Remember the rickety bleachers on the home side of the Brick High School football field? After decades of service, they’re gone, replaced during the off-season by new seating filled with spectators Saturday night for Brick’s home-opener against Middletown South.
Remember Middletown South’s poor start last season? That’s also nothing more than a memory now.
With a powerful defensive effort that yielded just three first downs, the No. 6 Eagles beat Brick 28-0 in a Shore Conference nondivisional game. Senior cornerback Justin Chenoweth’s return of a fumble for a touchdown was one of the highlights. So was Jake Ripnick’s performance, with 136 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Middletown South (1-0) lost its first two games last season, one of the few hiccups during coach Steve Antonucci’s 15-year tenure. The Eagles are 137-25 under Antonucci.
“This was a priority, not to start off bad like last year,” Chenoweth said. “We were confident we were headed to something good because everybody worked so hard in preseason.”
Middletown South went on a 66-yard march over 14 plays to score a touchdown on its first possession of the game. Kyle Brey completing 5 of 7 passes for 45 of the yards during the drive, with St. John Vianney transfer Elijah Smith making three of the catches. Ripnick chipped in with 4 carries for 14 yards and scored the TD on a 3-yard run with 4:30 left in the first quarter.
Brick had no such early luck, netting 2 yards on offense in the first half, and failing to record a first down. Quarterback Joseph Phillips completed 4 of 9 passes but his targets were smothered immediately.
At least the Green Dragons made the defensive stops needed to stay within reach, underscored when Raymond Fattarusso stopped Ripnick for no gain on a fourth-and-two with the ball on the Brick 30 at the end of the first quarter. John Fuino and Alfredo Flores chipped in with picks on Brey throws in the first half.
The second half went no better for Brick (0-2). The team picked up a pair of first downs on penalties. Its only rushing or passing first down in the game came on a 46-yard pass to Fuino from Joseph Phillips. Brick finished with 48 net offensive yards.
Middletown South used its bye week to play Caldwell, the fourth scrimmage opponent for the Eagles.
“We had extra time before our first game and we used it. We made some mistakes tonight but all in all it was a great first game of the season for us,” Antonucci said.
The Eagles thus began a stretch of eight straight weeks of games.
Despite being regular visitors in the postseason, the Eagles haven’t won a division of NJSIAA title since 2009.
Chenoweth said everything looks good for this season’s journey.
“You could just see how serious guys were during the summer getting ready for this,” he said.
Chenoweth’s touchdown came with 11:52 left in the third quarter and gave his team a 21-0 lead. Brick had the ball on its 7 and defensive lineman Connor Spreen stunned Phillips with a sack, the ball coming loose. Chenoweth scooped it up at the 2 and ran it in.
“I don’t get chances like that too often. That was nice,” Chenoweth said.