Piscataway Stops Manalapan’s Bid for Perfect Season in Central Jersey Group V Final
PISCATAWAY — Manalapan had its sights set on winning the program’s second sectional championship and becoming the first undefeated team in program history, but Piscataway had other ideas on Saturday morning.
The Chiefs dominated from start to finish, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for a 34-13 win to claim the Central Jersey Group V championship at High Point Solutions Stadium. Senior running back Elijah Barnwell ran for 185 yards and three touchdowns while the Chiefs’ defense bottled up Manalapan’s offense to the tune of 154 total yards. Piscataway jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime and never looked back.
“They were better in every single aspect of the game, and that includes being more physical than us,” said Manalapan head coach Ed Gurrieri. “We couldn’t get off them and we couldn’t get anything going. We were just behind the eight ball the whole game.”
Junior running back Naim Mayfield ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries for the Braves (11-1), but most of those yards came on two drives, including the final possession of the game when Piscataway was already up 34-7. It was a complete effort from a Chiefs (10-2) team that won the program’s ninth sectional title and exacted revenge from a 21-10 loss to Manalapan during the regular season.
Manalapan couldn't get anything going in the first half, going three-and-out on its first four possessions before finally gaining a first down late in the half. Piscataway out-gained the Braves 187 to 4 in the first two quarters.
“We had two weeks to get ready and the first play of the game we trip and fall on a play we run a thousand times,” Gurrieri said. “That’s how the day started and it never got any better.” It was more of the same in the second half as Piscataway got the ball to start the third quarter and went right down the field to take a 20-0 lead. Nahjir Taylor took a reverse 11 yards for a touchdown on fourth-and-two to cap a six-play, 51-yard drive.
Manalapan’s offense finally got on track on the ensuring possession and drove 92 yards in 11 plays to cut the deficit to 20-7. Mayfield had a 30-yard run and then a 20-yard run to move the ball across midfield and inject some life into the Manalapan sideline. Mayfield then corralled a screen pass and broke two tackles to pick up 13 yards on third-and-10, and after runs of 12 and 16 yards, punched it in on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
With a large and talented junior class there’s a good chance Manalapan will be back competing for a state championship next season, but that did nothing to ease the sting of disappointment as the Braves lost in a state final for the fourth time time in five appearances in the last six years.
“I’m upset for my seniors,” Gurrieri said. “They were kind of overlooked, they were sophomores when we won a championship, and everybody talks about the juniors. But those guys are my leaders. You only get one chance in life to be a senior.”
Piscataway 34, Manalapan 13
Piscataway (10-2) 0 14 6 14 — 34
Manalapan (11-1) 0 0 7 6 — 13
P — Elijah Barnwell 4-yard run (Michael Stalenyj kick)
P — Elijah Barnwell 5-yard run (Michael Stalenyj kick)
P — Nahjir Woods 10-yard run (kick failed)
M — Naim Mayfield 1-yard run (Cody Weiner kick)
P — Elijah Barnwell 2-yard run (Michael Stalenyj kick)
P — Nick Recine 0-yard blocked punt return (Michael Stalenyj kick)
M — Naim Mayfield 18-yard run (kick not attempted)
RUSHING — P: Elijah Barnwell 29-185, Juwon Jackson 15-92, Danny Haus 4-16, Nahjir Woods 2-15, Trey Hogan 1-4, Rodney Williams 1-2; M: Naim Mayfield 25-160, Chris Maksimik 3-2, Luke Corcione 3-(-22).
PASSING — P: Danny Haus 1-4-0 8; M: Luke Corcione 6-12-2 14.
RECEIVING — P: Trey Hogan 1-8; M: Naim Mayfield 2-16, Scott Scherzer 2-8, Joseph Sciolo 1-(-2), Gage Ciorciari 1-(-8).
INTERCEPTIONS — P: Brevin Donerson 1-9, Elijah Barnwell 1-1.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.