Willis Runs For 268 and 5 TDs to Power Long Branch Over Wall
By Scott Clayton - Shore Sports Network Contributor
LONG BRANCH – Senior tailback Dahmiere Willis showed an ability to score from anywhere on the field Friday night, tallying five touchdowns on the ground to lead No. 9 Long Branch to a 35-7 win in Class B North over Wall.
The Green Wave (2-1, 1-1) put up 28 points before it even got a chance to run a play in the red zone, thanks to Willis scoring on runs of 41, 58, 52 and 44 yards. A 4-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter completed the night for Willis, who racked up a career-high 268 yards on 19 carries.
“It’s like he’s a drone where he can look over top of the field and know where to go,” Long Branch head coach Dan George said of Willis. “The kid is special. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of great ones and he’s one of them.”
On the first play of the Green Wave’s second possession, Willis had to reach back to gather a slightly off-target pitch. Instead of following the play’s design around left end, Willis reversed field and scored untouched down the right sideline from 41 yards out.
“The call was an option,” explained Willis. “A fake fullback option but our quarterback (senior Jordan Rodriguez) pulled it and pitched it to me. As soon as I got the ball I saw there was nothing to that side so I automatically hurried up and cut it back and it was off to a touchdown.”
After a David Colbert interception, Willis was at it again just over two minutes later. Running behind senior left tackle Andrew Huff, Willis employed two spin moves and broke four tackles on his way to the end zone.
“We just kept pushing and we never stopped,” Huff said. “We knew even if the play was away that he could cut back and score a touchdown.”
“He’s like a baby Marshawn Lynch,” said Colbert, referencing the Seattle Seahawks star that has earned the nickname “Beast Mode.”
The five Long Branch possessions that ended in Willis touchdowns consumed just 3:47 of game time, or just over 45 seconds per scoring drive. Willis also had an apparent 90-yard kick return touchdown taken off the board due to an illegal block penalty. Long Branch was flagged 14 times in the game for 114 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Green Wave harassed Crimson Knights quarterback Matt Cluley into five sacks and two interceptions. However, Cluley was able to answer Long Branch’s second score with a 41-yard touchdown pass to junior Bobby Fletcher, cutting Wall’s deficit to 14-7. The junior signal caller started the game hot, connecting on six of his first seven passes, but finished 10-for-28 overall.
Wall had a chance to draw even on the final possession of the first half. Cluley had runs of 10 and 15 yards, and overcame two sacks to complete passes of 19 yards to sophomore R.J. Janeczek and 12 yards to Fletcher. Despite gaining a first down and goal from the Long Branch 2-yard line, Wall was unable to convert the opportunity into points. The Green Wave turned away three rushing attempts before Jahmir Elliot-Hair blocked a 17-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half.
“We couldn’t finish them and they made some great plays to get back in it,” George said. “(The goal line stand) was huge. It was second and inches and our guys just played ball. We were swarming at that point.”
The momentum from that stand carried into the second half as Long Branch needed just three plays before Willis scored from 52 yards out, again running off left tackle and following the lead block of fullback Earl Mackason.
“They’re a heck of a football team,” first-year Wall head coach Dan Curcione said. “They’ve got three tight ends they can throw at you and they wore us down a bit. They’re a big, tough group. What did we get out of it? The off-season conditioning, the working out and making it a full-year commitment, because that’s what those boys are doing over there.”
Later in the third quarter, Colbert made a dazzling interception, tipping a long pass attempt to himself at the 8 and returning it 44 yards across midfield. Two plays later Willis scored on a counter down the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown, his fourth 40-plus yard score of the game.
“Our coaches told us all week, they were pass first and to just do our job,” Colbert said.
“(Cluley) was really quick back there, like a Johnny Manziel type,” said senior defensive end Hunter Baillie, one of four Long Branch players to register a sack. “We had to take their running game away and get after the quarterback.”
No. 9 Long Branch 35, Wall 7
Wall Long Branch
First Downs 9 12
Rushes Yards 21-20 38-322
Passing 10-29-2 2-3-1
Passing Yards 138 12
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-0
Punting 8-34.4 6-32.3
Penalties-Yards 4-39 14-114
Wall (0-4, 1-3) 7 0 0 0 - 7
Long Branch (2-1, 1-1) 14 0 21 0 - 35
L – Willis 41 run (Mota kick)
L – Willis 58 run (Mota kick)
W – Fletcher 41 pass from Cluley (Maciejewski kick)
L – Willis 52 run (Mota kick)
L – Willis 44 run (Mota kick)
L – Willis 4 run (Mota kick)
Rushing: (W): Cluley 13-12, Poss 3-8, Schneider 3-1, Janeczek 2-(-1). (L) Willis 19-268, Rodriguez 6-12, Mackason 5-16, Cannon 4-22, Cooper 2-4, Elliot-Hair 2-0.
Passing: (W): Cluley 10-28-2 138, Janeczek 0-1-0 0. (L) Rodriguez 2-3-1 12.
Receiving: (W): Janeczek 4-76, Fletcher 2-53, Larkin 2-3, Ferguson 1-6, Poss 1-0. (L): Colbert 2-12.
Interceptions: (W): McGevna 1-0. (L) Colbert 2-44.