POINT PLEASANT BEACH
It’s among the most cliched motivational tactics a coach can use, but leading up to a key Shore Conference Class B Central showdown with Asbury Park on Friday evening, Point Beach head coach John Wagner put the score of last season’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I semifinal, a 54-6 loss to the Blue Bishops, on the scoreboard during practice this week.
It may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective.
With the game acting as a possible state playoff preview and with the Garnet Gulls looking to emerge not only as the main contender to Shore in Class B Central, but as a real threat in CJ I, they controlled the clock, hit for a few big plays and came away with an impressive 54-20 win over Asbury Park on Friday evening.
Junior running back Danny Tighe ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while junior Kyle Samaritano ran for two scores and returned a kickoff for a score for Point Beach (5-0, 2-0), which is now in position to play for a division title.
Should the Garnet Gulls and Blue Devils, both of whom have wins over Asbury Park (2-2, 1-2), hold serve the rest of the way against the division, their game on Thanksgiving morning will be for the division title.
“Everybody talks about last year (and losing to Asbury Park), I don’t really care about last year except we had the score on the scoreboard during the week,” Wagner said. “We knew we were going to play them Week 5. We wanted to get to this point at 4-0, but before we got here, we knew we had to take care of Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4 before we get to 5, and obviously, we’ve done a great job of that.”
The Garnet Gulls entered the game with a plan that included controlling the clock and controlling the game three and four yards at a time. Additionally, while Asbury Park thrives off big plays, Point Beach was able to catch a few of those as well.
With the game tied at 7 early in the second quarter, Samaritano recovered a blocked punt at the Asbury Park 18-yard line. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Andre Cochran plowed up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown on first-and-goal and a 14-7 lead the Garnet Gulls would only add to.
After forcing a three-and-out, Point Beach quickly went 79 yards in just five plays, capped by sophomore quarterback Jake Fioretti hitting Bill Barry on a slant over the middle for a 51-yard score and a 21-7 lead at halftime.
That scoring drive and several others throughout the game were highlighted by the Point Beach offensive line getting good pushes and the three-pronged rushing attack of Samaritano, Tighe and Cochran grinding out chunks of yards and keeping the chains moving.
“We wanted to run strong inside, outside, whatever we could get and just keep drives alive,” Samaritano said. “We knew we weren’t going to break 50- and 60-yard plays all the time, but we just want to grind it out, three yards here, another four yards there. It was all heart.”
Asbury Park came out of the locker room throwing the ball as Robert Barksdale completed his first three passes before Samaritano picked him off, setting up Point Beach at its own 43. Fioretti’s 1-yard plunge capped an 8-play, 57-yard drive to make it 28-7.