It’s safe to say Long Branch has learned all the tricks in how to beat Red Bank after 91 years of meetings. The Green Wave could only muster two first downs through the first three quarters in Wednesday night’s game but found a way to make the most of their limited offense in an old-school 16-8 victory.
Long Branch now leads 59-29-3 in Monmouth County’s oldest Thanksgiving rivalry game in terms of the number of games played, but this one was in doubt until Deon Williams scored the clinching touchdown on 1-yard run with 2:32 left to play. Red Bank trailed 9-8 midway in the fourth quarter but Eduardo Lino, with the weather not favoring kicking, missed a potential go-ahead field goal from 29 yards.
The victory capped a Long Branch season that saw the team make a trip to the postseason, though the Green Wave were unable to advance when they yielded two scoring plays in the final 10 minutes of what was a 13-3 loss to Carteret in a Central Jersey Group III quarterfinal.
But Long Branch bounced back in the finale, a Shore Conference Class B North game, that solidified the Wave’s second-place finish in the division behind Ocean.
The Green Wave haven’t been to a section final since 2007 but have been a consistent contender under coach Dan George, who is also the head wrestling coach and head boys track and field coach at his alma mater. Long Branch won an NJSIAA Central Group III championship in George’s first season in 1999. He hit the 100-victory milestone as Long Branch’s football coach this fall and his record after the Wednesday victory stands at 105-55.
Dahmiere Willis led Long Branch (7-3, 5-1) with 63 rushing yards and Williams had 49 yards. Xavier Chestnut rushed for 72 yards for Red Bank (1-9, 1-5).
Long Branch struck first when Red Bank tried to punt in the first quarter. The snap sailed over punter Jack Navitsky’s head and into the end zone. Navitsky covered the ball but was tackled by for a safety.
Navitsky, a sophomore, got redemption when he stepped in at quarterback for starter Joe Persico. And it was a sophomore connection – Navitsky to Sadiq Palmer – on a 52-yard scoring pass to open the second quarter that vaulted the Buccaneers to an 8-2 lead. Jimmy Ferrigone picked up a two-point conversion on a run from a muddle huddle.
Long Branch stayed within reach even with only registering two first downs in the first half. Finally a big play on the defensive side of the ball – the interception by Willis, after Navitsky’s throw went through the hands of intended receiver Andrew Cook – put Long Branch in scoring position at the Red Bank 30. A 3-yard run by quarterback Jordan Rodriquez and 21-yard run by Willis put the ball at the 3, and Willis took it in with 3:08 left in the second quarter.