The scoreboard was not functioning in Keyport on Saturday, and that was before the Red Raiders and Keansburg spontaneously combusted for 91 points in 96 minutes of mayhem.
And when the dust had quite literally settled on a blustery afternoon, Keyport rallied for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a one-point deficit and defeat its Class B Central arch-rival, 56-35, for its sixth consecutive victory in the series.
The game was every bit as chaotic as the score might suggest with touchdowns on fumble, blocked punt and interception returns and a pair of three-touchdown flurries over the final two minutes of each of the first two quarters.
Keansburg did itself no favors by committing six turnovers, including three in the fourth quarter and two on the first play of a possession to curtail any notion of making a comeback of its own.
Keyport’s Alex Thomson completed 10 of 19 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, ran 12 times for 78 yards and two scores and returned a fumble 21 yards for another touchdown.
The Red Raiders needed every bit of that from their senior quarterback to recover from the exploits of Keansburg’s Kason Preston, who returned a fumble 81 yards, kicked a 33-yard field goal and had a 31-yard touchdown run in the first eight minutes of the contest to personally deliver a 9-0 Titans advantage.
Those were the first points by Keansburg in the series since 2009 as Keyport had outscored the Titans by a 133-0 margin over the last three campaigns, spanning the varsity careers of this year’s seniors.
“They came in fired up and we were flat,” Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli said. “It was a dogfight, but it always is between Keyport and Keansburg. It was just a roller-coaster ride.”
Keyport (5-2, 2-1) erupted for three touchdowns over a two-minute span late in the first quarter to take a 21-9 lead on a 57-yard pass from Thomson to Jeff Sheard, a 19-yard run by Ky’sun Pryor, and Thomson’s fumble recovery. Two of those scores followed Keansburg turnovers.
The score was tied at 28 at halftime, and Keansburg took a 35-34 lead with 8:13 left in the third quarter on a 65-yard pass down the middle of the field from Arkeyel Brown to Tyree Sutton. Preston’s extra point provided the difference.
Keyport then took the lead for good following a nine-play, 79-yard march capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline from Thomson to Sheard for a 42-35 edge with 10:17 to play.
Keansburg (1-6, 0-3) managed to run just five offensive plays over its next three possessions after a three-and-out and two first-play turnovers, and Keyport was finally able to create some separation with short scoring runs by Pryor and Thomson.
“You can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did,” Keansburg first-year coach Chris Damian said. “It all just kind of built up in the fourth quarter and got away from us a little bit, but I was proud of how we played. For the first three quarters it was a heck of a game.”