Neptune sure acted like it wanted to make up for lost time in the first quarter of its key Shore Conference Class B North game against Long Branch on Saturday at Memorial Field.
“We had a long break without a game. We had nothing to do last Friday and Saturday. Coming back on this field, there was so much motivation,” said Neptune senior running back/defensive back Myles Martin.
The Scarlet Fliers, who won by forfeit last week against Ocean, had not played a game since the season-opener against Raritan on Sept. 7, scored two touchdowns in an 18-second span in the first 1:13 and 20 points in the first 6:30 on their way to a 27-14 win.
“We knew how to set the tone. We came out here full-fledged,” Martin said.
Neptune (3-0, 2-0), ranked No. 2 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, had its early explosion because of its special teams and defense.
Senior Keyshawn Rice set up the first TD — a 7 yard run by Sekou Harris — with an 87-yard return of the opening kickoff.
Then, Kyle Lewis, a senior defensive back, returned an interception 37 yards for a TD on Long Branch’s first play from scrimmage and Martin returned an interception 58 yards for a TD on Long Branch’s second possession.
Neptune had run two plays from scrimmage for 10 yards and led 20-0.
“The whole week we were ready to play because we hadn’t played in so long,” said Harris, a senior running back/linebacker. “With the whole rivarly thing with Long Branch, we were definitely ready to come out here and show the Shore they were not a better team than us.”
Rice, on his kickoff return, started out along the right sideline, and made a cut toward the middle of the field before he was run down by Long Branch’s Deon Williams at the Green Wave 10.
“That sent a message to (Long Branch),” Rice said.
Harris scored two plays later, behind a crushing block on the corner by Rice.
Lewis’ INT came on a pass into the right flat. Martin’s INT came on a third-and-10 after the Green Wave (2-1, 0-1) had moved from their own 15 to their own 48.
“I just knew the play,” Martin said. “My coach (Neptune defensive coordinator Dom LePore) had me in the right spot. I had a week to watch film on them so you kind of just know the plays (the opponent) is going to run. I knew where the ball was going and when it was going.”
Long Branch, ranked No. 5, then was able to stabilize the game behind a punishing running attack. The Green Wave moved 71 yards in eight plays with Williams capping the drive with an 8-yard run.
The Green Wave rushed for 157 yards on 30 attempts in the first half. Williams, a sophomore tailback, had 85 yards on 13 carries and Joscil Jackon, a senior fullback, had 61 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
However, Neptune stifled the Long Branch rushing game in the second half. The Green Wave had just one first down and minus-14 yards rushing on their first five possessions of the second half.
The Scarlet Fliers sacked quarterback Avry Griffin three times as they stacked the box with nine and 10 defenders and dared Long Branch to throw the ball. The Green Wave did miss a chance to pull within, 20-14 when Griffin overthrew a wide-open Chris Pappayliou on a second-and-10 from the Neptune 36 midway in the third quarter.
“We knew we had to keep No. 10 (Williams) and No. 7 (Jackson) inside because they were killing us to the outside,” Martin said.
Neptune finally put the game away on a 9-yard TD run by Rice with 2:35 left. Jackson had a 63-yard run 34 seconds later to account for the final score.