STAFFORD — Finally, they are what they thought they were.

Brick Memorial has become a different team over the past four weeks. A squad that started the season 1-2 has now won four in a row, and firmly re-introduced itself as a championship contender.

On Saturday the Mustangs won their fourth consecutive game with a 12-7 Shore Conference Class A South victory over Southern to remain in the hunt for the division title and bolster their playoff chances in a stacked NJSIAA Central Jersey Group V bracket. Senior running back Mike Basile and senior quarterback Rob Triano each ran for over 100 yards and Brick Memorial’s defense held the Rams to 152 total yards, including minus-7 rushing.

“We knew from the start this was the way our team was going to go,” Basile said. “We’re rolling right now.”

Since a 35-7 loss to Jackson Memorial in Week 3 that dropped Brick Memorial (5-2, 3-2) to 1-2, the Mustangs have responded with wins over Toms River East, Neptune, Toms River North and Southern to jump back into the divisional and playoff races. Their offense has improved since switching back to the traditional flexbone option, and Triano has done a solid enough job while Joe Hans has been injured that he’ll likely remain at quarterback the rest of the way.

Mike Basile ran for 124 yards and was active on defense to help Brick Memorial defeat Southern, 12-7. (Photo by Bill Normile).
Mike Basile ran for 124 yards and was active on defense to help Brick Memorial defeat Southern, 12-7. (Photo by Bill Normile).

On the other side of the ball, Brick Memorial’s defense has been ultra-stingy against the run. The Mustangs held Toms River East running back Matt Gudzak to under 50 yards three weeks ago, and completely bottled up Southern’s rushing attack on Saturday to the tune of negative yardage.

“I said this from the start that I felt our defense could be one of the tops in the Shore, and it’s been showing lately,” said Basile, who had several tackles and pass breakups while lending safety help to cover Southern’s Mike Gesicki.

“I’m just so proud of our defense coming together like that,” said senior middle linebacker Jake Lombardo.

Southern scored its only touchdown in the second half, a 69-yard touchdown pass form Logan Sheehan to Rob Yaiser that cut Brick Memorial’s two-score lead to just five with 2:36 left in the third quarter. The Rams would run just six offensive plays after that, none of which went for positive yardage. Gesicki finished with six receptions for 75 yards, but had just one catch in the second half.

“It was an incredible job by the defense,” Lombardo said. “We knew coming in we had to take away the run first. We felt the pass was more of a second option to hit big plays, and it’s a lot harder to hit those plays when we take away the run.”

“The coaches came up with a great gameplan and the kids executed awesome,” said Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie. “To hold a team like that to only 7 points and to minimize their rushing yards like that; the entire defensive staff and players did an amazing job.”

After two possessions for each team to start the game that yielded one combined first down, Brick Memorial opened the scoring with a seven-play, 54-yard drive late in the first quarter. It was all Triano on the drive, as he carried six times for 53 yards, including a 34-yard run to set up first-and-goal, before knifing in from four yards out. The extra point was no good as an error on the snap and hold prevented Brick Memorial from attempting the kick, but the Mustangs were out to a 6-0 lead with 1:18 left in the first quarter.

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The lead remained 6-0 through halftime before Brick Memorial extended its lead early in the third quarter. Triano engineered a nine-play, 57-yard drive that featured the ‘A’ back as Connor Owen carried six times for 26 yards, including a one-yard scoring plunge that finished off the drive and gave the Mustangs a 12-0 lead with 5:56 left in the third quarter. The Mustangs had problems again on the PAT, keeping them ahead by 12.

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“Going back to the old flexbone has worked great for us,” Basile said. “That’s what we are. We like to run dirty inside with those two power backs Connor Owen and Dwayne Gudge, and it’s worked out well for us.”

Ball security was the one area Brick Memorial struggled in. The Mustangs fumbled seven times and lost three of them, and it was their second that led to Southern’s only score. Brick Memorial had great field position in starting a drive at Southern’s 35, but a fumble two plays later and a recovery by Sheehan gave Southern a chance to stay in the game. On the second play after the turnover, Sheehan found Yaiser open down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown to cut Brick Memorial’s lead to 12-7 with 2:36 left in the third quarter.

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From there, however, Brick Memorial’s defense yielded nothing and its ball-control offense made sure Southern didn’t get many chances. Brick Memorial ran over five minutes off the clock on a drive that stalled at the Southern 7. The Rams held Brick Memorial on fourth down, but went three-and-out on the following series. Another Brick Memorial fumble gave Southern the ball back with 8:00 left, but consecutive sacks by Gudge and Lombardo forced the Rams to punt.

Brick Memorial got the ball back with 6:14 left in the game and never relinquished possession. The Mustangs drove from their own 15-yard line to Southern’s three with 11 straight running plays to end the game.

When they were 1-2, the Mustangs faced the prospect of losing to Toms River East and seeing their season crumble before their eyes. After last season’s collapse when they lost their last five games after starting 5-0, they weren’t about to let a promising season slip away again.

“As I said at the start of the year, the biggest thing is to overcome adversity,” Basile said.

“I think the team chemistry we have this year is important,” Lombardo said. “We had some adversity early in the season, but we came together and fought through it.”

Box Score


Brick Memorial 12, Southern 7


Brick MemorialSouthern
First downs155
Passing yards19159


Brick Memorial (5-2, 3-2) 6 0 6 0 – 12
Southern (3-3, 2-3) 0 0 7 0 – 7

Scoring summary
BM – Rob Triano 4-yard run (run failed)
BM – Connor Owen 1-yard run (kick failed)
S – Logan Sheehan 69-yard pass to Rob Yaiser (Rob Yaiser kick)

Individual statistics
Rushing – BM: Mike Basile 13-124, Rob Triano 23-107, Connor Owen 14-48, Dwayne Gudge 5-12; S: Grant Bissey 4-6, Rob Yaiser 7-3, Ryan Jensen 2-(-2), Logan Sheehan 5-(-14).
Passing – BM: Rob Triano 2-4-0 19; S: Logan Sheehan 10-21-0 159.
Receiving – BM: Mike Basile 2-19; S: Mike Gesicki 6-75, Rob Yaiser 2-73, Grant Bissey 1-13, Bailey Bellissimo 1-8.

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