Ocean junior outside linebacker Frank Henry is likely to remember his only interception of the season for a long time. It was a Thanksgiving Day pick six, capping a rally that boosted the Spartans to 26-19 victory over Monmouth.
“I dropped back into coverage and it felt awesome to get it. My coaches put me in the right position to make the play,” said Henry after his 65-yard touchdown return of a James Green pass with 2:07 left in the Shore Conference nondivisional game Thursday.
Ocean has a 16-2 lead in the rivalry series but faced an uphill climb when Monmouth took a 19-7 lead in the second quarter on Green’s one-yard touchdown run.
But sophomore Tyler Thompson’s third touchdown of the game lifted the Spartans to a 20-19 lead and, aided by quarterback pressure from Mike Halawani, Henry’s interception turned the shaky one-point lead into a result that’s been common for No. 5 Ocean this season. The Spartans finished 10-1 and made a trip to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals.
Ocean coach Don Klein said returning underclassmen such as Henry and Thompson — who rushed for 145 yards — have the potential to build on efforts “of seniors who really left their mark on this program.”
“There’s no doubt this team put us back among the elite at the Shore,” Klein added. “A 10-1 record is such a special experience for the kids and it was not easy because we played great teams, week in and week out, and it was earned from the grind of a long season that starts in June and ends in late November.”
Upset-minded Monmouth (3-7) had two leads and still had fight after Thompson’s six-yard run gave Ocean a 20-19 lead with 8:01 left in the third quarter. Monmouth on separate drives pushed the ball to the Ocean 13 and 2 but attempts for go-ahead field goals blew up both times. A bad snap prevented Christian Boujadoude from getting a kick off from 30 yards late in the third quarter. Boujadoude hit the ball well from 19 yards in the fourth quarter but pulled the ball right.
“Ocean’s a good team but we wanted to give them a game and we did,” Monmouth coach Rich Mosca said. “We made a couple of miscues and, against a top team, that hurts.”
Eli Velez led Monmouth with 150 rushing yards and Green was 8 of 18 for 131 yards.
M: Velez 1 run (kick failed)
O: Thompson 3 run (Fisher kick)
M: Gamble 66 pass from Green (pass failed)
M: Green 1 run (Boujaoude kick)
O: Thompson 18 run (kick failed)
O: Thompson 6 run (Fisher kick)
O: Henry 65 interception return (kick failed)
RUSHING— O: Thompson 20-145, Moore 7-29, Mehr 3-8. M: Velez 20-150, Green 10-22, Brown 3-6, Gibson 2-1.
PASSING— O: Moore 1-2-0-17, Pickett 0-2-0-0. M: Green 8-18-1-131.
RECEIVING— O: Godfrey 1-17. M: Gamble 4-95, Searight 3-24, Brown 1-12.
INTERCEPTIONS— O: Henry 1.