It was Ajee Patterson’s first career varsity start at quarterback for the Neptune Scarlet Fliers.
The senior delivered, dominating the first half in a 41-13 win over Raritan in the regular season opener for both teams in nondivisional action Friday night.
Patterson completed 13 of 23 passes for 170 yards and one touchdown — all in the opening 24 minutes. He rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries, scoring each TD in the first half.
Patterson took over for the graduated Jaheem Woods, who quarterbacked Neptune to the NJSIAA Central III title last year.
“I felt some pressure tonight on myself,” said Patterson. “I played my game. In school today, all I thought about was playing. I told my mom, Alyssa Riley, I was nervous and she said, ‘Calm down.’
“I felt comfortable tonight in every way. My coaches told me to calm down and be coachable.”
Neptune coach Mark Ciccotelli said he was impressed with Patterson’s play.
“He did a great job of running our offense, that’s for sure,” he said. “He executed what the coaches told him to do all week and all preseason. Ajee is a big, strong kid and a smart kid. He’s a tough kid and he can throw the football. He is a dual threat type of kid.
“He studies the game. He does a great job. He has the talent and the ability to take the program into his hands. I am not worried about him. He has an incredible work ethic. He knows how to compete.”
Patterson caught Ciccotelli’s eyes with strong play when the Scarlet Fliers took on Middletown South and Rumson in scrimmages.
“He was able to execute the offense and compete,” Ciccotelli said. “He showed his athletic skills. He is an unbelievable kid.”
Patterson’s 5-yard run with 6:50 left in the first quarter staked the Scarlet Fliers to a 6-0 lead. The burst capped a 72-yard, 9-play drive.
Patterson added a 34-yard touchdown run with 2:45 to go in the first quarter and tossed a 4-yard scoring pass to Keyshawn Rice with 2:16 left in the opening half. A Patterson 18-yard run up the middle made it 26-7 with 59.2 seconds left in the first half.
“I have to work on my passing,” said Patterson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder. “I have to work on my footwork. It was important to win the first game. We don’t want to live in the past, but we wanted to come out and be Neptune — and that is play hard and be physical.”