Middletown South was looking to bounce back after a tough 38-0 loss the previous week to Manasquan. And it is never easy in football when you have to wait a week to get back on the field and get the bad taste of a loss out of your mouth.
The Eagles came out determined to erase the memory of the defeat and did that by taking an early lead and holding on for a 30-16 victory on the road over Freehold Township in a Class A North contest.
“Football isn’t like baseball and basketball where you have three or four games in a week,” said South coach Steve Antonucci. “You have a lot of time to lament and go through the process of trying to get better.”
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to get on the board and regain their confidence. The Patriots received the opening kickoff, but on the first play from scrimmage South linebacker Trent Giglio recovered a fumble to give the Eagles great field position at the Township 44.
South took advantage of the turnover and four plays later had a 2nd and goal at the 2. Drew O’Connell took the handoff from quarterback Kyle Brey and burst into the end zone for the 7-0 lead just 1:30 into the game.
“We talked about wanting to strike first and playing from ahead,” said Antonucci. “Our defense made a play early and our offense got back to doing what they need to do to help us win.”
After Township turned a short drive into three points on a 27-yard field goal by Nick Galanti, South went back to work on offense and drove 67 yards in eight plays. After a 39-yard pass down the seam from Brey to Spencer Peerless put the ball on the Township 2, O’Connell got the call again and scored for a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But the Patriots did not go down easily. Behind quarterback Jack O’Brien, Township kept the pressure on the South defense. O’Brien threw a screen pass to Matt Pine that gained 49 yards to the South 10. Two plays later, O’Brien connected on a pass in the corner to Tyree Wilson for an 18-yard touchdown.
Up 14-9 with 1:40 to go in the half, the Eagles faced a 3rd and 7 at the Township 38. Brey rolled to his right and then lofted a pass just over a Patriot defender that Nolan Peerless hauled in and then raced into the end zone to make it 21-9 heading to intermission.
South took control of the game in the third quarter with a 37-yard field goal by Matt Mosquera and a 9-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Concepcion. Township added another score in the fourth when O’Brien connected with Wilson for a 20-yard score. O’Brien finished with 214 yards passing for the game to nearly match Brey who threw for 217 yards.