COLTS NECK - After the smoke cleared on the best game of his brilliant career on Saturday, Colts Neck senior tailback Anthony Gargiulo was in no mood to reminisce on a record-setting three years for the Cougars.

After all, the story isn't done being written yet.

Gargiulo exploded for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries as the third-seeded Cougars put up 524 total yards, including 469 on the ground, in a 35-14 win over sixth-seeded Neptune (4-5) in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. Gargiulo went over 3,000 yards for his career in the game to become Colts Neck's all-time leading rusher and also tied the single-season school record of 21 touchdowns.

Colts Neck senior Anthony Gargiulo ran for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns and became the Cougars' all-time leading rusher in a 35-14 win over Neptune in the Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. (Photo by Bill Normile)
Colts Neck senior Anthony Gargiulo ran for a career-high 275 yards and three touchdowns and became the Cougars' all-time leading rusher in a 35-14 win over Neptune in the Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. (Photo by Bill Normile)

However, he was more focused on the fact that it was Colts Neck's third state playoff win in history, second postseason victory in two seasons, and an opportunity to reach the school's first state sectional championship game. The Cougars (8-1) will head to second-seeded Nottingham next Saturday in the semifinals.

"When I'm all dressed up at the (football) banquet, that's when I'll worry about (the records),'' Gargiulo said. "I'm just trying to get to Rutgers right now."

"I couldn't be happier for Anthony,'' said Colts Neck head coach Greg LaCava. "It's something that happened to one of the greatest kids that you'll ever meet. I'm glad he was able to break those records, and it's a huge thing for our program and the community that we're moving on in the playoffs for the second year in a row."

Gargiulo served notice that it was going to be a special day when he took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the game for a 7-0 lead after the first of five extra points by kicker Abby Letson.

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"That set the tone for a long, fast, and tiring game,'' Gargiulo said. "Those hogs up front, they are the whole team. Without them, I couldn't have broken any records, we couldn't have gotten 500 yards (of offense), and we couldn't have won."

"I am one of those people where if we score on the first play of the game, it's like an omen to me,'' LaCava said. "That's a great tone-setter. He's 225 pounds, and he's running away from people in the secondary. That's incredible."

The score remained that way into the second quarter, when Neptune threatened to tie it when it drove to Colts Neck's 26-yard line, but sophomore defensive back Jordan DeGroot stripped a receiver following a fourth-down catch for a fumble recovery that ended the drive. It was emblematic of a day in which Neptune piled up 354 yards of total offense, including a career-high 189 yards rushing by junior Jaree Parrish, but had trouble finishing drives.

Colts Neck took the momentum from the turnover and went 81 yards in four plays, helped by a 46-yard bomb from junior quarterback Christian Sanchez to wideout Dan Calabro, to take a 14-0 lead on a 28-yard burst by senior fullback Mike Ververka with 8:13 left in the half.

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Again, Neptune mounted another drive into Cougars territory but came up empty after a fumble recovery by Colts Neck senior John Miller at the Cougars' 22-yard line. Colts Neck then went on a six-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with a 48-yard touchdown run by Gargiulo for a 21-0 advantage that the Cougars took into halftime. Gargiulo had 160 yards rushing at the break to lead the way while running behind an offensive line that dominated.

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"I sat the offensive line and our tight ends down on Monday and I told them, 'We need you to dominate the line of the scrimmage in the playoffs,''' LaCava said. "We can't get put into a situation where we're trying to get to the perimeter against a team like Neptune because it's not going to happen. I give them all the credit in the world."

Neptune cut into the lead in the third quarter with a 10-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by senior running back Byron Campbell to make it 21-7 with 1:44 left in the period. Colts Neck answered immediately with a five-play, 85-yard drive keyed by a 28-yard run from junior Abdul Quddus that ended with a 22-yard touchdown run by Gargiulo for a 28-7 advantage with 11:50 left in the game.

The Colts Neck defense, which was led by a brilliant performance from senior linebacker/defensive end Nick Volpe (2 sacks, 2 TFL), came up with a stop on Neptune's ensuing possession and then the Cougars put the game away. Quddus, who had a career-high 150 yards rushing on only 10 carries, scored on a 42-yard touchdown run in which he pulled off a spin move in traffic while throwing down a defender for a 35-7 lead with 8:15 left in the game.


Neptune kept fighting, cutting the lead to 35-14 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Shakeem Richardson to Campbell and then recovering the ensuing onside kick. The Scarlet Fliers drove down to Colts Neck's three-yard line, but the Cougars stuffed Richardson on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line to ice the win.

"We had to stop that quarterback because he is dangerous,'' said Gargiulo, who is also a standout linebacker. "We were getting a little lazy at the end, but we held it all together and played our hardest."

Box score

Colts Neck 35, Neptune 14

.                                       C                     N

First downs                  19                      19

Rushes-yards           39-469              47-264

Passing                     2-4-0                 13-18-0

Passing yards            55                       90

Fumbles-lost            1-0                       3-2

Penalties                  2-15                    5-25

Neptune (4-5)        7 14 0 14 - 35

Colts Neck (8-1)    0  0  7  7  - 14

Scoring summary

C: A. Gargiulo 78-yard run (Letson kick).

C: Ververka 28-yard run (Letson kick).

C: A. Gargiulo 48-yard run (Letson kick).

N: Campbell 1-yard run (Daly kick).

C: A. Gargiulo 22-yard run (Letson kick).

C: Quddus 42-yard run (Letson kick).

N: Campbell 13-yard pass from Richardson (Daly kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - C: A. Gargiulo 19-275, Quddus 10-150, Ververka 3-34, Sanchez 7-10. N: Parrish 25-189, Richardson 14-52, Campbell 6-18, Daly 1-6, Union 1-(-1).

Passing - C: Sanchez 2-4-0 55. N: Richardson 13-18-0 90.

Receiving - C: Ververka 1-9, Calabro 1-46. N: Ellington 5-35, Day 2-4, Campbell 2-17, King 2-26, Parrish 1-2, Union 1-6.



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