Shut Down at the Swamp: Middletown South Stifles Sayreville to Reach North 2, Group 4 Sectional Final
MIDDLETOWN – When it’s championship season and the lights are shining bright at The Swamp it tends to bring out the best in Middletown South.
Facing Sayreville on Friday night in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 sectional semifinals, the Eagles used an excellent defensive effort and a potent rushing attack to walk away with a 17-8 victory that has them back in another sectional title game. Senior running back Dan Primiano rushed for a game-high 152 yards, sophomore running back Donovan Summey ran for a touchdown, sophomore Jake Czwakiel kicked three field goals, and the defense held Sayreville under 200 yards of offense.
It all added up to a remarkably solid and efficient win that earned Middletown South the program’s 22nd appearance in a state sectional title game. The Eagles will travel north next Friday night to take on top-seeded Irvington and aim to bring home the 11th championship in program history.
Sayreville entered off an 18-0 win over Middletown North in the first round and featured standout sophomore running back Zaimer Wright, who had 1,327 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns on the season. He was held to 77 yards on the ground thanks to a collective effort in the box. Sophomore linebacker Colin Gallagher had another strong game with 12 tackles, a sack, and a tackle for loss, senior linebacker Jack Willi made 11 tackles, and senior defensive tackle Jake Williamson had an active game generating pressure and tying up blockers.
“Defense and running the ball, that’s what we’re all about day-in and day-out,” Williamson said. “Everybody did their jobs and we just played a great game.”
“What a great performance by them up front,” said Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. “(Sayreville)’s a good football team, the tailback is a special kid, and I’m proud of how our kids battled in the trenches. We were able to walk away with a big win tonight.”
Williamson also keyed a huge play late in the game when Sayreville, trailing 17-8 with under five minutes left in the game, lined up to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from the Middletown South 4-yard line. Wright lined up in a wildcat formation and took the direct snap, but Williamson shot through a gap and made the initial hit before several Eagles’ defenders swarmed and made the stop for no gain. Middletown South then took position and ran all but a few seconds off the remaining time.
“I saw the split read, the guard and tackle went separate ways, so I just shot (the gap), saw him coming at me and just grabbed him,” Williamson said. “We all do our jobs. We have 11 great players on defense and everyone does their job. That’s why we get these kinds of stops and why our defense has been great all year long.”
“That’s where legacies are made,” Antonucci said. “I told these guys as part of my pregame speech; don’t let them ever forget tonight. That’s something that will be in their minds forever. A tremendous stop by our defense to get us out of that hole and put us in a position to win the game.”
Middletown South trailed only briefly during the game after Sayreville mounted its only scoring drive early in the second quarter. The Bombers’ only chunk play of the game, a 31-yard pass from junior quarterback Michael Colonnello to senior wideout Osei Bonsu put the ball at the Middletown South 12-yard line. Sayreville then converted a fourth-and-1 at the 3-yard line and on the next play Wright scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. On the extra point attempt, Middletown South was flagged for three consecutive offsides penalties that moved the ball to within six inches of the goal line. That prompted the Bombers to go for two and they converted on Wright’s run to give them an 8-3 lead.
That drive was a response to a massive 14-play drive by Middletown South that chewed up 8:23 of clock and concluded with Czwakiel connecting on a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 Eagles lead.
Following Wright’s touchdown and 2-point conversion, Middletown South answered with a scoring drive of its own to take the lead for good. Senior wide receiver Anthony Brasco hauled in a 21-yard catch along the sideline to put the ball at the Sayreville 13-yard line and Summey finished off the drive when he took a pitch from senior quarterback Tom Schork, got to the corner, and scored from eight yards out. Schork then ran in the 2-point conversion with a second-effort surge to give Middletown South an 11-8 lead.
“It showed that we weren’t going to go away,” Antonucci said.
The Eagles’ lead grew to 14-8 just before halftime when Czwakiel kicked a 27-yard field goal to cap a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Primiano carried five times for 66 yards on the drive, including runs of 22 and 20 yards. The drive looked like it was going to end with a touchdown when Summey lined up in a wildcat formation on second-and-two from the 5-yard line, faked a run, and pulled up to connect with Schork on a quick slant. A flag was thrown, however, and the Eagles were called for an ineligible man downfield.
“I felt like we left some points on the board, honestly, but points are important any time you’re playing in a game like this,” Antonucci said. “Any time you can add some more and make them keep chasing points, you take it.”
The third quarter flew by with no scoring but Middletown South ended another long drive with points early in the fourth quarter. The Eagles started at their own 34-yard line, drained just under seven minutes off the clock, and put up three more points on Czwakiel’s 25-yard field goal to take a 17-8 lead with 11:14 left in the game.
Sayreville needed a score on its next possession and was able to drive to the 4-yard line, but the Bombers used almost seven minutes to get there and ended up being stopped on the fourth-down play with 4:30 on the clock. From there, Middletown South ran seven straight running plays, including a 17-yard run by Schork, to clinch the victory.
Now, it’s onto Irvington where the Eagles will try to add to the program’s considerable legacy. The No. 1 goal that fuels the entire offseason and preseason is now just 48 minutes from reality.
“Going into the summer this was the goal: win a ring,” Schork said. “We’re looking forward to giving our best next weekend.”
“We’re pumped,” Williamson said. “Two years ago, my sophomore year, we lost in the semifinals. Now we’re back, we won, so everybody that was here that year is ready to go for next week.”
“This group is very special,” Antonucci said. “We’re happy to be where we’re at but we’re not satisfied by any means.”
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Middletown South vs. Sayreville Football
Middletown South 17, Sayreville 8
|Middletown South (8-1)||3||11||0||3||17|
MS – Jake Czwakiel 31-yard field goal
S – Zaimer Wright 1-yard run (Zaimer Wright run)
MS – Donovan Summey 8-yard run (Tom Schork run)
MS – Jake Czwakiel 27-yard field goal
MS – Jake Czwakiel 25-yard field goal
RUSHING – S: Zaimer Wright 19-77, Michael Colonnello 5-15, Claude Bagogee 1-2, Caidan Holmes 1-0; MS: Dan Primiano 24-152, Tom Schork 8-33, Donovan Summey 9-33, Austin Ruziecki 1-5.
PASSING – S: Michael Colonnello 6-10-0 73; MS: Tom Schork 5-8 0 35, Donovan Summey 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING – S: Osei Bonsu 2-36, Zaimer Wright 2-24, Devlin Mills 2-13; MS: Anthony Brasco 1-21, Beau Servidio 2-17, Logan Colleran 1-1, Ryan St. Clair 1-(-4).