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FREEHOLD – When Joe Barsky powered across the goal line with 5:13 left in regulation it was the third time Colts Neck had rallied to within an extra point of tying Freehold. Christian Monteforte was set to attempt the point after, but an opportunity then presented itself for the Cougars to take the lead once and for all.

A 12-men-on-the-field penalty against Freehold moved the ball to the 1-yard line and prompted head coach Matt Ahearn to put his offense back on the field. As it did 39 other times Saturday afternoon, the handoff went to Barsky. And when he plowed into the end zone to give Colts Neck its first lead of the game, the Cougars were on their way to a thrilling 36-35 come-from-behind victory over No. 9 Freehold.

“We talked at the start of the fourth quarter that if we have a long drive and it’s late we’re going to go for two,” Ahearn said. “With (Freehold’s) offense you don’t know what’s going to happen, so we said let’s see what we can do. We got the call and an extra half yard.”

Colts Neck trailed 21-0 after the first quarter, bombarded by an explosive Freehold offense that scored touchdowns on each of its first three offensive plays. But the Cougars never panicked and strayed from their gameplan, slowly chipping away until the pendulum began to swing back in their direction. Barsky, Colts Neck’s senior tailback, rumbled for a career-high 202 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries and junior quarterback Tommy Fallon completed 11 of 19 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, both to John Runfolo. The defense gave up plenty of big plays, but also came up with some clutch stops and received two massive interceptions from senior Matt Scully.

“Freehold got off to a great start and we just kept battling and battling and battling, and it paid off in the end,” Ahearn said. “We figured if we kept ourselves in the game we would have a chance at the end. That’s a credit to (our players) knowing that we have to keep going and we can’t stop. They kept their composure.”

“We knew if we came back and started rallying they would shut off,” Barsky said. “We kept going and pushing hard. After our first touchdown, I knew we were going to pick up the pace.”

Colts Neck’s eight-play drive to start the game short-circuited just shy of midfield, and what followed was a big-play assault by the Colonials that threatened to turn the game into a blowout.

On Freehold’s first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Sha’Kim Shuler threw a quick wide receiver screen to Yahsin Calhoun and Calhoun zoomed 85 yards for a touchdown to give Freehold a 7-0 lead.

Freehold got the ball back on the next series when Jason Lee tipped a pass and Calhoun intercepted it at the 35-yard line. On the next play, the Colonials ran the same play but to the opposite side, and this time Kamore Gill took it 65 yards to the house. Two play, 14 points for Freehold.

Colts Neck moved from its own 28-yard line across midfield and into Freehold territory on its next drive but was forced to punt. Fallon’s punt was downed at the 9-yard line. You can probably guess what happened next.

On Freehold’s third offensive play of the game, Shuler broke free on a quarterback keeper and zipped all the way down the field for a 91-yard touchdown run and a 21-0 lead.

Colts Neck was now in a sizeable hole against a team with an offense that had proven it could literally score on one play from anywhere on the field. The silver lining was that there was still plenty of time left and the Cougars didn’t have to stray from their gameplan.

The comeback began on the next series. Starting from their own 34-yard line, Colts Neck marched 66 yards in nine plays with seven of those plays being runs. The Cougars didn’t abandon their run-first, pro-style offense but went to an up-tempo, no-huddle look on this particular series, and it worked. On 3rd-and-10 from the 34-yard line, Fallon hung in the pocket and delivered a strike to a streaking Runfolo for a touchdown. The extra point was off the mark, but the Cougars were on the board trailing 21-6.

Colts Neck’s defense finally came through with a stop on the next series. Outside of an 18-yard run by Shuler, the Cougars bottled up the Colonials and forced a punt. Taking over from their own 15-yard line, they moved 85 yards in 13 plays to make it a one-score game heading into the half. The two-man running game of Barsky and Fallon did the heavy lifting once again behind an offensive line that continued to win the battle up front. Barsky polished off the drive with a 4-yard plunge and Monteforte’s extra point cut the deficit to 21-13 at the break.

“You can’t prepare for their speed and it took us a quarter (to adjust),” Ahearn said. “They have a stable of backs they can go to and it’s tough to prepare for that game speed, but we adjusted. We allowed two touchdowns after the first quarter.”

“Our main intention was to keep their offense off the field and just keep hammering them,” Barsky said. “Those are some fast kids. They had a lot of speed and that’s what we were mostly worried about. We tried to counter their speed with physicality and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

The surge continued for Colts Neck immediately after halftime when Scully intercepted a slant pass that was behind the receiver, giving the Cougars the ball at the Freehold 33-yard line. Barsky and Fallon pushed the ball to the 20-yard line where on 3rd-and-8 Fallon connected with a wide-open Runfolo again for the tandem’s second touchdown of the afternoon. Now down by two, the decision to go for the 2-point conversion was an easy one. Fallon rolled to his right and found Scully to knot the score at 21.

Colts Neck had scored 21 straight points to tie the game, but just in case anyone forgot about Freehold’s offense, the Colonials reminded everybody on the next offensive play. Gill lined up at quarterback, picked a hole and was gone for a 53-yard touchdown run. Just like that, Freehold was back on top, 28-21.

Undeterred, Colts Neck’s methodical offense went back to work starting at its own 36-yard line. The running game continued to flourish five yards at a time, including a six-yard run by Barsky on 4th-and-1 from the Freehold 34-yard line. Barsky capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and Monteforte’s extra point tied the game at 28.

Freehold had an answer on the next series but this time with a sustained drive. On the final play of the third quarter, Lee made a great catch for a 35-yard gain on 3rd-and-8, putting the ball at the Colts Neck 25-yard line to start the final 12 minutes. After a holding penalty on first down, Shuler called his own number and ripped off a 35-yard touchdown run to give the Colonials a 35-28 lead with 11:34 left in regulation.

Colts Neck moved to the Freehold 37 yard line on the next series but was stopped short on 4th-and-10. The stop was the first by either defense in the last five possessions and had Freehold in position to extend its lead, but on second down, Scully again intercepted a slant thrown behind the receiver to give Colts Neck the ball right back at midfield

From there, the Cougars needed just four plays to reach the end zone. Barsky ran for 15 yards on first down, then found daylight on the right side for a 29-yard gain down to the Freehold 5-yard line. Three plays later, Barsky muscled his way across the goal line for his third touchdown to bring Colts Neck within one point at 35-34.

As the teams were lining up for the extra point, Freehold’s coaching staff realized they had 12 men on the field and frantically pleaded for one player to quickly get back to the sideline. Colts Neck realized this and rushed the snap to ensure it got off while the player was still on the field. The hurried nature of the snap actually forced Monteforte to miss the extra point, but the penalty gave them a do-over and moved the ball to the 1-yard line where Barsky was easily able to cross the plane for two points, giving Colts Neck a 36-35 lead with 5:13 left.

“I didn’t even know we were going to go for it, I was sitting on the bench when he said we’re going for two,” Barsky said. “I was excited. If we’re within five yards of the end zone I’m powering in, I know I’ve got it. That’s always my mentality.”

Freehold still had plenty of time to drive for a go-ahead score, but Colts Neck’s defense was up to the task. The Cougars did not allow a first down on the next series, stopping the Colonials on four straight plays to force a turnover on downs. Now they just needed one first down to ice the game and Barsky and the offensive line delivered with a 16-yard run on 4th-and-3 to clinch the victory.

“We knew it was going to be a fourth-quarter game and that our defense was going to come through when we needed them,” Ahearn said. “We just knew if we kept playing our game eventually we would be able to score some points and stop them a little bit. They realized it’s a four-quarter game. It wasn’t over after one quarter.”

 

Box Score

Colts Neck 36, No. 9 Freehold 35

 Colts NeckFreehold
First downs228
Rushes-yards51-28216-217
Passing11-19-15-11-2
Passing yards153175
Penalties-yards2-105-33
Fumbles-lost0-00-0


 1234F
Colts Neck (2-0)01315836
Freehold (1-1)2107735

 

Scoring summary

F – Yahsin Calhoun 85-yard pass from Sha’Kim Shuler (Kayden Hutchinson kick)

F – Kamore Gill 65-yard pass from Sha’Kim Shuler (Kayden Hutchinson kick)

F – Sha’Kim Shuler 91-yard run (Kayden Hutchinson kick)

CN – John Runfolo 34-yard pass from Tommy Fallon (kick failed)

CN – Joe Barsky 5-yard run (Christian Monteforte kick)

CN – John Runfolo 20-yard pass from Tommy Fallon (Tommy Fallon pass to Matt Scully)

F – Kamore Gill 53-yard run (Kayden Hutchinson kick)

CN – Joe Barsky 4-yard run (Christian Monteforte kick)

F – Sha’Kim Shuler 35-yard run (Kayden Hutchinson kick)

CN – Joe Barsky 1-yard run (Joe Barsky run)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – CN: Joe Barsky 39-202, Tommy Fallon 12-80, Team 1-(-2); F: Sha’Kim Shuler 10-153, Kamore Gill 6-64.

PASSING – CN: Tommy Fallon 11-19-1 153; F: Sha’Kim Shuler 5-10-2 179, Kamore Gill 1-1-0 (-4).

RECEIVING – CN: Matt Scully 5-65, John Runfolo 2-54, Nicholas Villani 4-34; F: Yahsin Calhoun 3-75, Kamore Gill 1-65, Jason Lee 1-35.

INTERCEPTIONS – CN: Matt Scully 2-0; F: Yahsin Calhoun 1-0.

 

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.