Sayreville Capitalizes on Turnovers to Rally Past Middletown North for North 2, Group IV Championship
PISCATAWAY — The best season of Middletown North football in 20 years had everything but the storybook ending.
The Lions fell to Sayreville, 41-14, in the NJSIAA North 2, Group IV championship game on Saturday afternoon at Rutgers’ High Point Solutions Stadium as the Bombers rallied from a 14-0 deficit by forcing five turnovers in the second half that resulted in 34 points.
“We turned the ball over five times in the second half and it’s hard to win that way,” said Middletown North head coach Steve Bush. “We’ve been pretty good all year about taking care of the ball and getting turnovers, but we didn’t do that today. (Sayreville) is a good football team and you turn the ball over that many times they’re going to score.”
A 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brandon Cenci with 1:59 left in the third quarter put the Bombers up for good and delivered the program its fifth sectional title and first since 12-0. Sayreville infamously had its 2014 season cancelled after three games because of a hazing scandal, but just two years later the Bombers are back on top as a state champion.
Middletown North senior quarterback Donald Glenn threw for 191 yards and a touchdown to finish his career as the Shore Conference’s all-time leader in passing yards with 7,498 and passing touchdowns with 71. Senior wide receiver Dwight Wilkerson caught seven passes for 108 yards and senior Brendan Kube had six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions came out of the gate on fire to take a 14-0 lead as Glenn found Kube for a 19-yard touchdown on the opening drive and junior running back Connor Welsh ran for a 17-yard touchdown with 2:34 left in the first quarter. Sayreville cut the deficit to 14-7 on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Jayson DeMild.
The Lions had two opportunities to extend the lead before halftime, but a 30-yard field goal attempt was no good on one drive and a pass to a wide-open receiver on fourth-and-one was dropped with under 30 seconds left in the half. “We had a chance for a big play there and we didn’t make it,” Bush said. “It was fourth-and-short and we could have just went for the first down, but with a short amount of time left we felt we needed a big play.” “We didn’t finish drives,” Bush added. “We had the chance to score more points in the first half and we just didn’t finish.” Sayreville pulled to within one point when Roberts scored on a 10-yard touchdown run to cap an eight-play, 63-yard drive later in the third quarter. The extra point was no good and Middletown North remained in front, but the turning point of the game was right around the corner.
On the ensuing drive, Glenn tried to fight off a sack and throw the ball to a receiver in the flat, but Cenci picked off the errant throw and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown to put Sayreville up 20-14.
“Donald was just trying to do too much on that play, it’s better to take a sack there,” Bush said. “But we had to protect him better today and give him time to throw.”
Things continued to snowball for Middletown North (9-3) when Sayreville recovered a short kickoff as Mike Germann pounced on the loose ball at the Lions’ 41-yard line. The Bombers then drove to the end zone in 11 plays and took a 27-14 lead when DeMild scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and goal.
Middletown North then fumbled on back-to-back possessions, and after the second miscue the Bombers added to their lead as Roberts broke free for a 22-yard touchdown and a 34-14 advantage. Sayreville got the ball back right back when Michael Porcaro intercepted Glenn on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. That turnover didn’t lead directly to points for Sayreville, but after a turnover on downs by Middletown North Sayreville put the stamp on its state title victory with a 35-yard touchdown run by Ciyro McMoore with 1:08 left.
The turnovers took a toll on Middletown North’s defense as Roberts pounded away for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, including 20 attempts for 112 yards in the second half.
“We’re not real big up front and they were banging it in there a lot,” Bush said. “We put the defense in bad situations and that made it more difficult.”
Middletown North finished the season 9-3 for its most wins since the 1996 team went 9-2 and won the Central Jersey Group IV title. The Lions also defeated Middletown South on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2000, defeated South Jersey Group III champion Wall and beat South Jersey Group V semifinalist Howell.
“This group accomplished a lot,” Bush said. “The seniors really made their mark on this program and did things that hadn’t been done in a long time. They did a tremendous job and I’m really proud of those guys.”
Sayreville 41, Middletown North 14
Sayreville (10-2) 0 7 13 21 — 41
Midd. North (9-2) 14 0 0 0 — 14
M — Brendan Kube 19-yard pass from Donald Glenn (Joey Cavanagh kick)
M — Connor Welsh 17-yard run (Joey Cavanagh kick)
S — Jayson DeMild 2-yard run (Matthew Crowley kick)
S — Jaquae Roberts 10-yard run (kick failed)
S — Brandon Cenci 41-yard interception return (Matthew Crowley)
S — Jayson DeMild 1-yard (Matthew Crowley kick)
S — Jaquae Roberts 22-yard run (Matthew Crowley kick)
S — Ciyro McMoore 35-yard run (Mark Whitford kick)
RUSHING — S: Jaquae Roberts 25-159, Michael Liberti 12-49, Ciyro McMoore 1-35, Jayson DeMild 11-29; M: Connor Welsh 13-44, Connor Robbins 4-13, Donald Glenn 3-13, Dwight Wilkerson 4-13.
PASSING — S: Jayson DeMild 3-9-0 29; M: Donald Glenn 17-38-2 191.
RECEIVING — S: Michael Liberti 1-15, Jahsim Floyd 1-10, Jacari Carter 1-4; M: Dwight Wilkerson 7-108, Brendan Kube 6-57, Connor Welsh 2-17, #30 1-10, Brock Zenker 1-(-1).
INTERCEPTIONS — S: Brandon Cenci 1-41, Michael Porcaro 1-0.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.