All the pieces to the puzzle had not fit together for Red Bank Regional during the first four games of the season.
“The team needed to understand certain things we were doing and to fully understand what it takes to win close games in terms of preparation,” Giglio said. “When you’re dealing with 60 kids, 60 kids need to understand.”
This past Saturday, the pieces finally all came together for Bucs. The result was Red Bank’s first win of the season — a shocking 21-19 victory over Neptune.
“(Last week) was the best week of practice we’ve had,” Giglio said. “The kids started focusing on the little things. You wouldn’t expect an 0-4 team to have the ability to practice like we were 4-0. It’s a credit to them.”
Red Bank, which had lost two games by six points, including one to Wall in double overtime, and another by 10 to Ocean, in which it led going into the fourth quarter, put together a spirited performance defensively.
The Bucs scored one TD on a 35-yard fumble return by Tajhi Tomaino.
Ends Garrett Sickels and Dylan DeVita and tackle Isssac Coates put enough pressure on rocket-armed Neptune quarterback Ajee Patterson to disrupt the rhythm of the Scarlet Fliers’ high-powered passing game.
The secondary, led by safety Ross Gisondi, was able, for the most part, to prevent the big play.
“We were able to do enough things to make them earn their yardage,” Giglio said. “When you are playing the No. 5 team in the Shore (Neptune was ranked No. 5 in the Shore going into the game), you have to win the matchups you have a chance to win. Our pass rushers against their offensive line was a matchup we had to win. Their wideouts and quarterback are that good.”
The Bucs also took chances in the kicking game and limited their mistakes on offense. Gisondi, the the team’s punter, as well as quarterback, ran for 50 yards on a fake punt. Red Bank won the turnover battle 5-1.
“We finally played a little bit like the team of last year,” said Giglio, whose team qualified for the NJSIAA Central Group II playoffs last year. “They (the players) are starting to understand what it takes for their coaches and teammates to trust them. That trust comes from the week of practice.”
Red Bank, which had to play Red Bank Catholic, ranked No. 1 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 and No. 8 Rumson-Fair Haven in two of its first three games, still has a tough road ahead.
The Bucs host Matawan (4-1) this week. They are at Freehold (1-4) on Oct. 27 and at Barnegat (3-2) on Nov. 2. If they can sweep those three games, they could vault into contention for a spot in the Central Group III playoffs.
Win with defense
The old saying of a team taking on the personality of its coaches appears to be true with the defensive unit at Lakewood.
Piners’ second-year head coach L.J. Clark says defensive coordinator Jamil Jackson and defensive line coach Kevin Freeman have “brought an attitude to our defense.”
Jackson, played his scholastic ball at Elizabeth and then at Rutgers. Freeman, played his scholastic ball at Carteret and then at West Virginia.
“They (Jackson and Freeman) preach run to the ball and tackle,” Clark said. “We practice that every single day.”
The Piners, who are 4-1 overall, 3-1 in Class B South and off to their best start since they were 5-0 in 2002, were suffocating on defense in a 19-0 win at Jackson Liberty this past Friday night. They held the Lions to just 7 yards rushing, 70 yards of total offense and three first downs as they recorded their first shutout since a 9-0 win over Red Bank on Oct. 28, 2006.
Lakewood has not allowed more than 18 points in any game and just 58 on the season.
“We’re fast and we’re sure tacklers. We swarm to the ball,” Clark said.
Lakewood’s defense has been led by senior middle linebacker Marquis Oliver and sophomore defensive end Datrell Reed and junior outside linebacker Solomon Cobbs.
The presence of senior safety Tyrice Beverette, an Asbury Park Press All-Shore first team selection last year on defense, makes the Lakewood defense even tougher. Beverette, who missed games against Monsignor Donovan and Manchester because of what he said was dehydration problems, returned to the lineup against Jackson Liberty.
Clark said Beverette is 100 percent.
“He’s been chomping at the bit the whole time,” Clark said.
One of the main reasons Lacey is off to a 6-0 start and is in first place in Shore Conference Class A South is junior quarterback Tom Kelly.
Kelly, who was 22-for-28 for 246 yards with two touchdown passes this past Saturday in the Lions’ come-from-behind 21-19 at Southern, has now thrown for 1,025 yards and 12 TDs. He is 57-for-81 with just one interception. Last year, Kelly was just 28-for-80 for 369 yards with three TDs and nine interceptions.
The reasons for Kelly’s improvement: experience; a multitude of weapons to throw the ball and hand the ball off to; the implementation of the spread offense by Lacey head coach Lou Vircillo and his coaching staff and the chance to work with quarterbacks coach Cory Davies.
Davies, who was Howell’s head coach from 1991-2011, used the spread alignment with great success the last seven seasons.
“I absolutely love it (the spread alignment). It’s quarterback-friendly, needless to say,” Kelly said.
News and notes
* Manalapan senior wide receiver Anthony Firkser has made a non-binding verbal commitment to Harvard to play both football and basketball, Manalapan coach Ed Gurrieri said on Monday.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Firkser, an Asbury Park Press All-Shore first-team selection in football and an All-Shore third-team selection in basketball last year, has 20 receptions for 484 yards and four TDs this season. He averaged 18.7 points a game in basketball last season.
* Manalapan is 5-0 for the first time since 1988. A win Saturday at Colts Neck would enable the Braves to be 6-0 for the first time since 1987, when they started 8-0 before a loss to Neptune in the first round of the Central IV playoffs.
* Monsignor Donovan is 4-1 for the first time since 1993 when it won the Class C South championship.
* Point Pleasant Beach (6-0) is off to perhaps its best start since its legendary 1945 team. That team was 6-0 before it tied Manasquan on Thanksgiving Day to wind up 6-0-1.
* Toms River South (2-3, 2-2) will be trying to break an overall 18-game losing streak to sister schools Toms River East and Toms River North on Friday night when it plays at Toms River East (1-5, 0-4).
The Indians’ last win over either of their sister schools was a 24-21 overtime victory over Toms River East on Nov. 1, 2002. Current Toms River East defensive coordinator Brian Wilkinson was Toms River South’s head coach that night and current Toms River South head coach Ron Signorino Jr. was the offensive coordinator at Toms River East that night.
Current Toms River East head coach Charlie Diskin was the Raiders’ defensive coordinator that night.
* A game that will have major seeding ramifications in the Central III playoffs will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday when Allentown (6-0) plays at Nottingham (6-0).
Allentown is currently first in the Central III power rating with 101. Nottingham is second with 86.