POINT PLEASANT BEACH
As his Garnet Gulls filed off of Don Fioretti Field following Point Pleasant Beach’s decisive 34-6 Class B Central victory over Keyport, coach John Wagner kept repeating the same words of satisfaction.
Great effort. Good job. Good job. Great effort. Over and over.
Good job indeed.
Point Beach (7-1, 4-0) seem to be gearing up for a run at a second consecutive conference title. Friday night, almost everything went right. Friday night, this team was on track.
The Gulls reached the end zone on their first drive of the game. Junior running back Joe Wegrzyniak rushed for 279 yards and scored three touchdowns on 21 carries. Six-foot-five senior Noah Yates hauled in two touchdown passes of 45 and 23 yards and picked off his eighth interception of the year. Entering the game he led the state with seven interceptions.
The Gulls’ offense did not turn the ball over. Formidable Shore Regional probably stands between Point Beach and Wagner’s second straight B Central championship.
“We got a great ground game, and we got (quarterback Jake Fioretti) a little bit untracked with Noah,” Wagner said. “We had balance on both sides of the ball. And we had that 96-yard drive after a penalty.
“We have a bye next week, than a play-off game. . . . Shore Regional is a long way away right now,” said the coach who is 2-0 lifetime against Shore.
After stopping the Red Raiders (5-3, 2-2) on a three-and-out to open the game, Point Beach marched 69 yards over six plays. Wegrzyniak took the handoff four times for 47 yards, scoring from 1 yard out.
Three plays into the second quarter, the Gulls scored again, although it took two tries to count. Fioretti ran a bootleg 48 yards into the end zone, but the play was called back for holding. On the next snap, Wegrzyniak raced an identical 48 yards up the middle for the score, after which the Gulls led 14-0.
The ensuing two series sealed this victory for Point Beach. The Red Raiders drove 58 yards for a first-and-goal inside the Gulls 10. On fourth down from the 1-yard line, the Gulls made the stop.
Despite getting penalized for a dead-ball unsportsmanlike penalty after the play, the Gulls put together a 10-play, 98-yard drive, using over five minutes on the clock. Wegrzyniak ran for 65 yards on the drive, going over right tackle from 3 yards out for the touchdown to put Point Beach in control, 20-0.
Wegrzyniak finished the first half with 183 yards on the ground and reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Taking the second-half kickoff, the Gulls opened up the offense somewhat. Twice Fioretti connected with Yates, first for 26 yards and later, on a fourth-down play, on a 45-yard touchdown strike in which the tall receiver ran the ball down behind the defense.
Keyport got on the board when Chase Bright ran it down the right sideline from 26 yards out to cut the lead to 27-6 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
A 12-play Beach drive to open the fourth quarter ended with Fioretti and Yates hooking up a second time.