Wall Dominates the Trenches, Sean Larkin Has Big Day in Thanksgiving Day Win over Manasquan
MANASQUAN — A physical running game and a staunch run defense has been the recipe for success all season for Wall, and the Crimson Knights cooked up more of the same in the latest edition of their Thanksgiving rivalry against Manasquan.
Senior running back Sean Larkin ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries and the defense allowed just 85 yards as the Crimson Knights, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, defeated the No. 6 Warriors, 21-3, in a Shore Conference Class B North game on Thanksgiving Day.
Larkin ran for 132 of his yards and all three touchdowns in the second half as Wall’s senior-laden went to work on a Manasquan defense that entered as a top 10 unit in the Shore. Larkin scored on runs of 36, 10 and 4 yards over the final two quarters to deliver the Crimson Knights their third straight win in the Thanksgiving series.
“The guys up front, I can’t thank them enough,” said Larkin, who was selected as the Ocean Trophies Player of the Game. “They work hard every day in practice and drive giant holes. I just polish up their work.”
“Every game coach says it starts up front, and it ends up front,” said senior offensive and defensive lineman Mike Andrejco. “Coach Curcione said if we stop the run we win the game. Coach LaBarca (offensive coordinator Chip LaBarca Jr.) said we run the ball we win the game. All three happened.”
For the first time since 2002 both teams entered with a state championship game in their future. Wall will play Delsea for the South Jersey Group III championship on Saturday Dec. 3 at Rowan University while Manasquan will take on Bernards for the Central Jersey Group II crown on Saturday Dec. 3 at Kean University. With a state title game lurking there is always the possibility a team will choose to rest its starters to avoid injury. That wasn’t going to happen for Wall or Manasquan.
“I’ve said it all along that we’re never going to come out here and play against these guys and hold anything back,” said Wall head coach Dan Curcione. “We’re never going to take away from our momentum and what we’re working toward. It’s a no-brainer. You play to win the game.”
Manasquan led 3-0 at halftime thanks to a 37-yard field goal by senior Adam Schreck as time expired in the first half. It was a defensive battle over the first two quarters with Wall gaining just 51 yards and Manasquan just 60. Just six minutes into the third quarter, however, Wall had taken a commanding 12-point lead.
The Crimson Knights needed just four plays to march 60 yards and take an 8-3 lead on Larkin’s 36-yard touchdown run off the right side. The extra point snap was mishandled, but junior Mike Cassidy was able to regroup and find senior tight end Gene Scott in the end zone for the two-point conversion.
After forcing Manasquan three-and-out, Wall went 55 yards in six plays with Larkin scoring on a 10-yard run to make it 15-3. Larkin carried on five of the six plays and increased his rushing total to 142 yards.
“I think we’re a well-conditioned team and we make good adjustments,” Curcione said. “A lot of them are seniors, and they’re poised and they’ve been through it before. We don’t go in (at halftime) and scream and yell, we talk about what happened and try to adjust to it, and they take that from us.”
“I think we just wear defenses down,” Larkin said. “We stuck with it and we knew we needed to execute better, and we got it done.”
The team’s traded punts to end the third quarter and Wall’s defense forced another three-and-out early in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Knights allowed just six first downs all game to Manasquan, and the only conversion in the second half came via a penalty.
Upon receiving the ball back after a Manasquan punt with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter, Wall moved 47 yards in eight plays to take a 21-3 lead. Larkin again carried the load with six carries for 31 yards and junior quarterback Eddie Scott hit senior wide receiver R.J. Janeczek for 11 yards on fourth-and-six from the Manasquan 24-yard line to keep the drive alive. Larkin finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 5:55 to play.
An interception by senior defensive back Mike Capra helped seal Wall’s ninth win of the season and send the Crimson Knights into their state final with momentum firmly intact.
It was a capacity crowd at Manasquan’s Vic Kubu Warrior Field, with parking lots filled long before kickoff and the neighborhood streets lined with cars several blocks from the field. These types of crowds are atypical in high school football nowadays, but when Manasquan and Wall play it bucks the trend. It’s the only show in town(s).
“It’s pretty fun,” Curcione said. “This is what high school football is all about.”
“It feels like I’m playing in a college stadium,” Andrejco said. “The atmosphere is amazing. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
No. 8 Wall 21, No. 6 Manasquan 3
Wall (9-2, 4-2) 0 0 15 7 — 21
Manasquan (9-2, 4-2) 0 3 0 0 — 3
M — Adam Schreck 37-yard field goal
W — Sean Larkin 36-yard run
W — Sean Larkin 10-yard run
W — Sean Larkin 4-yard run
RUSHING — W: Sean Larkin 23-177, Chevesse Covin 8-33, Brady McNally 4-15, Eddie Scott 5-4. M: Connor Morgan 10-33, Tommy Meyer 5-25, Canyon Birch 11-19, Jerry Maher 2-(-8).
PASSING — W: Eddie Scot 3-7-0 31; M: Jerry Maher 3-7-2 16.
RECEIVING — W: R.J. Janeczek 2-25, Sean Larkin 1-6; M: Damaso Jaime 1-15, Tommy Meyer 1-1, Connor Morgan 1-0.
INTERCEPTIONS — W: R.J. Janeczek 1-0, Mike Capra 1-0.
SACKS — W: Darryin Valme 1-(-1), Matt Biegert 1-(-7); M: Adam Schreck 1-(-9).
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.