Despite a rash of preseason injuries, Southern Regional came out in top form on Friday night.
Earlier in the preseason, Southern had lost senior wide out Kevin Barreau to season-ending injury and then had to go without quarterback Dan Higgins for the final week of the preseason, but the Rams overcame their injury woes to coast past Freehold Township 28-0 for their first win of the season. The game was ended with 2:15 to go in the third due to lightning.
“In the first game you don’t know what to expect,” said head coach Chuck Donohue Sr. “I thought we came ready to play, we caught a couple breaks and made the most of them, but nobody got hurt, which is the most important part. We can’t afford any more injuries.”
Senior running back Abe Gonzalez led the Rams in his first career varsity start. Gonzalez racked up 63 yards on 18 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to put the game out of reach. He also snagged a short pass form Higgins and took it 16 yards into the end zone in the first quarter.
Junior Rob Yaiser added 50 rushing yards on eight carries for the Rams, who look to replace last year’s star running back TJ Bellissimo.
“The one thing about Abe is he’s a great kid,” Donohue Sr. said. “Bellissimo was a special back, but Abe and Yaiser, they’re not trying to be someone else.”
Higgins came back from injury to complete 4 of 8 passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Twice Southern Regional receivers dropped well-thrown deep passes form Higgins that would have added to his yardage total.
“I was happy with Higgins,” Donohue Sr. said. “I thought other than one over throw in the end zone, he was right on the money, especially with deep balls. The one concern I’ve had with him was throwing behind receivers.”
Higgins’ second touchdown pass came in the second quarter when he rolled out left and found 6-foot-6 Mike Gesicki open in the corner of the end zone from 26 yards out.
“We lost (Higgins) in the third scrimmage, so for awhile, we were trying to have an offense and get something going with Gesicki at quarterback when he’s a wide out. So I was happy we got through all that.”
The Rams also dominated the turnover battle. On the first possession of the game, Gesicki picked up a Dan Bloodgood fumble and took it one yard into the end zone to put the Rams on the scoreboard.
In the second quarter, junior defensive back Logan Sheehan picked off a Bloodgood pass and took it 35 yards to the Freehold Township 30-yard line. Later in the quarter, junior defense back Richie Lyons fell on a Bloodgood fumble to start a Rams’ drive at the Freehold Township 39-yard line.