A week before Jerod Johnson, the latest in a long line of gifted Carteret tailbacks, became the most prolific scorer in the storied high school football program’s history, the Ramblers faced an opponent intent on stopping the run.
Quarterback Tyler Rodriguez took full advantage of what the defense provided, passing for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
“They kind of made it their business to not let (Johnson) get going,” Carteret coach Matt Yascko said of South Plainfield’s scheme.
“I’m sure other teams have had that same concept. We don’t want to say we gave up (trying to run), but if (teams) are going to put nine or 10 (defenders) on the line of scrimmage, we’ll jut throw the ball.”
The ability of Rodriguez and Johnson, who play behind an outstanding offensive line, to complement one another helped make them the Home News Tribune’s Co-Football Players of the Week.
Johnson rushed 16 times for 142 yards and three scores to become Carteret’s career leader with 55 touchdowns, while Rodriguez completed 12 of 16 passes for 138 yards and two scores in last Friday’s 39-6 victory over New Brunswick.
“They have a very balanced attack,” said South Plainfield coach Gary Cassio, whose Tigers lost 27-0 to Carteret on Sept. 21. “If teams focus so much on stopping (fullback) Naji (Johnson) and Jerod, you’ve got Rodriguez with those receivers who can beat you.”
Carteret (4-0), ranked No. 4 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, is averaging 41 points and 352.8 yards from scrimmage per game.
Jerod Johnson has rushed for 549 yards and eight touchdowns this season, while Rodriguez has passed for 592 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“There’s been an unbelievable lineage of running backs at Carteret, short of next to nobody in the area,” Yascko said. “It seems like for every year since I’ve been around (11 as a head or assistant coach), we’ve had a very good tailback. For (Johnson) to have the all-time record at a school that’s been playing football since the 1930s is really something.”
Yascko said Johnson’s ability to go from zero to full speed in about two seconds is what distinguishes him from other tailbacks.
“Sometimes he’s in the hole and out of the hole faster than I can see him,” Yascko explained. “I don’t even know if it’s a teachable thing. His explosiveness is what makes him special.”
Rodriguez benefits from a fleet of receivers – eight players have caught at least one pass – and has a high acumen for the game.
“He has command of the offense,” Yascko said. “I can talk to him about something and he can kind of make it happen without practice reps. He truly is a leader at that position.”
Rodriguez’s ability to make checks and reads at the line of scrimmage – his audible resulted in a 75-yard scoring strike against South Plainfield – makes Carteret dangerous.
Carteret, whose wins have come against schools with a combined 3-12 record, has a bye week before beginning a tough stretch against Woodbridge (3-1), Bishop Ahr (2-2) and Colonia (4-0).
The defending Greater Middlesex Conference White Division champions are regarded as a favorite to win the Central Group II championship.
WEEK 4 TOP PERFORMERS
RUSHING: Zahir Powell (Metuchen) 38-246-4; Jack Dalrymple (Spotswood) 21-230-3; Nadre Hepburn (Highland Park) 18-174-1; Sam Pero (Colonia) 32-170-1; Aqeel Daniels (Edison) 19-166-1; Jerod Johnson (Carteret) 16-142-3; Jaylen Hodby (North Brunswick) 16-124-1; Zeke Perkinson (Sayreville) 16-111-1; Quatay Nesmith (Highland Park) 24-110-0; T.J. Perkowski (South Brunswick) 12-106-1; Alex Rivera (Monroe) 13-104-1; Dylan Hoski (Dunellen) 12-101-1; Vincent Gargano (Old Bridge) 7-100-4.
PASSING: Tyler Rodriguez (Carteret) 10-14-135-2; Dario Brzozowski (J.P. Stevens) 5-12-129-1; Casey Wenzel (Dunellen) 7-13-125-2.
RECEIVING: Nadre Hepburn (Highland Park) 5-77-1; Chiebuka Chukwuneke (J.P. Stevens) 3-75-1.