A strong defensive performance led Neptune to a convincing 24-0 win over Raritan on Friday at Joseph DiVirgilio Field.
The Scarlet Fliers allowed just 34 total yards of offense from the Rockets with just one total yard in the second half.
Neptune head coach Mark Ciccotelli was quick to credit his defensive coordinator, Noel Kavanagh, and the job he did in the season opener.
“He did an outstanding job preparing our guys coming into this game,” Ciccotelli said. “Today they executed the plan, and the guys really just played hard.”
Ciccotelli saw his defense playing with emotion and passion through all four quarters, but also credited Kavanagh for putting the pieces in the right place. The defense forced two interceptions from Raritan quarterback Riley Sullivan, who saw pressure in his face almost every play he dropped back to pass.
After a botched punt in the second quarter by the Scarlet Fliers, the Rockets seemed to get some momentum as they drove the ball inside the Scarlet Fliers’ 20-yard line. However, it was the Neptune defense again that came up big, getting a fourth-down stop with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Another bright spot for the Scarlet Fliers was quarterback Shakeem Richardson, who was a threat both on the ground and through the air. Richardson rushed for over 100 yards and punched in two touchdowns in the first half. Along with the dominant rushing performance under center, the senior proved dangerous through the air as he connected with Dyshon Day for a 48-yard touchdown in the second half.
“He has those intangible things where he can make plays with his feet and through the air,” Ciccotelli said. “All those guys out there are going to get better every week, and he is only going to continue to get better for us.”
Ciccotelli knew his quarterback could do damage on the ground, but also liked what he saw on the 48-yard touchdown throw from Richardson.
“He did a good job of reading the coverage, and was able to make a play for us,” Ciccotelli said.
Despite a few gaffes on special teams, it was overall a solid performance from the Scarlet Fliers. Moving forward, Ciccotelli believes there is always room for improvement with his team.
“I don’t think a team really ever stops improving, and I know our coaches are never happy,” Ciccotelli added with a sly grin. “As a staff we are demanding, and I think our kids will continue to answer the bell with that.”