and I saw Joyce; he’s a tall guy and he’s fast, and he had about four inches on the kid who was only playing five yards off,” Mosquera said. “I knew he could get by him so I checked it to a nine (route) and had him go deep.”
Over the next 12 plays, Middletown South would completely change the complexion of the game by capitalizing on Brick Memorial turnovers. Two plays after the touchdown, McCarthy intercepted Santiago at the Brick Memorial 11-yard line, and he scored two plays later to make it 14-3. On the second play of the Mustangs’ next drive they fumbled again, and this time Dylan Rogers fell on it at the 13-yard line. Cole Rogers was able to punch it in on second-and-goal from two yard out to make it 21-3 with 22 seconds left int the first half.
“I think what makes us pretty good is that in a matter of a few minutes we turned that game around,” Antonucci said. “It’s 7-3 and all of the sudden it’s 21-3. We can get on you very quickly and we’re not going to let you catch up, not with our defense.”
“You can’t turn the ball over three times in the first half and have five or six dumb penalties to a team of their caliber and not expect to be down at halftime,” said Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie. “They made us pay for it.”
With Middletown South getting the ball to start the second half, Brick Memorial needed to get a stop and score immediately after to have a chance. The Mustangs got the first part down when they forced the Eagles to punt from midfield to open the third quarter. Starting from their own 17-yard line, the Mustangs churned their way to the Middletown South 18-yard line after a run by Tony Thorpe. But on first down Coffey intercepted Santiago to end the threat. That was the last time the Mustangs would be able to mount a threatening drive.
Friday’s game was the first time since a Week One 41-21 win over South Brunswick that Middletown South had to break a sweat in the second half. The Eagles entered having scored at least 41 points in every game, and while the Mustangs limited them offensively, they proved again how deeply talented of a team they are.
“To play for a championship you have to be good in all phases of the game,” Mosquera said. “It’s nice to know if one isn’t doing as well the others can pick it up and we can still get wins.”
“I think that’s what makes our team,” Cole Rogers said. “We have so many weapons that you can’t key on one key.”
The playoffs are right around the corner and Middletown South is rolling. If the Eagles have a weakness it hasn’t been exposed, and that’s why they are the No. 1 team in the entire state.
No. 1 Middletown South 21, No. 6 Brick Memorial 3
Middletown South (7-0) 0 21 0 0 – 21
Brick Memorial (5-2) 3 0 0 0 – 3
BM – Matt Cuppari 40-yard field goal
MS – James McCarthy 2-yard run (Matt Mosquera kick)
MS – James McCarthy 3-yard run (Matt Mosquera kick)
MS – Cole Rogers 2-yard run (Matt Mosquera kick)
Rushing – MS: Cole Rogers 22-102, Matt Mosquera 2-10, Samson Dube 1-6, James McCarthy 4-5, Jeff Lewandowski 1-1; BM: Tim Santiago 19-90, Tony Thorpe 18-49, Elie Lavarin 4-18, Justin Bates 4-14.
Passing – MS: Matt Mosquera 11-18-2 120; BM: Tim Santiago 1-5-2 5.
Receiving – MS: Jeremy Joyce 1-50, Spencer Peerless 8-49, Cole Rogers 1-15, Jeff Lewandowski 2-9, James McCarthy 1-8.
Interceptions – MS: James McCarthy 1-10, Tom Coffey 1-3; BM: Justin Hans 1-68, Elie Lavarin 1-0.