Wall tops Manasquan in annual Thanksgiving Day football clash
MANASQUAN – The Superintendent’s Trophy is heading back to Wall where the Thanksgiving feast undoubtedly tasted a little sweeter Thursday evening.
Sophomore running back Casey Larkin ran for 153 yards and a touchdown and the defense forced four turnovers to lead the Crimson Knights to an 18-7 Shore Conference nondivisional victory over No. 7 Manasquan in the annual Thanksgiving Day clash between the two communities.
Larkin’s 54-yard burst down to the Manasquan 5-yard line on the first play of the game set the tone as Wall took a 10-9 lead in the all-time Thanksgiving series. Senior quarterback Dylan Richey threw a touchdown pass to senior tight end Tanner Powers and also ran for a touchdown, while Powers and freshman linebacker Charlie Sasso added interceptions.
“This was a great battle between two rivals,” said Wall head coach Tony Grandinetti. “We took advantage of those 20 days off and came out fast and ready.”
“This is a game you circle every year, no doubt about it,” Powers said. “We knew freshman year we’d be playing this game here (Manasquan’s Vic Kubu Warrior Field) and we wanted to beat them on their own field, especially after losing last year to end the streak.”
Larkin’s long run on the first play set up his own 1-yard touchdown run shortly after to give Wall (6-3) a quick 7-0 advantage. A pair of false-start penalties moved the Knights back to the 15-yard line but runs by Larkin and Richey swiftly moved the ball right back to the goal line.
“Once he got that run I think we got all the confidence in the world we could win this game, and it snowballed from there,” Richey said.
Then, after stopping Manasquan on fourth down at the Warriors’ 40-yard line, the Crimson Knights pushed the score to 12-0 when Richey threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Powers on fourth and 7. Wall had a third-and-1 but a false start penalty followed by a tackle for loss by Manasquan’s James Pendergist brought up fourth down.
“They were keying on Casey on that – a swing route – so he was able to free me up because their eyes went to him immediately,” Powers said. “I snuck behind my guy and Dylan put it right there.”
“We went ground-and-pound for most of the game but when we had to go up top, the receivers made plays,” Richey said.
Manasquan was able to get on the board late in the first half when junior Charlie Sawitsky recovered a fumble at the Warriors’ 43-yard line. Pendergist had an 11-yard catch after a pass deflected off the hands of Riley Callahan and senior running Canyon Birch had a bruising 14-yard run down to the Wall 19-yard line that got the Warriors sideline fired up. Two plays later, Birch scored on a 6-yard run to cut Manasquan’s deficit to 12-7.
Manasquan began the second half with a promising drive, but a Wall defender knocked the ball from Birch’s grasp and sophomore Logan Peters recovered for the Knights at their own 30-yard line. Wall then drove down to the Manasquan 5-yard line, but Richey’s fourth-down pass was intercepted at the goal line by Manasquan senior Scooby Tuddles.
Wall got the ball back three plays later, however, when Powers intercepted a pass at the 33-yard line. A 28-yard catch by Mike Galos set up Richey for a 2-yard touchdown run that extended the Knights’ lead to 18-7 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
Wall’s defense did the rest by forcing and recovering another fumble on Manasquan’s next possession. The Knights forced a punt on the following defensive series and clinched the game when Sasso came down with an interception on the final play of the game.
“We know what they’re going to run and know that we know, they’re just going to run what they run,” Powers said. “They coaches emphasized all week this game is really going to come down to who wants it more.”
When Wall lost in the first round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs on Nov. 2 it meant the team had three weeks before their final game. Teams could have a hard time remaining focused after postseason defeat, but the Knights had no such problem.
“That’s a reflection of our leadership,” Grandinetti said. “There was not one day where it was lackluster. The energy was up every day.”
The three weeks between games actually helped Wall get back one of its leaders and top players. Richey left the playoff loss to Timber Creek with a sprained ankle and was unable to return, leaving his status for Thanksgiving in question.
“It meant the world to be out here today,” Richey said. “Once I couldn’t finish the game and we lost the next thing was I gotta get back for Thanksgiving. I worked as hard as I could – probably a little more than I should have. I was just so happy to get back here for one last game.”
While the ultimate goal of a state championship was not realized for Wall, for Grandinetti and his staff, sending his seniors out with a win was the best ending they could have asked for.
“It meant a lot for our staff and meant a lot to me,” Grandinetti said. “This group of seniors were sophomores when I first got here, so we kind of grew together. My first year when they were sophomores we were doing scout team and JV, and when I became head coach last year a lot of them became varsity players. I’ve been with them step-by-step through their maturation.”
Regardless of what happened during the regular season, the seniors will always remember winning on Thanksgiving in the final game of their high school careers.
“I’ve been playing with most of these guys since I was 7-years old,” Powers said. “These are some of my best friends, so to do something like this is special.”
W – Casey Larkin 1-yard run (kick failed)
W – Tanner Powers 35-yard pass from Dylan Richey (run failed)
M – Canyon Birch 6-yard run (James Pendergist kick)
W – Dylan Richey 2-yard run (kick failed)
RUSHING – W: Casey Larkin 23-153, Dylan Richey 11-37, Brady McNally 4-5; M: Canyon Birch 16-51, Scooby Tuddles 8-30, Ryan O’Leary 2-(-3).
PASSING – W: Dylan Richey 5-9-1 93; M: Ryan O’Leary 9-19-2 87, Canyon Birch 2-2-0 16.
RECEIVING – W: Mike Galos 2-51, Tanner Powers 1-35, Charlie Sasso 1-8, Casey Larkin 1-(-1); M: John Foreman 2-37, James Pendergist 4-21, Ryan O’Leary 1-20, Scooby Tuddles 2-15, Riley Callahan 2-10.
INTERCEPTIONS – W: Tanner Powers 1-4, Charlie Sasso 1-0; M: Rashid Tuddles 1-24.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.