After getting clearly outplayed and trailing Freehold, 14-3, after the first half of a Shore Conference Class B North contest on Saturday, there Long Branch head coach Dan George contends that there were no major adjustments his team had to make.
What the Green Wave had to do was get more physical on both sides of the ball. They did just that after halftime and in doing so, completely changed the tide of what was looking like a lost afternoon when the day started.
Thanks to several clock-bleeding drives and a fantastic defensive effort, the Green Wave scored 27 unanswered points in the second half and came away with a 30-14 win at the Cal D. Wilson Athletic Complex.
Senior running back Joscil Jackson ran for 82 yards and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown that capped the scoring and junior running back Deon Williams ran for 79 yards a touchdown for Long Branch (5-1, 2-1), which is now in a position to at least get a share of the Class B North title.
With Neptune’s loss to Red Bank on Saturday, the Green Wave would gain at least a share of the division title if they win out. They haven’t won a division title since they shared the Liberty Division crown with Red Bank Catholic and Wall in 2007. The program’s last outright division title came in Class B North in 1999.
“The first half, we weren’t playing to out full potential and we knew it,” Jackson said. “We came out in the second half and won it together. Coach George just told us all to relax and to play our game and to play Long Branch football.”
Freehold sophomore running back Josh Dixon ripped off touchdown runs of 75 and 36, respectively, in the second quarter to help open up that 14-3 halftime lead.
Long Branch took control almost immediately upon the third quarter starting. It opened the third by going on a 13-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in Williams plunging in from four yards out as Vicente Mota’s extra point pulled Long Branch to within 14-10.
The teams traded short drives for the remainder of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter, the floodgates opened up. Senior quarterback Avry Griffin capped a 6-play, 57-yard drive by hitting junior wide receiver Myeson Pennington with a 15-yard slant over the middle on third-and-goal. The extra point gave Long Branch the lead for good at 17-14.
A 5-yard touchdown run from Griffin and Jackson’s 33-yard interception returned sealed it as Long Branch controlled the ball and the clock throughout the second half. The defense turned Freehold over five times on Saturday and the Colonials could only manage to run 11 offensive plays in the second half.
“From our standpoint, we made some adjustments, but they were minor,” George said. “It was more of us realizing that they way to get back on the field with these guys was to get more physical and we did that. Execution is critical and if you’re not executing, it’s easy to go in the tank.”