TOMS RIVER -- With Toms River South expecting to continue its resurgence this season, Friday’s Week Two game against Southern stood as the Indians’ first major challenge. In front of a capacity crowd at Detwiler Stadium, the Indians, one way or another, were going to show how far they’ve come.

Consider the test passed.

Junior quarterback Tymere Berry ran for a game-high 132 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, while the Indians’ defense came through with several clutch stops and forced a pair of turnovers in a 27-20 victory over the Rams in Class A South.

“This was definitely the type of win we’ve been looking for,” Berry said. “We beat a program tonight.”

“I told our guys that we just beat a program,” said Indians head coach Ron Signorino Jr.. “This was a huge game for us.”

Darrius Hart had a touchdown catch and also played a solid game defensively to help Toms River South top Southern 27-20 for a key Class A South win. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).
Darrius Hart had a touchdown catch and also played a solid game defensively to help Toms River South top Southern 27-20 for a key Class A South win. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

The Indians ran for 261 yards as a team with junior Khaleel Greene adding 59 yards and a touchdown and senior Billy Kosh also scoring on the ground. Berry threw for 85 yards with senior Darrius Hart leading the way with three catches for 57 yards. Senior Otis Kearney, an FBS recruit, was held to 31 yards on nine carries, but the Indians had too many weapons to contain at once.

“That’s the beauty of what our offense is,” Signorino said. “We’re going to spread you out horizontally and vertically. We don’t know who the star player is going to be, so how could the other team?”

“This is exactly what we meant when we talked about how many weapons we have on the field,” Berry said. “They came out trying to shut down Otis, but we have too many other weapons.”

The most encouraging sign for Toms River South, other than the final tally on the scoreboard, of course, was the way its defense played against a solid offense with a game-breaking player. The Indians did about as good of a job as can be done against Southern senior wide receiver Mike Gesicki. One of the nation’s top tight end recruits caught five passes for 93 yards, but never burned the Indians for a huge gain and was kept out of the end zone. Joe Berlinski and Kosh also intercepted passes that were intended for Gesicki.

“You can’t cover him in open space, so you just have to bring some pressure on the quarterback,” Signorino said. “Hats off to Darrius, because we didn’t do anything special with an over/under on Gesicki. We kind of contained him.”

“It could have been a lot worse,” Berry said. “He’s a great athlete and he came out and made some big plays, but our defense stepped up a lot.”

The Indians’ defense had two signature moments in the first half when it stopped Southern on a pair of fourth-and-one situations en route to a 20-0 halftime lead. Kearney came up with the stop on the second fourth-down try from the Indians’ 13-yard line. He filled the hole and dropped Rams running back Rob Yaiser for no gain to turn the ball over on downs, which led to a long Indians scoring drive.

“I told the defense at halftime that if we win this game it’s because of them,” Berry said. “Our defense gave our offense motivation throughout the whole game. Without them we wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities we did. The defense really won it for us.”

“We’re growing defensively, but I was really proud of how we hung in there,” Signorino said. “We knew Southern was going to battle. We weathered the storm and passed the test.”

Toms River South’s first defensive stand led to its first touchdown in the first quarter. After halting the Rams on a fourth-and-one from their own 42-yard line, the Indians scored in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. Berry connected with Kosh for 18 yards on third-and-7 to move the ball inside the 20-yard line, and a late hit on a third-down run extended the drive. Kosh scored from the one-yard line on second down, and Tyler Sosa’s extra point gave the Indians the early lead.

A 31-yard catch by Gesicki where he jumped over two defenders to haul in Sheehan’s pass helped Southern move inside the Indians' 10-yard line on the next possession, but Berlinski intercepted Sheehan’s pass to Gesicki from the eight-yard line to end the threat.

In the second quarter after Kearney’s stop on fourth down, the Indians took a 13-0 lead with a 12-play, 87-yard drive. Berry connected with Hart on a 40-yard catch and run to move the ball in to Southern territory, and Greene finished the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run on third-and-3.

Southern moved to midfield on its next drive, which was cut short when Kosh intercepted Sheehan on a third-and-10. The pick set up Toms River South’s third scoring drive, a six-play, 38-yard drive that came with under two minutes left in the half. Greene converted a third-and-eight with an 18-yard run, and three plays later Berry hit Hart on a 10-yard fade for a 20-0 halftime lead.

The Rams received to start the second half and had great field position thanks to a short kickoff and a penalty against the Indians. Starting at the Toms River South 30, the Rams scored in five plays on a 17-yard run by Sheehan to cut the Indians' lead to 20-6.

Southern forced a punt on South’s next possession to set up its second scoring drive. The Rams were faced with another fourth down, this one with seven yards to gain after a delay of game penalty pushed them back. Sheehan was able to find Gesicki for 14 yards, however, and a first down.

Gesicki rolled his ankle on the play, and although he did return, it was not until the next defensive series. Southern continued its march without its star, and found the end zone when Sheehan hit a wide-open Vinnie Colecchia, who tight-roped the sideline after the catch for a 25-yard touchdown. Yaiser’s extra point made it a one-score game, 20-13, with 4:55 left in the third quarter.

Toms River South’s response was swift.

The Indians went 62 yards in five plays to extend their lead to 27-13 and effectively put the game away. Kearney’s 21-yard run from just shy of midfield came right before Berry’s brilliant 30-yard touchdown run.

“I’m supposed to read Gesicki on that play, and he’s huge, so they want me to get upfield and make him make a choice,” Berry said. “I cut upfield, did what I was supposed to do and kept going.”

“He could be the best we’ve ever had,” said Signorino when asked about Berry’s play-making abilities. “He’s the whole package. He’s taken command of the offense and we rely on him a lot.”

The Rams continued to battle, however. Starting from the 45, Southern went 55 yards in seven plays to make it 27-20. Sheehan found Colecchia for 11 yards, then Yaiser for 20 to move the ball into Indians territory. A 25-yard pass to Gesicki put the ball at the four-yard line, and Yaiser needed just two carries before plunging in from the one with 11:29 left in the game.

Toms River South had to punt on its next possession, so its defense had to stop Southern with 8:53 left in the game. Southern marched to midfield, aided by a fake punt run for a first down by Gesicki from his own 37. But on fourth-and-four from the 49, Berlinski’s pressure on Sheehan forced an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs. Toms River South would get the ball back and run out the clock with some clutch runs by Berry, including a 12-yarder on fourth-and-two with 1:30 left in the game.

Now at 2-0, Toms River South is halfway toward its win total from last season. The Indians won three games in Signorino’s first season, then four last year. Friday’s win over Southern proved to them they’re capable of big things this season, just as they envisioned when this all began.

“We’ve scratched our way out of this hole and now we’re there,” Signorino said. “Now we have to learn how to stay there.”


Box Score

Toms River South 27, Southern 20

SouthernToms River South
First downs1616
Passing yards19685


Southern (1-1, 0-1) 0 0 13 7 – 20
TR South (2-0, 1-0) 7 13 7 0 – 27


Scoring summary
T – Billy Kosh 1-yard run (Tyler Sosa kick)
T – Khaleel Greene 18-yard run (kick failed)
T – Tymere Berry 10-yard pass to Darrius Hart (Tyler Sosa kick)
S – Logan Sheehan 17-yard run (kick failed)
S – Logan Sheehan 25-yard pass to Vinnie Colecchia (Rob Yaiser kick)
T – Tymere Berry 30-yard run (Tyler Sosa kick)
S – Rob Yaiser 1-yard run (Rob Yaiser kick)

Individual statistics
Rushing – S: Rob Yaiser 15-38, Grant Bissey 8-31, Logan Sheehan 7-29, Mike Gesicki 1-8; T: Tymere Berry 18-132, Khaleel Greene 9-59, Otis Kearney 9-31, Billy Kosh 5-21, Javion Harris 1-17, Darrius Hart 1-2, Justin Schumann 2-(-1).
Passing – S: Logan Sheehan 12-19-2 196; T: Tymere Berry 5-9-1 85.
Receiving – S: Mike Gesicki 5-93, Rob Yaiser 3-48, Vinnie Colecchia 3-39, Zac Halliday 1-16; T: Darrius Hart 3-57, Billy Kosh 1-18, Jared Egan 1-10.
Interceptions – S: Zac Halliday 1-10; T: Joe Berlinski 1-30, Billy Kosh 1-10.

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