By Skip Pierce
Typically when a team scores on their very first offensive play a victory and possibly a blowout will follow. The Green Wave scored on their first snap but the expected results did not come into fruition as Long Branch fell to Manasquan by a 28-7 tally on the road in their football season opener.
The game started off with a bang as the Warriors got to the Brancher 25 on the opening kickoff. Long Branch’s Keith Cooper ran down the returner and dragged him to the ground from behind to prevent the touchdown. However, the shutout was short lived as Manasquan scored five plays later with 9:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Long Branch returned the ensuing kickoff to their 29-yard line. On the first snap senior running back Keith Cooper went left, picked up a block from Elijah Sherian and sprinted 71 yards along the sideline for a shocking touchdown with 9:21 left in the first quarter. The extra point was blocked but Long Branch fans likely felt they were in for a romp based on that one play, but it was not to be.
In fact Manasquan came back with a similar big play in the following series. On the second snap junior back Connor Morgan broke through the LB line and rambled 73 yards for the second Warrior score within the first four minutes of the contest.
The defenses then took over for most of the first half as Long Branch managed only a single first down over their next three possessions. On the Waves sixth offensive set they reached the Squan 25-yard line with the key play an 11 yard reception by Shawn Gonzaga from QB Juwan Wilkins.
Manasquan closed out the half with one more touchdown coming with 1:21 remaining. Wave lineman Desmond Blackmon sacked QB Jerry Maher on the first down of the series. On the following play, a second and fourteen, Maher hit wide receiver Damaso Jaime for a 55-yard scoring strike to provide Manasquan with a 21-6 advantage going into the halftime break.
Both teams failed to threaten during the third quarter. The Warriors extended their lead to 28-6 when running back Jack Mallett went over with 6:59 remaining in the contest.
Reserve QB Marc Dennis came on the field late in the game for the Wave and immediately generated some excitement. On a first down play from the LB 15-yard line Dennis rolled out and sidestepped two defenders, then threw downfield on the run to find Keith Cooper. The Squan safety had the angle on Cooper and dived to hit Cooperís heels to take him off stride for a couple of steps. Cooper regained his rhythm and sprinted down the sideline to complete the 85-yard scoring play with 3:24 remaining in the game. QB Wilkins then connected with Shawn Gonzaga for the two point conversion and the final scoring of the afternoon.
Long Branch’s Desmond Blackmon was likely the smallest man on the line of both teams. Nevertheless Blackmon led the Wave defense with 11 tackles including a sack. Incidentally Blackmon goes both ways on the Long Branch front. Senior linebacker Xavier Jenkns also recorded a sack