Against double-team blocking but with a chance to secure a Barnegat victory over undefeated Jackson Liberty in overtime, defensive lineman Zachary Andrews overcame all kinds of obstacles in recording a pivotal quarterback hurry.
“It was wild. Guys were holding me and I was slapping hands away, doing anything I could to get to the quarterback. And I almost got him,” Andrews said.
The pocket-melting pressure from Andrews was enough to force a game-ending incomplete pass, giving Barnegat a 14-13 victory in a Shore Conference Class B South matchup that highlighted brilliant defensive efforts on both sides.
Barnegat (2-2, 2-1) scored the decisive points in overtime on a one-yard run by Ed Santiago and an extra-point kick by Pat Moran. Jackson Liberty (3-1, 2-1) matched the touchdown on Anthony Sasso’s three-yard run but failed on its two-point conversion try.
A penalty pushed the Lions back to the eight-yard line for the conversion and Andrews, a 6-foot-3, 308-pound junior, hurried quarterback Bob Davies, who overthrew Matt Castronouva at the back of the end zone. Defensive back Vincent DiGirolamo had close coverage on Castronouva.
Andrews earlier in overtime also recovered a fumble and was consistently a prominent factor in a game that stayed 0-0 until midway through the fourth quarter.
Jackson Liberty’s Bruce Almodovar ran 15 yards for a touchdown with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter and the host Lions appeared on the verge of starting a season 4-0 for the first time in school history until Moran caught a game-tying touchdown pass with 2:06 left in regulation.
Barnegat is the defending division champion, and Moran said the team’s confidence never dropped as the clock was winding down.
“Our offense is amazing. We always have answers,” Moran said.
The first half proved to be a game of inches, a frustrating reality for Moran, who is also handles kicking and punting duties.
Moran in the second quarter attempted field goals from 40 and 42 yards. The senior captain uncorked strong kicks both times but the ball hit the right crossbar on the first try and hit the crossbar the second time.
“It was an up and down game for me, it really was,” Moran said. “I was worried that was going to cost us. I was very upset with myself. But my team came pick and picked me up.”
Moran’s most effective kick in the first half turned out to be a 24-yard punt to the corner that pinned Jackson Liberty at its 11. Barnegat’s defense held and forced a punt. But the field position was thwarted when Jackson Liberty linebacker Corey Foltzer, facing a second-and-six at midfield, sacked quarterback Ricky Gerena for a loss of six yards.
The 42-yard field goal attempt by Moran on the final play of the second quarter was set up by Greg Moran’s interception and 40-yard return.
Jackson Liberty was held to one first down in the first quarter. Barnegat didn’t fare much better. The Bengals didn’t move the chains or get into Jackson Liberty territory until there was 1:40 left in the quarter when Aaron Opre ran for eight yards.
Sophomore quarterback Cinjun Erskine and 300-pound lineman Sam Madden, sidelined by the NJSIAA transfer rule, become eligible for Barnegat after the upcoming bye week, just as the team seems to be in a groove, and coach Rob Davis said, “It’s nice to be able to win a game like this.”
Jackson Liberty coach Tim Osborn said his players will bounce back after the overtime loss.
“They’re upset tonight, deservedly so. They worked hard and wanted to win the game,” Osborn said.