It wasn’t the classic touchdown, but the Brick Green Dragons will take it.
Junior running back Ray Fattaruso recovered a teammate’s fumble in the end zone with 32.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, giving host Brick a win over Brick Memorial in the regular-season opener for both teams in Shore Conference Class A South on Saturday.
The touchdown put the Green Dragons ahead, 19-14. Junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani swept right end for the two-pointer and Brick won, 21-14.
The winning play began at the Mustangs’ 8-yard line. Junior running back Joe Phillips swept right end and fumbled as he neared the goal line. An alert Fattaruso pounced on the ball, sending the Green Dragons and their fans into a frenzy.
“I was blocking to the whistle as I am told to do,” said Fattaruso, a 5-foot-10, 210-pounder. “I blocked to the end zone. I saw the ball and I knew it was a fumble. I jumped on it as fast as I could. When I jumped on it, a Brick Memorial guy went for it. Our heads practically collided.”
Phillips said he fumbled at least two-and-a-half yards from the goal line.
“It was one of our normal plays,” he said, “and of course I never thought about fumbling. Everything happens for a reason. What God wanted to happen happened. I was stripped (of the ball) from behind when I was going right in. I was ready to dive into the end zone when they tackled me. I thought, ‘Oh my God,’ when I was stripped.
“When Ray scored, I was just thanking God. I am the luckiest kid alive.”
Brick’s defense set up the score, stopping Brick Memorial junior quarterback Joe Hans, who sped for two touchdowns, for no gain on fourth and one on a smash into the middle at the Green Dragons’ 44 with 4:54 to play. Brick went the distance on 12 plays.
Sclafani, who played quarterback for Toms River North last season, came up big on the drive. Sclafani opened the series with a 2-yard run to the 46 and completed a 9-yard pass to Phillips for a first down at the Mustangs’ 45. A 5-yarder to Phillips put Brick at the 40. Sclafani muscled for six yards and a first down two plays later to the 34. Fattaruso gained one yard to the 33.
Sclafani connected with senior wide receiver Michael Muratore for a 13-yard gain and a first down to the 20. Sclafani rushed for four yards to the 16. Fattaruso ran for seven yards and a first down to the nine. A 1-yard pass from Sclafani to Muratore moved Brick to the 8, setting up the zany winning play.
“We spend hours working on defense each day in practice,” Sclafani said. “The stop that got us the ball changed the momentum to our side. It went through the roof. Everyone stepped up on our drive. Everyone needed to make a play. I knew we would score. There was no way we would not score.”
Brick Memorial took a 6-0 lead on a 69-yard dash around right end by Hans, who scored on the game’s third play from scrimmage with 10:30 left in the first quarter. Junior Kurt Kumm’s extra point made it 7-0. Brick shaved its deficit to 7-6 with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter on a 4-yard run by Sclafani.
Brick swung ahead, 12-7, with 8:13 to go in the first half on a 26-yard pass from Sclafani to Muratore. Senior Steven Ferlisi’s PAT made the score 13-7. Brick Memorial tied the game at 13 on a 12-yard burst up the middle by Hans. Kumm kicked the extra point for a 14-13 lead.
With 1:05 left in the first half, a Brick Memorial touchdown was nullified because of a holding penalty.
Brick leads the series, 20-11-1. The Green Dragons had lost to the Mustangs four straight seasons.
“Counting my time in Pop Warner and the sub-varsity and varsity levels, I am 14-1 against Brick Memorial,” Fattaruso said. “We weren’t losing. This is our town now.”
“We worked our tails off all offseason,” Phillips said. “We were so tired of losing to these guys. We won it with our hearts today.”