Long Branch football starts 2021 with a win over SJV

September 10, 2021
By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr
Bressett Stadium at Long Branch High School was filled with spectators on Friday night as the Green Wave kicked off their 2021 football season. Their opponents, the Lancers of St. John Vianney High School. For Dan George it also marked the start to his last season as the head coach of the Wave.

George, who enters his 29th season as a head coach, 22 of them leading the Green Wave, was like a maestro on the sidelines. He oversees a talented group of coaches with Terrence King overseeing the running backs, Chad King is the defensive coordinator, Shawn Brown and Gary Beddooe have the linebackers, Kris Parker covers the wide receivers, Greg Penta is the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and Ben Woolley coaches the offensive line and is also the offensive coordinator. Assisting on the varsity level are Jamil Pitts, head freshman coach, Devron Clark freshman offensive coordinator and Ryan Burgess, who is the freshman defensive line coach.

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Pacing the sidelines wearing a headset listening to his coaches, George is more like a proud father on the sidelines. Most of his staff had played for him while attending Long Branch High School and are very familiar with his style and system. George will of course override any decision that he feels is not appropriate for the situation, and he is also the only coach who talks with officials during the game. He is not afraid to let them know if they blew a call.

During the game, officials made two no-calls on very questionable defensive plays by the Lancers. George made sure to point out that they missed two calls which killed the Green Wave drive at that time.

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Friday night the first quarter of the Lancers at the Green Wave was scoreless. Both teams looked a bit tight. It was the second game of the season for St. John Vianney, who had lost 14-6 to Manalapan on September 3.

However, with 7:57 left to go in the first half, Christian Rodriguez the 5’10” senior quarterback for the Wave, threw a 47-yard bullet to sophomore wide receiver Zaheem Brown for the first score of the game.

A few minutes later Rodriguez directed an offensive drive using passing and running with Michael Hall, and Sekou Kamau. With 1:18 left in the half Long Branch had a six-yard touchdown called back on a holding penalty. The very next play also resulted in a penalty and now Long Branch was back on the Lancers 27-yard line.

Rodriguez fired another perfect pass, this time the catch was made by Kamau who ran untouched for a 27-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Wave were up 14-0 with 1:06 left in the first half.

The third quarter was all St. John Vianney as they used up nearly all of the 12 minutes pounding the ball towards the Long Branch end zone. They advanced to the Green Wave two-yard line, but the Long Branch defense held.

With 2:55 left in the third quarter, Long Branch took their first offensive possession of the second half on their own two-yard line. However, they fumbled the ball and the Lancers recovered for their only score of the game.

Long Branch took the 14-7 win and the team celebrated as they deserved the victory. Long Branch has always had a history of tall talented receivers, fast running backs and linebackers who love to hit. This 2021 Green Wave squad is very reminiscent of those championship teams of the past.

Last season was one that many Long Branch fans, players and coaches are happy is in the past. Green Wave went 1-6 in 2020, they were 4-7 in 2019, had a magical 2018 finishing 12-1 and winning one of the first NJSIAA Bowl Games, were 9-3 in 2017 and 2-8 in 2016.

St. John Vianney finished 5-4 last year, 4-5 in 2019 and the 2018 season were 5-5. Their best two season over the past five years was 2016 and 2017 when they finished 10-1. Their head coach, Mike Alberque, is in his second season. Catholic high schools have the ability to recruit players whereas public schools must use players within their district boundaries.

For decades Red Bank Catholic has been the top program in the area in regards to pulling in talent, and this season is no different as Mater Dei Prep had to close its football program since many players transferred to other religious schools. St. John Vianney is also nettling the recruitment issues and have to develop game plans based on their current pool of players, and over the past five years they have struggled.

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