Braves' dynamic duo

Braves' dynamic duo


Braves' dynamic duo



Opposing teams will have to make major decisions when they are preparing their defense to play Manalapan.

If defenses decide to jam the box against the Braves’ power running game, which has produced 2,000-yard rushers each of the last two seasons, they will risk getting burned by the deep ball.

If opposing defenses decided to double cover standout senior wide receiver Anthony Firkser, then rising junior speedster Saeed Blacknall will be left in single coverage.

The same holds true if defenses decide to double team Blacknall and leave Firkser in single coverage.

On Friday night, in Manalapan’s season-opener against Jackson Memorial, both Firkser and Blacknall produced big plays as the Braves, ranked No. 3 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, rolled to a 30-12 win over the No. 7 Jaguars in a nondivisional game at Jack Munley Field.

It was Manalapan’s first win in an opener since 2002 and its first win over Jackson Memorial since 2008. The Braves had lost to the Jaguars in the season-opener the last two seasons.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Firkser had five receptions for 153 yards and TD receptions of 50 and 52 yards. He also had a 40-yard punt return to set up his first TD. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Blacknall had an 18-yard TD run on a reverse and a 68-yard punt return to set up a Mike Caggiano 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

“We have a lot of threats on the outside this year,” said senior quarterback Mike Isabella, who was 8-for-15 for 194 yards. “We’ve always banged it in there and taken shots when they’ve come. We just have to take advantage of them when we have them.”

“They (Jackson Memorial) really didn’t roll their safeties one way or the other,” said Manalapan coach Ed Gurrieri. “They kind of played them up close so they could play the run. By playing the run, they didn’t have any help with the corners (cornerbacks) and basically manned up.”

Both of Firkser’s TDs came on “skinny” post patterns. The first one gave Manalapan a 7-0 lead with 3:50 left in the first quarter. The second one made it 30-6 with 3:58 left in the game.

On both of the plays, Firkser blew right by the coverage.

“Anthony can run,” Gurrieri said. “He’s not lightning fast, but he’s 4.6 change (for the 40). For a 6-foot-2, 220-pound guy, that’s fast.”

Blacknall’s TD on an end around capped an 11-play, 84-yard drive that saw Manalapan have four plays of 15 yards or more.

David Debner’s 3-yard TD run capped a 74-yard, 11-play drive and made it 23-6 with 6:16 left.


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