Shaking off two early Brick touchdowns, Brick Memorial roared back for a 35-13 victory Friday night in the Shore Conference Class A South opener for both teams.
An overflow crowd at Brick Memorial saw the Mustangs win their third in a row in the battle of cross-town rivals and trim Brick’s overall lead in the series to 19-10-1.
“It started a little sloppy but to our kids credit they really kept their heads, kept their wits about them and found a way to get back in the fight,” Memorial coach Walt Currie said.
Senior quarterback Ryan Cieplenski, who led the Mustangs into the the 2011 NJSIAA playoffs, threw for all of his 109 yards in the first half including a 21-yard touchdown to 6-foot-2 sophomore Joseph Hans, who also caught a 40-yard bomb that set up another score.
Hans ended with three first-half catches for 75 yards.
“I kind of talk to the corners of the other team, kind of get in their heads a little bit,” Hans said. “I try to let them know I’m coming every play.”
Cieplenski also tallied on a pair of short runs and junior Michael Basile capped the scoring with a 35-yard TD on a pass interception late in the fourth quarter.
“Ryan and Joe have a great chemistry,” Currie said. “In fact all our receivers do an amazing job of getting open and making plays.
“That puts our guys where they’re in a situation where they’re one-on-one and Joe took advantage of that tonight.”
Trailing 13-0 in the second quarter, Memorial drove 68 yards in 11 plays capped by a three-yard run by junior Nicholas Costas that drew it within 13-7 .
“Once we got that first scoring drive our kids felt a lot better about themselves,” Currie said. “They kept swarming around on defense. Our defense played amazing tonight and really kept us in the ball game.
“Once we got that scoring drive we knew we were going to get back in the fight.”
Memorial took the lead for good 14-13 with 6:28 left in the second quarter.
Hahn snatched a ball that appeared to bounce off the shoulder of a Brick defender at the after Cieplenski’s first with a 17-yard TD run on his first varsity carry.
Moments later he picked off a Cieplinski pass and dashed 38 yards to the end zone for a stunning 13-0 Brick advantage with 7:57 left in the opening quarter.
It could have been more. On a prior series Phillips, from his own 46, found tight end Dan Watson streaking down the right sideline for an apparent TD.
But a Memorial defensive back stripped the ball loose near the goal line and Kitrilakis recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
“We never put our heads down, we never gave up,” Hahn said. “We always saw the daylight in front of us and went to it.”