The big back and the big receiver came up big for South Brunswick High’s football team.
Dahrae Ford, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound fullback, scored four touchdowns and Rutgers-bound T.J. Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound receiver had five catches for 138 yards to help lift the third-ranked Vikings to a 27-21 win over fourth-rated Old Bridge on Friday night in the Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division.
Ford scored on runs of 3, 15 and 11 yards and also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback T.J. Perkowski, who was plenty big as well, completing 10 of 15 passes for 180 yards and picking up a first down that enabled South Brunswick (3-0) to run out the clock and end the game.
“This feels amazing,” said Ford, a junior who scored one touchdown last year and finished Friday’s game with 107 yards on 17 carries. “The key was making the right reads and our line blocked good. We knew if we kept doing our jobs we were going to win the game.”
Old Bridge (1-2) trailed 21-0 with 2:43 remaining in the first half, but got a 20-yard TD pass from Vince Gargano to Dan Grillo to cut the deficit to 14 points just 31 seconds prior to intermission.
After a crazy stretch of three snaps that produced three turnovers (all fumbles) in South Brunswick territory, the Knights capitalized with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Gargano to Chris Weber to make it 21-14 with 5:04 to go in the third quarter.
South Brunswick responded with an 80-yard TD march, with Dontae Strickland’s 11-yard reception keeping the drive alive on third-and-6 from the Vikings’ 24. After a holding penalty, Taylor caught a perfect pass on the sideline from Perkowski and turned it into a 65-yard gain, which set up Ford’s final score with 2:36 in the third period.
Taylor helped set up all four of Ford’s touchdowns in some manner. His 30-yard reception set up the first TD, his 25-yard run got the second scoring drive rolling and his interception led to the third touchdown march.
“Momentum is a big key to winning a lot of games,” Taylor said. “It’s going to go back and forth, we’re going to have our negatives and positives, but once we get momentum our crowd gets going, our sideline gets going; we get that confidence that we’re really good and can win.”
Old Bridge answered with a 16-play, 69-yard drive that was capped by Isaiah Trawick’s 1-yard catch on fourth down with 6:40 to go in the fourth quarter. The Knights also converted on fourth-and-1 from their own 40 on the first play of the period.
The Knights had one more chance to try to tie or take the lead, but a holding penalty and three incompletions (one on a hard-hitting breakup by Taylor) ended their possession with 3:43 to go.
South Brunswick ran Ford six times for 30 yards to help run out the clock.
“Dahrae was amazing,” Perkowski said. “I told him that I was just going to keep feeding him the ball every play. As long as he kept running hard, I was going to give it to him.”
Perkowski sparked South Brunswick with his legs and arm on the same play to get the Vikings rolling on their first scoring drive. On third-and-5 from his own 40, Perkowski avoided the pass rush and completed an 18-yard pass to Taylor to keep the drive rolling. Four snaps later, a 30-yard pass to Taylor set up Ford’s 3-yard touchdown run.
“I’ve been throwing to him since I was 12, so I know that I can throw it up to him at any point in time and he’s going to go get the ball,” Perkowski said. “It’s easy for us now.”
The Vikings went 62 yards on their next possession. Perkowski had a 29-yard run and capped the march with a 12-yard touchdown toss to Ford, giving South Brunswick a 14-0 lead with 5:09 remaining in the second quarter.
Moments later, Taylor intercepted a pass and South Brunswick started its next scoring drive from Old Bridge’s 44. Taylor caught a 15-yard pass on a third-and-11 and two plays later Ford scored on his 15-yard burst for his third TD of the first half.
“We didn’t capitalize; we had opportunities early,” said Old Bridge coach Anthony Lanzafama, whose squad missed a 32-yard field goal on its first possession after taking over at SB’s 38. “We had a three-and-out defensively to start the game and had great field position and we couldn’t convert.
“They haven’t been down all season, so we thought a key for us coming in was to get on top of them early and make them play from behind, and we weren’t able to do that.”