Sayreville’s Air Assault Eliminates Defending Champion Middletown South in North 2, Group IV Semifinals
By Ella Brockway - Student Contributor
MIDDLETOWN — On Sayreville’s first offensive play against Middletown South in the North Jersey 2, Group 4 semifinals Friday night, Bombers senior quarterback Jayson DeMild threw a 38-yard pass to Jacari Carter. Two plays later, Sayreville took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter on another pass from DeMild to Carter for 33 yards.
Those first two passes were good signs of what was to come the rest of the night for Sayreville.
DeMild threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns as the fifth-seeded Bombers upset the defending champions Eagles, 42-28, at "The Swamp". Sayreville will now face Middletown North in the sectional championship game at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Rutgers University, its first appearance in a state final since 2012.
“I’m just so proud of the kids and happy for the town,” said Bombers head coach Chris Beagan, who took over the program in 2015 in the wake of the hazing scandal that cancelled the team’s 2014 season. “We talked about the long road back and what it was going to take to get here, and believe me, they put in the work. They deserve this.”
The Bombers collected a total of 523 yards of offense against the Middletown South defense. Sayreville’s 42 points is the most allowed by the Eagles' defensive unit in a game this season.
“This was a team that was hungry coming in here, with all the things that they’ve gone through,” said Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. “They were starving to get back to a game like this and give their best effort, and they sure did.”
The Sayreville defense also had a strong night, holding the Eagles to 273 yards of offense while collecting three sacks and three interceptions.
The Bombers got off to a quick start, forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs on the first drive of the game, and then taking the 7-0 lead on DeMild’s 33-yard pass to Carter less than five minutes into the first quarter. Carter, a sophomore who saw time at both running back and wide receiver, finished with 193 all-purpose yards and two receiving touchdowns.
“We respect the heck out of Middletown South’s program, and we knew coming here that it wasn’t going to be an easy road,” said Beagan. “Our kids just had to stick to the plan and carry it out.
Sayreville held the lead for the rest of the first quarter, but not without facing pressure from the South defense. The Eagles secondary forced DeMild to throw the ball away five times after the touchdown in the first quarter, including on a fourth-and-nine from the 34-yard line with 1:15 when Midd South senior cornerback Jeremy Joyce broke up a pass attempt to force a turnover on downs.
The first spark in the Eagles’ offense came off a defensive play midway through the second quarter. Junior defensive end Jake Krellin sacked DeMild for a loss of 11 yards and knocked the ball out on a second-and-10 from the 20-yard line, and junior defensive tackle Jake Bancala recovered the fumble at the Bombers’ 9-yard line. The Midd South offense took over and sophomore running back Anthony Summey ran it six yards for a touchdown to tie the score 7-7 with 4:37 left in the first half.
Sayreville closed the half with strong finishes on both sides of the ball, scoring on a 1-yard run by DeMild on third down with 17 seconds left in the quarter to take a 14-7 lead and then forcing Eagles quarterback Aneesh Agrawal to throw the ball away on a first down from their own 30-yard line with two seconds left in the half. “We have a lot of respect for Middletown South,” said DeMild. “We came in here and we knew they were going to fight hard, and they gave us a battle.” Middletown South swung the momentum in its favor early in the third quarter, scoring on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Agrawal to a wide-open Krellin in the middle of the field to tie the game at 14. Agrawal finished with 11 completions for 162 yards on 25 pass attempts. The Bombers hit back less than three minutes later on a 36-yard touchdown pass from DeMild to 6-foot-7 senior wide receiver Jahsim Floyd, and after a blocked extra point attempt, took a 20-14 lead. The Eagles took their only lead of the game with 4:08 left in the third quarter on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Agrawal to senior wide receiver Samson Dube. Middletown South held that 21-20 lead through the rest of the quarter, but a gutsy call with less than three minutes left in the third may have been the one that shifted the momentum in the Bombers’ favor for good. Facing a fourth-and-three from the Middletown South 42-yard line, Beagan called for a fake punt. Senior punter Andrew Wille took the snap and ran eight yards towards the Sayreville sideline to get the first down. The Bombers ended the quarter at their own 25-yard line, and at the 10:23 mark of the fourth quarter, DeMild found Floyd again for a 9-yard touchdown pass. The successful two-point conversion attempt put Sayreville up 28-21.
“They made a big play when we made the two-point conversion, and there was no quitting from there,” said Beagan. “On our sideline, you wouldn’t have known that anything changed in the game.” On the following drive, the Sayreville defense broke up an Agrawal pass to Jeremy Joyce deep in the end zone on a 3rd-and-12 from the 49-yard line, but a pass interference call gave the Eagles fifteen yards and a first down. The penalty set up Middletown South’s final touchdown of the game four plays later on a 30-yard pass from Agrawal to Summey. The Chris Kaldrovics extra point was good, and the score was tied at 28 with 7:27 left in the game.
Sayreville’s defining moment came less than a minute later, as DeMild threw his fourth and final touchdown of the night on an 84-yard pass to Carter on second down with 6:36 left to play to give the Bombers a 35-28 lead.
“I’ve been saying from Day 1 that we don’t go anywhere in this offense without (DeMild),” said Beagan. “He’s a tremendous field general at that position, and he distributes the ball to all of our receivers.”
Carter stepped up again on the defensive end three minutes later, stopping any attempt at a Middletown South comeback with an interception at midfield. A 2-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Jacquae Roberts at the 3:07 mark sealed the deal for the Bombers.
“This is honestly the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” said DeMild, who was the starting quarterback sophomore before the cancelled season in 2014, and is now on his way to a state final. “I knew we were going to come back. We were destined for this.”
Sayreville - Michael Liberti: 16-112, Jacari Carter: 2-10, Jayson DeMild: 9-28, Jacquae Roberts: 9-21
Midd South - Aneesh Agrawal: 5-73, Anthony Summey: 26-113
Sayreville - Jayson DeMild: 14-25-0-345
Midd South - Aneesh Agrawal: 11-25-3-162
Sayreville - Jacari Carter: 6-183, Andrew Willie: 1-0, Michael Liberti: 2-73, Connor Holmes: 2-39, Jacquae Roberts: 1-7, Jahsim Floyd: 2-45
Midd South - Jeff Lewandowski: 5-20, Jake Krellin: 1-32, Maxx Imsho: 1-40, Samson Dube: 1-14, Trevor Brey: 1-18, Anthony Summey: 1-30, Jeremy Joyce: 1-8
Tackles (top three)
Sayreville - Tristan Behr (4), Michael Liberti (3), Colin Matthews (3)
Midd South - Kevin Higgins (9), Maxx Imsho (6), Jake Krellin (5)
Sayreville - Jacari Carter (1), Michael Liberti (1), Elijah Clark (1)