After his team’s 28-27 non-divisional loss to South River Saturday, Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli told his team that the defeat they had just experienced is the kind that “will leave a scar.”
And, after the afternoon the Red Raiders spent trying to tackle South River’s Doug Ryan, it will likely leave more than a few bruises, too.
Ryan, South River’s big and punishing tailback, powered his way to 239 yards and four touchdowns – including the decisive blow with 40 seconds left to send the Rams to a come-from-from behind victory in which they entered the fourth quarter trailing, 21-14. Marco Correia’s extra-point kick provided the margin of victory.
“It’s hard to stop (Ryan),” lamented Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli. “Physically, he’s a man.”
The winning touchdown came when Ryan bounced a run outside and around left end from 14 yards out. It capped a 12-play, 68-yard drive that started with 4:31 left and accomplished exclusively on the ground. Ryan accounted for all but five yards on the march.
“We had two timeouts, so I wasn’t concerned about the time remaining,” South River coach Rich Marchesi said. “We figured we’d give it to the horse. He came close (to breaking one) a couple of times.”
South River’s 11th-hour heroics came immediately after Keyport (4-2) had taken a 27-21 advantage on quarterback Alex Thomson’s six-yard run. The score closed a six-play, 75-yard drive that was keyed by Thomson’s 73-yard pass to Chase Bright. Bright caught a short out pattern on the right sideline, veered to the middle of the field and was finally hauled down at the two. The extra-point kick was blocked.
Bright, who doubles as a linebacker, had also sent Keyport into the intermission with a 21-14 lead when, with 1:58 left in the first half, he stopped his rush from the right side and tipped a short pass into the air to himself, then raced 13 yards into the end zone for the touchdown. Joe Fronchek followed with his third extra point of the day.
“We got some outstanding performances today,” Ciccotelli said. “Chase played very well. He showed us something last week, then he built on that today.”
Bright was Keyport’s leading rusher with 78 yards on 11 carries. He also had 83 yards on two receptions.
The Keyport lead held until 8:29 remained in the game and Ryan burst through the middle of the Raider line for a five-yard touchdown run. The score finished an 11-play, 61-yard drive on which Ryan carried nine times. Correia’s PAT drew South River (5-1) even at 21.
“We’re young,” Ciccotelli said. “We have to grow, we have to mature. Not physically, because a lot of our young guys are athletes. But we’ve lost two games this year in the last minute and we can’t let that happen. These are the games that never leave you.”
Keyport had taken a 7-0 lead with 4:58 left in the first quarter on a 15-yard run by Thomson. But Ryan answered for the Rams four plays later with a 45-yard burst up the middle.
Thomson found Travis Alvarez from 11 yards out on the Raiders’ ensuing possession to close a 12-play, 72-yard drive with 9:57 left before halftime.
“I told Mike (Ciccotelli),” Marchesi said, “that this was a tough, hard-fought game between two good teams. This is an important win for us, because you gain a lot of confidence when you beat a good team like Keyport.”