After dominating the first quarter of play, and holding on for dear life for most of the afternoon, the South River High School football team was able to preserve its undefeated record at Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Backed by a dominant performance from sophomore running back Doug Ryan who rushed for 255 yards on 19 carries, including three touchdowns, the Rams defeated Keansburg, 33-31, in a crossover matchup.
“We started the first quarter pretty darn quick,” South River coach Rich Marchesi said. “We’ve been coming out in the beginning of games pretty high but you can’t always play that way for four quarters. The defense down the stretch made a couple of big stops, we had the big touchdown run off tackle, and now we’re 3-0. I’m happy to be 3-0 right now.”
With Keansburg (2-1) holding possession of the ball at the South River 36-yard line trailing 26-24 midway through the fourth quarter, it was junior defensive back Hunter Wolff intercepting Keansburg quarterback Ryan Kurtz’s pass on a second-and-seven which gave the Rams (3-0) possession at their own 20-yard line with 7:43 remaining.
The keynote of the game was subsequently delivered on the very next play when Ryan took a handoff from quarterback Wyatt Boyler, who threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, and proceeded to race down the near sideline for an 80-yard touchdown giving South River a 33-24 lead.
“He’s a beast running the ball back there,” Marchesi said of Ryan. “Our tight end Bobby Applegate, Tyler Hill, and Layne Smith on the left side blocked that pretty well. I couldn’t have drawn that up any better. Doug hit the hole and he was off to the races. He’s a sophomore but he plays like a senior. He’s a tremendous athlete.”
The first of Ryan’s three scores came on a 34-yard scamper which put South River up 14-0 after Boyler hit wide receiver Mark Alston for a 5-yard touchdown pass to begin the scoring for the day.
Another Ryan touchdown put the Rams ahead 20-0 with 3:53 left in first quarter on a 17-yard scoring run before the Titans finally got themselves on the board thanks to a Kurtz 12-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 20-6.
Boyler’s second touchdown pass of the half was a 10-yard strike to senior wide out Thomas Pitera with 11:40 to go in the second quarter to widen the South River lead to 26-7.
However, Keansburg stormed back before halftime.
Kurtz, who scored all five Titans touchdowns on the day, four on the ground and one through the air, brought Keansburg to within 26-18 heading into halftime with a 2-yard scoring run and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Chris Figaro.
A 42-yard touchdown run from Kurtz with 6:08 to go in the third cut the Ram lead to 26-24 after a failed two-point conversion.
Then, after Ryan’s 80-yard score, Kurtz led his team down the field again with an 11-yard touchdown run which brought Keansburg to within 33-31 with 1:15 remaining in the game. But, a failed onside kick attempt doomed the Keansburg comeback.