Carmen Sclafani was thinking first down before he received the snap from center with less than five minutes remaining on Friday night at Toms River North’s Gernerd Field.
“Before the play, I looked at the marker (the first down marker) and I knew I had to get four yards,’ said Sclafani, a sophomore quarterback for Toms River North.
Sclafani got the 4 yards and then some. He took an inside read option play up the middle, burst into the Brick Memorial secondary and raced 68 yards for a TD that gave the Mariners, ranked No. 9 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, a 12-point lead with 4:30 remaining.
Toms River North then survived a bizarre final 21.3 seconds to hang on for a 30-25 win over No. 2 Brick Memorial and keep itself in the Shore Conference Class A South race.
“All of the sudden, I got four yards and there was no one in front of me,” Sclafani said.
It was the second one Sclafani had broken on the inside, read option in the fourth quarter With Brick Memorial (5-1, 3-1) ahead, 18-17, Sclafani, on a second-and-7 from midfield, raced 39 yards to the 11. Three plays later, his 2-yard TD run on a third-and-1 gave Toms River North the lead for good.
Sclafani’s runs were part of a halftime adjustment the Toms River North coaching staff made after they rushed for just 46 yards in the first half.
Trevon Bass was also effective in running the ball inside in the second half off the read option play.
“We knew in the first half their ends were coming up field,” Sclafani said. “We were blocking down, and that really seemed not to be working. At halftime, we switched the plays we were running and started blocking out.”
Brick Memorial created some late drama after Sclafani’s second TD. A diving 42-yard reception by Rob Traino on a deflected pass on a third-and-10 followed by a 22-yard Ryan Cieplinski to Mike Basile completion set up Cieplinski’s 2-yard TD run that pulled the Mustangs within 30-25 with 2:59 remaining.
Toms River North (4-1, 3-1) moved for one first down on a 14-yard run by Bass before it punted the ball back to the Mustangs with 41.8 seconds remaining.
Brick Memorial appeared done, when on a fourth-and-10 from its own 22, it looked like Cieplinski was going to be sacked. However, just before he was going to be tackled, Cieplinski was able to desperately get the ball out of his hands. The ball hit the ground on a play that was close to a forward pass. Kahron Walker picked up the loose ball and ran 21 yards for a first down to the 43 with 4.6 seconds remaining.
After Cieplinski was able to spike the ball with 2.9 seconds left, Brick Memorial tried the hook-and-ladder play. Cieplinski completed the hook part of the play to Joe Hans to the Mariners’ 45. Hans then pitched the ball to speedy junior Mike Basile. Basile was tackled at the 30 to end the game. Brick Memorial had wiped out an 14-6 third quarter deficit and grabbed an 18-17 lead with 10:49 left on Basile TD runs of 20 yards in the third quarter and 43 yards in the fourth quarter on option plays.