When the Raritan football team fumbled and lost the ball on the very first play of the game, it was just the beginning of a great day for the Manasquan defense.
The Warriors recovered that fumble, which turned into a scoring play, picked off a pass, which went for another score, and held Raritan to only 139 yards of offense for a convincing 42-17 Class A Central victory on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore linebacker Tanner Cowley recovered the fumble on the first play of the game. The Warriors (1-2, 1-1) then had a short field (33 yards) to go for their first score. On first and goal from the 3-yard line, junior running back Joe Fittin sprinted into the end zone and with 10:08 left, the Warriors had a 7-0 lead they would never relinquish.
Fittin would make a big statement on defense late in the second quarter. With Raritan (0-3, 0-1) having a second-and-10 from the Manasquan 35-yard line, Fittin saw something during the passing play.
“I dropped back and I saw the receiver come out in the flat. So, I thought to jump the route and (junior) Blaine Birch made a great play and tipped the ball in the air and I caught the ball,” said Fittin, who returned the interception 70 yards for the score. “I turned to the sideline and (senior) safety Chris Miller was waving me down telling me to come with him. I followed him and it was a clean path straight to the end zone.”
Fittin’s interception return made it 28-10 Manasquan with 3:47 left in the second quarter. Miller was also a big contributor on another long scoring play for the Warriors, which came on the first play of the second quarter.
On second-and-9 from the Manasquan 21-yard line, the Warriors gave the ball to senior Connor Grogan and he scampered 79 yards for the longest scoring play of the day.
“As soon as I turned the corner, there was only one or two guys there so I had an angle,” Grogan said. “Chris Miller came around and made two awesome blocks and I just took off.”
That Grogan score made it 14-3 Manasquan with 11:40 left in the second quarter.
Overall, Fittin had two touchdowns (one rushing, one interception), Grogan had one touchdown and junior Joe Murphy had rushing touchdowns of 33, 1 and 9 yards as Manasquan held a 35-10 lead at halftime.
“We wanted to finish this game in the second half,” Murphy said. “We were 0-2 and we wanted to get one in the win column and Mike Ariante started out great with that run.”
Ariante’s aforementioned run was for 58 yards on the first play of the second half, which gave Manasquan a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Three plays later, Murphy finished off the drive with his 9-yard run which gave Manasquan a 42-10 lead with 9:48 left in the third quarter.
Raritan senior quarterback C.J. Pulcine was a key component on every Raritan scoring play on Saturday.
He made a 24-yard field goal with 5:40 left in the first quarter to cut Manasquan’s lead to 7-3. He threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior Jordan Joaquin with 9:15 left in the second quarter that reduced Manasquan’s lead to 14-10. He also finished off Raritan’s final scoring drive with a 2-yard quarterback keeper with 11:09 left in the fourth quarter that finished off the scoring in the game.