It boiled down to a deflection and a dash.
Senior outside linebacker Moe Diawara made the deflection. Senior outside linebacker Solomon Cobbs supplied the dash.
Their heroics gave Lakewood a 12-6 overtime conquest of Freehold in the Shore Conference non-divisional regular-season opener for both teams Thursday.
Diawara tipped a pass thrown by Freehold senior quarterback Brad Jones, who began the play at the Lakewood 6-yard line, into the air. The ball came down end over end. Cobbs picked off the ball and turned Russell E. Wright Field into a speedway, dashing 85 yards up the right sideline past the Lakewood bench as the Piners fans roared their approval.
“Somebody tipped the ball,” Cobbs said while receiving a hug and kind words from his mother, Lashonda Phillips. “I saw it go into the air. I grabbed it and ran as fast as I could. It’s a blessing. It’s crazy.”
Lakewood coach L.J. Clark said Cobbs is one of two Piners who are in their fourth varsity seasons.
“This feels great,” Cobbs said after making his first career interception. “I can’t believe it right now. I can’t believe it. I honestly can’t. I am speechless right now. I really don’t know what to say. It was all green grass once I caught it.”
Diawara, the point guard on the Piners’ boys basketball team, put his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame to good use, utilizing his athleticism.
“Basketball helps me a lot as I am agile and can move around,” he said. “That is a big key. Before the play, I knew I was not going to let anyone block me. I was going to get to the ball anyway I could. Oh my gosh. I can’t believe it.”
Cobbs, a 5-foot-8, 175-pounder, is the Piners’ captain.
“Everbody counted Solomon out,” Clark said. “We were looking for leadership. He missed two practices and made excuses. I said, ‘Miss one more practice and you are done.’ He is a great kid. All of our players listen to Solomon. They give him accountability. We will go as far as he takes us.”
Clark gave Cobbs the game ball and told the speedster during the Piners’ celebration, “Give this game ball to your son one day and tell them you beat Freehold Boro.”
Clark said Diawara and Cobbs were determined not to let the Colonials score in overtime.
“They said, ‘Coach, they’re not going to score,’ ” Clark said. “God works in mysterious ways. I don’t want to get biblical, but that’s why someone named Solomon scored.”
Diawara keyed the Piners’ defensive effort.
“He has earned a scholarship,” said Clark, who was a teammate of Freehold coach Dave Ellis at Lakewood. “He had nine sacks and broke up three passes. Plus, he blew up their power. He’s only been with us for either two or three weeks because of a head injured suffered while playing basketball.”
The game was delayed by the officials for 88 minutes because of inclement weather. The delay began seconds before the opening kickoff – when the temperature was 92 degrees.
“It all comes from the heart,” Diawara said. “We run in practice. That gives us conditioning. Running gives us character. It teaches us not to give up.”
Diawara said the victory was laden with significance.
“It was very important to win it,” he said. “It’s good for the community. We will have more crowds.”
In the overtime, Lakewood senior running back Chapelle Cook fumbled and Freehold’s Josh Dixon recovered at the Colonials’ 12. Operating from the Lakewood 25, Freehold was penalized five yards to the 30 for an illegal shift.
Dixon sped 29 yards on a sweep of right end to the 1, where sophomore defensive back Amir Tyler turned in a touchdown-saving tackle. Senior running back Markee Paseler scored on the next play on a smash into the middle of the line, but an illegal procedure penalty nullified the touchdown. Dixon was stopped for no gain on the following play, setting up Diawara and Solomon’s clutch plays.
Freehold took a 6-0 lead with 9:07 left in the first quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Tyrod Smith-Rush, who made a leaping catch in the end zone on the left sideline on the game’s first series of plays.
Lakewood tied the game at 6 with 9:33 to go in the first half on a 63-yard burst over the right side by Cook, a 6-2, 220-pounder. The Piners had possession of the ball for the whole third quarter, but failed to score as senior quarterback Ivan Marks was stopped for four yards at the Freehold 8 on fourth and 10.