With its quarterback sidelined and offense held in check, the Middlesex football team needed its defense to provide some scoring Saturday.
Senior Jacob Giuliano had a 49-yard interception return for a score but the Blue Jays couldn’t register a second, tying touchdown as Middlesex fell to Keyport 14-7 in the non-conference matchup.
Giuliano’s touchdown with 8:14 left in the game, appeared to swing the momentum and re-energize Middlesex (1-3). The Blue Jays had just posted another interception by Anthony Marshall, but Keyport (3-1) focused on its ground attack the rest of the way and never coughed the ball up again.
Middlesex’s sputtering offense was limited to just 89 yards in the game and had just two plays that went longer than nine yards in the game and just three first downs.
To make the situation even more difficult, Blue Jays quarterback Brandon Bollin was sent to the sidelines twice in the second half with cramping and an upper body injury. Reserve quarterback AJ Abate entered the game but the team failed to convert on a fourth-and-3 from the Middlesex 32, handing Keyport the ball and the opportunity to run out the clock.
“In certain games, we look like we know how to run the option, but today we couldn’t get anything going,” said Middlesex coach Brett Stibitz, whose team gave the ball up twice in the game. “When you have turnovers with a young team, you can’t win that way.”
Even when presented with a short field, the Blue Jays couldn’t put any points on the board. Jacob Giuliano forced a fumble on a punt return at the Keyport 4. Two short runs, a sack by Matt Acuna, and an incomplete pass preserved a 6-0 lead by the Red Raiders.
“You put it in there, and 7-6 is a different ballgame,” said Stibitz, whose team lost its second game by one point this season.
Linebacker Dan Williams received the unexpected start and made the most of it. Filling in for Alex Meza, who was late to the game due to the SATs, the junior linebacker wrapped up Middlesex running back Kyle Brady for a 3-yard loss and then stripped Brady at his own 30. The Red Raiders needed six plays to register their first points when Ky’Sun Pryor ran six yards for the first quarter touchdown and the 6-0 lead.
This was the first game in over two weeks for Keyport. After winning via a forfeit against Cardinal McCarrick, the Red Raiders received an unexpected bye last week.
“In the middle of the week, we were losing a little focus,” Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli said. “This was a good pick-me-up for us.”
Pryor and Thomson combined for 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns on offense and Dan O’Steen had a fumble recovery and a sack for Keyport.
K-Pryor 6 run (kick failed)
K-Thomson 1 run (Sheard pass from Thomson)
M-Giuliano 49 interception return (Adamcewicz kick)
RUSHING: K-Pryor 11-46, Thomson 10-54, Underwood 10-29, O’Dwyer 4-19, Bright 1-1, Kleiber 1-0; M-Brady 16-44, Bollin 11-12, Giuliano 3-6, Abate 3-(-1), Marshall 2-9, Hode 1-1.
PASSING: K-Thomson 7-20-2-131; M-Bollin 1-5-1-16, Abate 1-2-0-2.
RECEIVING: K-Sheard 4-91, Lynk 3-40; M-Marshall 1-16, Giuliano 1-2.