On the second play from scrimmage of a key Shore Conference Class B North contest at Matawan, Neptune’s Ajee Patterson threw an interception that would eventually turn into a Mike Creamer 33-yard field goal to open the scoring.
That early misstep from Patterson was easily forgiven thanks to what he did during the rest of the first half
The electrifying senior quarterback finished 13-for-19 for 328 yards to go along with four touchdown passes, a rushing touchdown and two interceptions, all of it before halftime, as Neptune, ranked No. 2 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, raced out to a 32-3 halftime lead on its way to making an emphatic statement across the Shore Conference and the state with a 46-10 victory over No. 4 Matawan at Barry Rizzo Field.
The Scarlet Fliers (4-0, 3-0), who also received three catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns from senior wide receiver Geoff Fairbanks, are now in firm control of Class B North after wins over the Huskies (3-1, 2-1) on Friday night and fellow-contender Long Branch back on Sept. 22.
“We try to execute and do what we do, but I think it’s for other people to say how good we are and how good we can be,” Neptune head coach Mark Ciccotelli said. “Our guys really did some nice things tonight. We worked hard all week, we challenge our kids in practice every day to get better and they did some very special things tonight.”
Creamer’s field goal gave Matawan a 3-0 lead, but Patterson got right back to work, tossing a 51-yard pass down the right sideline on the first play of the ensuing drive. Keyshawn Rice’s extra point gave the Scarlet Fliers a 7-3 lead they would only add to.
After a Matawan three-and-out, Patterson hit Rice for 18 yards to get Neptune to its own 41. After an incomplete pass, Patterson went back to Rice, this time over the top of the defense for a 59-yard scoring strike and a 13-3 lead
Neptune needed just six plays to go 91 yards after another Huskies three-and-out, capped by Patterson hitting a streaking and wide open Fairbanks in the middle of the field for a 68-yard touchdown pass and a 19-3 lead after Rice’s point after.
After that early interception, Patterson showed great resolve in coming back out and registering one of the best passing performance in the Shore Conference in recent memory.
“I just wanted to calm down and when I got to the sideline, the coaches told me to just keep doing what I’m doing,” Patterson said of the early interception. “I really don’t think it affected me. At the end of the day, we put up more points than them and we did it as a team.”
Neptune took a 32-3 lead into halftime after Sekou Harris recovered a fumble in the end zone with less than a minute to go in the second quarter. That play followed Patterson almost throwing a fifth touchdown pass, but he was intercepted in the end zone by Dan Incle.
Next up for the Scarlet Fliers is an intriguing nondivisional contest at Class A South leader, perennial state title contender and fellow-unbeaten Brick Memorial. The game obviously will not count towards a division title for Neptune, but it will serve as a good barometer as to where the reigning NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III champion is as the calendar turns to October.
“Brick Memorial, a different type of team than Matawan, but still a great team,” Fairbanks said. “We’re gonna come out and bring it to them as I’m sure they will to us. It’s going to be a great game.”