HAZLET — The atmosphere surrounding Red Bank’s football team is as good as it has been in over 10 years, and the Bucs are playing like they never want the ride to come to an end.

Red Bank, ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, continued its fantastic start to the season on Friday night when it defeated No. 10 Raritan 30-14 in a Shore Conference nondivisional game at Joseph DiVirgilio Field. Both teams entered unbeaten, but it was the Bucs that put together a complete effort to get to the midway point of the regular season without a blemish.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Red Bank senior quarterback Jack Navitsky. “As opposed to years past, this is something that hasn’t been around here and us seniors really wanted to bring it back. I can’t even describe it. It feels unreal.”

The Bucs (5-0) ran for 263 yards as a team with a balanced attack. Senior Sadiq Palmer ran for 81 yards and a touchdown, senior running back Alim Godsey ran for 74 yards and a touchdown and junior Tyrese Morris ran for a team-high 83 yards. Navitsky threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Matt Reardon and senior kicker Jack O’Connor kicked field goals of 30, 42 and 22 yards while going 3-for-3 on extra points.

Red Bank’s defense turned in another stout performance against a top team in holding the Rockets (3-1) to 14 points and 236 total yards. Raritan senior running back Derek Ernst ran for a game-high 143 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, scoring on a 60-yard run in the third quarter. Other than that run, however, the Bucs’ defense did not allow Raritan an offense play that gained over 20 yards. In five games Red Bank has allowed 6.8 points per game.

“With every game we get a little more confidence, but every week our eyes are on the prize and that’s to be playing in December,” Navitsky said. “To win a championship has been our goal. We ate diner with the 1975 state championship team last week, and just being around those guys and seeing how happy they are 40 years later because of that one game, I can’t describe the feeling.”

“We have so much respect for coach (Anthony) Petruzzi and Raritan,” said Red Bank head coach Nick Giglio. “To come in here today with both teams undefeated, it was a great game and we were fortunate to come with a “W”. It was a long night with delays and there was a lot of character shown by both teams.”

The game, like most in the Shore Conference on Friday night, was delayed because of the rain and lightning brought on by a band of thunderstorms that swept through Ocean and Monmouth counties. Kickoff was pushed back from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

With each passing week it becomes more evident how much balance Red Bank possesses. The Bucs won with offensive and defensive contributions from up and down the lineup along with getting a big lift from O’Connor in the kicking game.

“The coaching staff has tremendous confidence in all the players, and it shows in practice and games,” Giglio said. “We have Sadiq and he is a tremendous player, but at the same time we have some balance where if you try to load up on him we have running backs and a quarterback that can run the ball.”

O’Connor has been one of the top kickers in the Shore this season and came through in an important game with 12 total points.

“I can’t say enough about (O’Connor), he’s been a huge asset to our team,” Navitsky said. “He’s one of my best friends, and he went from sophomore year being on the soccer field to being out there kicking 42-yarders for us. I can’t help but smile seeing him on the field.”

“He is a weapon for us,” Giglio said. “He’s a great kid and he keeps getting better and better every week.”

O’Connor got to work on Red Bank’s first drive with a 30-yard field goal that produced a 3-0 lead. A 28-yard catch by Palmer on the first offensive play of the game moved the ball into Raritan territory, and the Bucs eventually moved the ball to the 1-yard line. A personal foul call after a run by Palmer moved the ball back to the 16-yard line, however, and the Bucs had to settle for a field goal attempt.

O’Connor’s second field goal came six minutes later in the first quarter to cap a 6-play, 71-yard drive. A 42-yard run by Morris moved the ball to Raritan’s 31-yard line, and although the drive stalled at the 25, O’Connor came through with a 42-yard field goal to make it 6-0.

“At the end of the day we were upset we didn’t get touchdowns there, but as the same time we looked back in the third quarter and were very thankful we had those (nine) points,” Giglio said.

After a three-and-out by Raritan on the next possession, Red Bank took over at its own 21-yard line and marched 79 yards in six plays to take a 13-0 lead. A pass interference call on Raritan moved the ball to the 36, and four straight runs, including a 21-yard rush by Godsey, put the ball at the Rockets 20-yard line. That’s when Navitsky took advantage of the one-on-one coverage against Reardon with a 20-yard touchdown pass. Reardon got behind his defender and Navitsky dropped the ball right in his lap for the score.

“Give credit to Reardon, I can’t say enough about the hard work he put in over the offseason to become a big threat for us,” Navitsky said. “If I see one-on-one coverage with him I don’t doubt he can beat it.”

Red Bank had already stopped Raritan twice on fourth downs to this point, and the Bucs did it again when senior defensive end Sean Naiman stuffed Ernst for one yard on fourth-and-two from the Red Bank 37 early in the second quarter. The Bucs turned right around and moved 64 yards in 12 plays to go up 16-0 on O’Connor’s 22-yard field goal.

Red Bank would take that lead into halftime, but it didn’t take for the Rockets to crack the scoreboard in the second half. On the third play of the third quarter, Ernst finally broke free on a 60-yard touchdown run down the home sideline. Senior Jordan Rodriguez took over for junior Marc Carnivale at quarterback to begin the second half, and threw the 2-point conversion pass to junior Ryan Dickens to make it 16-8 with 11:30 left in the third.

Before that run Ernst had 62 yards and gained just 21 more yards the rest of the way. Even though he nearly ran for 150 yards, Red Bank considered that a win for its defense.

“He is so powerful of a back with speed,” Giglio said. “We tried mixing things up on him and we were fortunate the majority of the time it worked. We were fortunate he didn’t take over the game, and that was our goal.”

“We knew Ernst was a big player for them and he was our focus coming in,” Naiman said.

The Rockets looked like they were in business after senior Jordan Smith intercepted Navitsky and returned it to the Red Bank 6-yard line. On third-and-goal, however, Palmer intercepted Rodriguez in the end zone and returned it to midfield. A penalty brought the ball back to the 23-yard line, but Red Bank had avoided Raritan potentially tying the game with a touchdown and 2-point conversion.

After consecutive three-and-outs by each team, Red Bank started its fifth scoring drive at its own 36-yard line. A penalty for a late hit and a 32-yard completion from Navitsky to Teddy Mitchell helped move the ball to the 6-yard line, and Godsey scored on a second-down run from three yards out to extend Red Bank’s lead to 23-8 with 5:02 left in the third.

A long drive by Raritan once again ended on fourth down when Rodriguez was sacked by junior linebacker Chris Outterbridge for a 6-yard loss on fourth-and-eight. The Rockets scored again to make it 23-14 late through the fourth quarter when senior wide receiver Nick Pasquin scored on an 18-yard catch and run from Rodriguez with 1:49 left.

Red Bank sealed the victory when Palmer ran for a 40-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left to put the Bucs up 30-14.

After narrowly missing out on a playoff spot last season, Red Bank has already done the heavy lifting as far as securing a spot in the postseason. The Bucs are rolling with contributions from every unit and are finding different ways to win games. For a program that has only fleeting success over the past 15 years, it is indeed a welcome sight.


Box Score

No. 9 Red Bank 30, No. 10 Raritan 14


Red BankRaritan
First downs1811
Passing yards9296


Red Bank (5-0) 13 3 7 7 – 30

Raritan (3-1) 0 0 8 6 – 14


Scoring summary

RBR – Jack O'Connor 30-yard field goal

RBR – Jack O'Connor 42-yard field goal

RBR – Jack Navitsky 20-yard pass to Matt Reardon (Jack O'Connor kick)

RBR – Jack O'Connor 22-yard field goal

Rar – Derek Ernst 60-yard run (Jordan Rodriguez to Ryan Dickens)

RBR – Alim Godsey 3-yard run (Jack O'Connor kick)

Rar – Jordan Rodriguez 18-yard pass to Nick Pasquin (pass failed)

RBR – Sadiq Palmer 40-yard run (Jack O'Connor kick)


Individual statistics

Rushing – RBR: Sadiq Palmer 9-81, Alim Godsey 18-74, Teddy Mitchell 4-52, Jack Navitsky 10-25, Tyrese Morris 4-21; Rar: Derek Ernst 27-143, Jarrett Valdez 2-6, Jordan Rodriguez 2-(-2), Marc Carnivale 1-(-7).

Passing – RBR: Jack Navitsky 4-10-1 92; Rar: Jordan Rodriguez 8-15-1 69, Marc Carnivale 6-11-0 27.

Receiving – RBR: Teddy Mitchell 1-32, Sadiq Palmer 1-28, Matt Reardon 1-20, Chris Outterbridge 1-12; Rar: Nick Pasquin 5-44, Jordan Smith 4-38, Jahciere Jones 2-10, Mason Sheehan 1-5, Derek Ernst 2-5.

Interceptions – RBR: Sadiq Palmer 1-33; Rar: Jordan Smith 1-19.

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