Blue Bishops earn rematch with Shore

Blue Bishops earn rematch with Shore

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Blue Bishops earn rematch with Shore

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ASBURY PARK

After a three-week layoff, Asbury Park opened defense of its NJSIAA Central Group I crown Saturday against a physical South Hunterdon team.

By the end, the fourth-seeded Blue Bishops survived for a 21-14 quarterfinal victory over the No. 5 Eagles at Asbury Park Stadium.

Asbury Park (6-2), which has won four of the last five CJ I titles, will face top-seeded Shore Regional in the semifinals. Shore beat the Blue Bishops, 37-12, two months ago.

Sophomore running back Shaheim Tillman scored two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving — and junior quarterback Robert Barksdale threw for 135 yards and a touchdown and added 79 rushing yards to lead the Bishops.

This was Asbury Park’s first game since a 33-6 win over Middlesex Oct. 27. The Bishops were scheduled to play Keansburg last week, but the game was cancelled due to the devastation of superstorm Sandy in Keansburg.

“They were disappointed in not playing but they also understood the reasons for it,” Asbury Park coach Matt Ardizzone said. “They were excited to get back on the football field.”

Asbury Park trailed 14-13 late in the third quarter when Bishops senior Imere Stroman turned the game around with two big plays. Stroman sacked South Hunterdon junior quarterback Devon Troutman for an 8-yard loss on third down, and followed with a 38-yard punt return to the Eagles 33.

The Bishops then faced third-and-6 when Barksdale threw 18 yards to freshman receiver Jaedon Stephens to the 11. Two plays later, Tillman took a toss to his left and ran 6 yards for a touchdown. Barksdale added a two-point conversion pass to sophomore Tyquis Davis and Asbury Park took a 21-14 lead with 10:23 left.

“(Stroman) got us back going and got the adrenaline going,” Barksdale said.

Asbury Park held on from there despite losing two fumbles in the fourth quarter. After a Bishops turnover at the Eagles 8, South Hunterdon (6-3) gave it right back when junior fullback Toby Coleman, who rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown, fumbled at the end of a 35-yard run as Bishops senior lineman Domingo Perez made the recovery.

The Bishops lost another fumble at the Eagles 26 with 34.5 seconds left, but South Hunterdon moved as far as its 45 before the clock ran out.

“They’re 6-2 for a reason,” Ardizzone said of South Hunterdon. “They’re big, they’re physical, and they have a scheme that’s very difficult to defend at times. I knew it was going to be a dogfight, especially when you don’t play for three weeks and you have to get back into the scheme of things.”

Asbury Park took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Tillman took a Barksdale screen pass 31 yards for a touchdown. South Hunterdon tied it in the second quarter when Troutman followed a 60-yard run by senior Robert Albanir with a 28-yard touchdown run.

The Bishops regained the lead at 13-7 by answering with a 9-play, 52-yard drive — all on the ground — as Davis finished with an 8-yard touchdown run. South Hunterdon then drove to the Bishops 3, but Asbury Park stopped Coleman 2 yards short of the goal line as time expired in the first half.

The Eagles took their only lead at 14-13 midway through the third quarter when Coleman followed a blocked punt by senior lineman Daniel Voorhees with a 38-yard touchdown run.

“We did what we wanted to do,” said South Hunterdon coach Toby Jefferies, whose team totaled 256 rushing yards. “We were able to run the ball. A couple key penalties, we had a couple first downs that were called back on holding, and we had that fumble there at the end, that hurt, too. We just came up short.”

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