No. 8 Red Bank Stuns No. 2 RBC, 24-21
LITTLE SILVER — There have been some lean times at Red Bank over the last 10 years, but on a field that had been swallowed by a joyous celebration of players, coaches, students and fans alike, those rough moments were the distant past.
Red Bank, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, pulled off a stunning upset for one of the program’s biggest victories when it took down No. 2 Red Bank Catholic, 24-21, on Friday night in a mammoth Class B North game between undefeated teams. Senior quarterback Jack Navitsky scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 57-yard run midway through the fourth quarter and the Bucs defense stopped the Caseys on fourth down with 1:57 left to play for a win that sent shockwaves throughout the Shore Conference.
Red Bank had not defeated Red Bank Catholic since 2004, and has not had a winning season since 2003. During that span, Red Bank Catholic rose to become the standard in the Shore Conference, piling up eight, nine and 10-win seasons and, last season, winning the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III title. The programs were basically polar opposites heading into this season. Now Red Bank is the team on top, and the team without a loss halfway through the year.
“You can say any word you want to describe it, but it’s huge,” Navitsky said. “I don’t really know how else to say it.”
The atmosphere before, during and after the game said plenty. The home crowd was as loud as you’ll hear for a high school game and stormed the field to celebrate following Navitsky’s final kneel down.
“Words can’t describe the emotion we’re feeling right now,” said senior running back Alim Godsey. We just had to believe, and we did.”
Red Bank is now 6-0 with two games remaining before the state playoff cutoff. The Bucs need only to defeat Long Branch on Thanksgiving to clinch the division title outright.
Godsey finished with 120 yard rushing and two touchdowns to lead a 260-yard effort on the ground, while senior Sadiq Palmer finished with 73 yards and a touchdown. One of the reasons Red Bank is unbeaten is a balanced offense, and in coming out and running the ball for success immediately, the Bucs sent a message that they were not intimidated in the trenches. It also allowed them to use their full playbook and be equally as threatening on the ground and through the air. The offensive line of seniors Ricky Wild, Colin Young, Phil Bonanno, Tyriik Murad, and junior Conor McCarthy, along with senior tight end Sean Naiman, proved their value in a big way.
“This is a group that enjoys being lineman, and being returning starters they are also savvy and physical enough,” said Red Bank head coach Nick Giglio. “They are playing with confidence.”
“Just that drive,” Navitsky said, referring to the opening drive of the game in which Red Bank drove to the RBC 25-yard line but fell behind 7-0 after a Caseys defensive touchdown. “We didn’t score and that then it went the other way, but it gave us confidence. “
I think I’m going to have to take those guys out to dinner or something.”
The Bucs defense entered as one of the top units in the Shore, allowing just under seven points per game, and were once again up for the task against the Caseys’ stout rushing attack. Red Bank limited Red Bank Catholic to just 172 yards of offense, including 125 on the ground. Senior defensive lineman Righteon Johnson had a key sack late in the game and was around the ball all game, and senior defensive back Kevine Jackson had the initial hit on the fourth-down stop.
“We are what we are on the (defensive) line, and that’s lean and athletic, and we’re going to do things to allow them to make plays,” Giglio said. “They came out and made some huge stops late in the game.”
Navitsky finished with 146 total yards and the game-winning touchdown in rushing for 63 and going 8-of-13 for 83 yards. Palmer also caught six passes for 65 yards to finish the game with 138 total yards on 16 touches.
Senior running back Dylan Murphy scored on touchdown runs of one and three yards for Red Bank Catholic, and senior quarterback Eddie Hahn ran for a team-high 70 yards.
The initial drive saw Red Bank (6-0, 5-0) move to the Red Bank Catholic (5-1, 4-1) 25-yard line thanks to a 26-yard run by Godsey. A quick swing pass on second down from Navitsky to Teddy Mitchell was dropped and picked up by RBC senior defensive back Mike Balzofiore. The play was ruled a backward pass and Balzofiore sprinted 67 yards for the touchdown, and Colin Shaughnessy’s extra point gave the Caseys an early 7-0 lead.
One of the questions for Red Bank entering the game was how it would respond to pressure, and coming off what could have been a deflating mistake, the Bucs proved the moment wasn’t too big for them. On the ensuing drive, Red Bank marched 72 yards in 11 plays and tied the game at seven on a 15-yard touchdown run by Godsey, who carried five times for 44 yards on the drive.
The teams traded punts on the next two possessions before Red Bank Catholic started a drive at its own 20 early in the second quarter. The Caseys moved to midfield when they were stopped on third down and forced to punt, but caught a break when the fair catch was muffed and recovered by senior Zack Bair at the 17-yard line. The 33-yard gain on another Bucs miscue was the opening RBC needed to take the lead, which it did on a 1-yard run by Murphy with 4:32 left in the first half.
That would not deter Red Bank, however. The Bucs started from their own 34-yard line and quickly got into Caseys territory on consecutive catches by Palmer. He caught a 10-yard pass on second down, then two plays later found room over the middle on a 31-yard catch and run down to the Red Bank Catholic 21-yard line. A 10-yard run by Godsey gave the Bucs first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, and on third down Palmer lunged across the goal line on a second effort to tie the score at 14 with 40 seconds left until halftime.
“At halftime we didn’t dwell on the negatives,” Giglio said. “We said it’s 14-14 and we’re right where we want to be. We have two quarters left, so go get what you want. And they did.”
Red Bank Catholic would be the one to pull in front for a third time early in the second half when it began the third quarter with a seven-play, 60-yard drive to take a 21-14 lead. Hahn was key on the drive with three carries for 45 yard, and Murphy finished it off with a 3-yard plunge.
After each team punted, Red Bank got the ball at its own 16 for the start of an important drive that would set up the go-ahead score. The Bucs moved 84 yards over 12 plays and secured points on a 36-yard field goal by senior Jack O’Connor, making it 21-17 with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter. Palmer had a 16-yard run on the drive and also a clutch eight-yard reception on third-and-sever after the Bucs were pushed back to a first-and-24.
Red Bank’s defense then came up with the first up its two fourth-quarter stops to send the Caseys’ offense away after three plays. Johnson sacked Hahn on third-and-five for a 10-yard loss that had the crowd in a frenzy. That led the one-play drive where Navitsky delivered the winning score for an epic win. A block in the back penalty on first down wiped out a nine-yard run, and a false start made it first-and-2 from the 43-yard line.
“It was just an ISO play to the right and I bounced it back left,” Navitsky said. “As soon as I saw a little crease I just exploded toward the end zone.”
“We’re just trying to move the ball downfield a little on that play, and Jack is a patient runner,” Giglio said. “They were doing a great job on our strong side and he was able to cut it back against the grain. All 5-foot-7 and a half of him snuck through the hole, he picked up a block and he was off to the end zone.”
O’Connor’s extra point made it 24-21 with 6:04 left in the game, plenty of time for the Caseys, who also had all three timeouts remaining, to mount a drive. RBC started the drive in good position at its own 44-yard line, and quickly moved to the Red Bank 30 on runs by Hahn and senior Mike Wilen. A seven-yard completion from Hahn to sophomore Matt Ansell brought up third-and-3, and Wilen was stopped for one-yard gain to bring up fourth-and-two from the 22-yard line. On fourth down, Hahn kept the ball with a keeper to the right side and was met right at the sticks by Jackson who pushed him back a yard where he was swarmed by the Bucs defense. At field level he appeared to have gained a first down, but the ball was spotted just shy of the 20-yard line. An official measurement revealed Hahn had been stopped just inches short, allowing Red Bank to take over on downs with 1:57 left in the game.
From there it was five straight runs by Palmer for 37 yards, including first-down gaining runs of 19 and 9 yards to clinch the win and set off a jubilant celebration.
“It definitely hasn’t hit me yet that we finally just beat RBC,” Palmer said. “We all wanted it so bad. We came together as a family and got the win.”
The unifying line each Red Bank player talked about Friday night was the true belief they had what it took to take down a giant like Red Bank Catholic. When you’ve lost 53-0, 49-6 and 47-0 to an opponent the last three years, there’s going to need to be some convincing statements made, however. Red Bank had zero chance against RBC those last three games. This season they are clearly a better team, but they knew exactly how good they were, and then went out on the field and proved it.
“This week at school was great, and our crowd clearly believed we were going to win this game, but if I went out around town people would say ‘Good luck, go get ‘em’, and I would say ‘Thank you we’re going to come out on top’, they would give me a little smirk basically saying, ‘No you’re not’,” Navitsky said.
“We have kids from our own town that go to RBC because they though our program wasn’t good enough. We believed, and to come out on top like this, there’s not better feeling,” Navitsky said.
No. 8 Red Bank 24, No. 2 Red Bank Catholic 21
Red Bank Catholic
Red Bank Catholic (5-1, 4-1) 7 7 7 0 – 21
Red Bank (6-0, 5-0) 7 7 0 10 – 24
RBC – Mike Balzofiore 67-yard fumble return (Colin Shaughnessy kick)
RBR – Alim Godsey 15-yard run (Jack O'Connor kick)
RBC – Dylan Murphy 1-yard run (Colin Shaughnessy kick)
RBR – Sadiq Palmer 3-yard run (Jack O'Connor kick)
RBC – Dylan Murphy 3-yard run (Colin Shaughnessy kick)
RBR – Jack O'Connor 36-yard field goal
RBR – Jack Navitsky 57-yard run (Jack O'Connor kick)
Rushing – RBC: Eddie Hahn 15-70, Mike Wilen 11-41, Dylan Murphy 7-14; RBR: Alim Godsey 15-120, Sadiq Palmer 10-73, Jack Navitsky 10-63, Tyrese Morris 1-3, Teddy Mitchell 2-1.
Passing – RBC: Eddie Hahn 5-10-0 51; RBR: Jack Navitsky 8-13-0 83.
Receiving – RBC: Mike Balzofiore 2-22, Liam McArdle 1-12, Daniel Lukawski 1-10, Matt Ansell 1-7; RBR: Sadiq Palmer 6-65, Matt Reardon 2-18.