Turnovers prove costly for Red Raiders

Turnovers prove costly for Red Raiders

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Turnovers prove costly for Red Raiders

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FLORENCE

Too many Keyport turnovers early in the game led to too big of a hole for the Red Raiders to dig their way out of on Saturday afternoon.

No. 6 seed Keyport turned the ball over twice in the first quarter and that led to consecutive touchdowns by No. 3 seed Florence.

The host Flashes never relinquished the lead en route to a 40-29 victory in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 quarterfinal game. Florence will travel to No. 2 seed Point Beach on Friday, Nov. 30 for a CJ Group I semifinal game.

“We gave them two touchdowns right off the bat. We fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line and we threw that interception, which they turned around and scored on,” Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli said. “But as the final score indicates, we were in the game and we had a chance to win this game.”

The Red Raiders (6-4) squandered some of those chances in that ominous first quarter.

On their first two drives of the first quarter, the Red Raiders only picked up one first down each and had to punt. They fumbled away their third drive which led to Florence taking a 12-0 lead on a Rich Myers’ 2-yard touchdown with 2:10 left in the first. An interception stalled their fourth drive of the quarter and Florence got the ball back with 1:15 left and a first and goal at the 10-yard line. Five plays later, Curtis Thompson punched it in from the 2-yard line for a 19-0 Florence lead.

That score stayed that way at halftime and then there were two wild sequences, one for each team, that swung momentum back and forth in the third quarter.

“We just told them at halftime that you have to come out and play with pride and respect,” Ciccotelli said. “Twenty-four minutes left, especially for the seniors, what do you want to do with it?”

The Red Raiders responded to their coach’s challenge by stopping Florence (8-1) on its first possession of the third quarter. The Red Raiders then went 80 yards on four plays capped by Emanual Martinez’s 64-yard run to make it 19-7 Florence with 7:32 left in the third.

Florence’s Myers then fumbled away the first play of the ensuing drive and Keyport was in business again, this time in the red zone, getting the ball at the Florence 20-yard line with 7:10 left in the third. This drive only took four plays and quarterback Alex Thomson finished off the drive with a 1-yard run and it was 19-14 Florence with 5:40 left in the third.

That was as close as Keyport got.

Florence’s Jazmir Best returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the Keyport 2-yard line and one play later Myers atoned for his fumble by scoring for a 26-14 lead with 5:20 left in the third quarter. Keyport then fumbled away its next drive and Florence turned that into another scoring drive, which Myers finished off from the 8-yard line for a 33-14 lead with 2:24 left in the third quarter.

The Red Raiders would add a Thomson to Greg Armstrong 58-yard touchdown and a Thomson to Johnny Olsen 9-yard touchdown, plus a Thomson to Armstrong conversion, in the fourth quarter but they couldn’t get the key stops on defense to slow down Florence as the Flashes found the end zone one more time, Curtis Thompson’s 30-yard run.

“My brother (Connor Thomson) is a senior and I tried to play my heart out for all the seniors on the team,” said the junior quarterback Alex Thomson. “They are my family. It is a one-square mile town and we all try to play for each other but we couldn’t get it done today.”

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