By Walter J. O’Neill Jr.
It was an old style high school football game filled with razzle dazzle plays which looked like they were drafted in the dirt. But in actuality it was a series of complicated offensive plays executed by both teams.
Red Bank Regional, probably the most talented and skilled winless football team in the Shore Conference hosted the Spartans of Ocean Township on Saturday afternoon. Both teams needed a win, the Bucs were just hoping that they finally were able to pull a complete game together and Ocean which had two losses, one by forfeit when a majority of the team suffered from a skin condition that was contiguous, and the other was a loss to Matawan.
The Bucs surprised the Spartans in the first quarter when they worked the ball aggressively against the Ocean defense and scored on a nine yard touchdown run by Isaac Coates, a senior running back. Ishier Lawrence, a senior, kicked the extra point giving Red Bank Regional an early 7-0 lead.
During the second quarter the Bucs used some of that razzle dazzle on a counter play which resulted in a 58 yard touchdown run by Tajhi Tomaino, a senior running back. Lawrence was again good on the kick and Red Bank Regional now had a 14 point lead on the Spartans.
“Our team is disciplined and even though we made a few mistakes in the first half, we settled in and played our style of football,” said Don Klein, head coach of the Spartans. Andrew Mehr, the senior quarterback for Ocean connected on a 14 yard pass play to Royal Moore for the first Spartan touchdown. Mark Diedrichson made the extra point.
Just before the first half ended the Spartans decided to use some old school trickery themselves. Klein called for a flea-flicker play where Mehr handed the ball to Moore who then pulled up and tossed a perfect 43 yard bomb to Diedrichson, but the extra point kick failed. Going into the break Red Bank Regional had a slight 14-13 lead.
Red Bank Regional scored once more, this time it was a 33 yard pass from Ross Gisondi to Steven Megill, a senior receiver. Lawrence was good for the third time in the game and Red Bank Regional took the lead, 21-13. However, Ocean was not done!
Mehr completed another big pass, this time to Diedrichson for a 13 yard touchdown. The Spartans attempted a two point conversion, which failed. That was it for the third quarter. Going into the final quarter of action the Bucs had a 21-19 advantage.
Ocean shined in that last quarter and showed they wanted the win and worked hard to get it. The first was a 65 yard punt return by Jair Bernier, a junior. “He is one of the fastest players I have seen on a football field,” said Klein. The extra point kick failed.
The final touchdown was a 32 yard interception by Bernier. “I saw they kept running the same play over and over again,” said Bernier. “I looked at the quarterback, broke on it, jumped it and ripped the ball right out of his (receiver) hands.” The extra point kicked failed again, the fourth time in the game that Ocean either missed an extra point kick or didn’t connect on a two point conversion.
On the ground the Bucs ran the ball 39 times for 197 yards against the Spartan defense. In the air Red Bank Regional had Gisondi completing 6 of 15 passes for 88 yards with one interception. Alex Fox completed 2 of 5 passes with one interception for 25 yards. “They are a very good team and their record does not reflect how good they are,” said Klein.
Ocean had only 62 rushing yards on 28 touches. Leading the Spartans was Tyler Thompson, freshman, with 38 yards on 15 carries. In the air, Mehr completed 9 of 14 passes for 101 yards, while Moore had his one 43 yard touchdown pass.
After the game Klein spoke with his players near midfield. “It doesn’t matter how, it’s important that we got the W (win). The only negative is that they got two scores on us,” said Klein. “We played quality football today and we will only get better when we tighten things up.”
Quarterback coach Pat O’Neill told the team at halftime “It is not how you start the game, but how you finish.”
Jim Simonelli, linebacker coach, told the Spartans that they had their noses rubbed in the dirt. “But you all came back and fought hard, I’m very proud of you,” said Simonelli.
With the win the Spartans are now 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the B North division. Red Bank Regional falls to 0-4 on the season.