POINT PLEASANT BEACH
It took years for Point Beach to get to the top of its division, and Garnet Gulls running back Joe Wegrzyniak said the team’s 40-14 victory over Mater Dei Prep Friday night is proof of how unlikely a backslide is.
“Our coach always says, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint,’ ” said Wegrzyniak, a junior who ran for 182 yards and scored four touchdowns, explaining how his team was able to bounce back with an overpowering effort in the Shore Conference Class B South game after a loss last week.
“We wanted to come out and show them we’re not a weak team. Last year we were really good. We wanted to prove we’re moving forward and can defend what we have.”
Point Beach (3-1, 1-0) racked up 369 rushing yards and held the previously undefeated Seraphs to eight first downs. Mater Dei (3-1, 1-1) was thwarted in an attempt to begin a season 4-0 start for the first time in 27 years.
Point Beach won a school-record 10 games last season and captured a division title for the first time since 1997. Coach John Wagner said he expected the team to get past last week’s 7-3 loss in a nonconference game to Spotswood.
“I’ve been doing this long enough where I know our kids really well. This was our first (division) game. We’re the defending champions and we wanted to play like it,” Wagner said.
Point Beach’s offense scored on every possession, save for a fumble in the first quarter, but Wagner said the game was decided on the defensive side.
“I thought we did a great job taking their jet sweep away from them. Our ends on the pinch, our outside ‘backers and our secondary had everything covered. We were able to get the pressure up front, which forced them to throw the ball earlier than they wanted,” Wagner said.
Point Beach roared out to a 20-0 halftime lead on a pair of touchdown runs by Wegrzyniak and one by Michael Fraunheim, who rushed for 129 yards.
Wegrzyniak scored on runs of 22 and 16 yards in the first half and from the 2 and the 1 in the second half.
Mater Dei quarterback Christian Palmer rushed for 93 yards but was held to 4 of 9 passing for 38 yards. The frustration for Mater Dei was evident late in the first quarter after Palmer picked up 45 yards on a keeper option, only for the Seraphs to be turned away at the 15 after passes on third down and fourth down were both broken up by cornerback Jake Fioretti.
“What they did is they executed their game plan better than we did,” Mater Dei coach Steve Sciarappa said.
Next up for Mater Dei is neighborhood rival Keyport in another key divisional game. Sciarappa said he expects his players to be ready.
“They’re very disappointed right now. Their expectations have been getting higher every day that we’ve been here. These guys, every time they come out they expect to win. They’ll be ready to go for Keyport,” he said.