A young Neptune team took a major step forward against Matawan on Friday night.
Behind some power running from junior Aaron Mora and big plays from junior quarterback Shakeem Richardson, the Scarlet Fliers rolled past the Huskies, 23-13 in a Shore Conference Class B North game and avoided falling into a 1-3 hole to start the season.
Mora rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries and punched in two second-half touchdowns, while Richardson completed 8 of 10 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
“With 19 new starters, I think we’ve gotten better each week, and that’s all we talk about said,” said head coach Mark Ciccotelli. “I think tonight some guys grew up a little bit, and we’re getting better.”
Said Richardson, “We tremendously needed this game. If we didn’t get this game, it would have hurt us for power points. Coach just kept telling us what happened in Freehold in 2010, when they started 0-2. He kept talking about character. What are you going to do when adversity comes? You just gotta keep playing.”
Adversity came in the second quarter for the Scarlet Fliers when they surrendered 10 straight unanswered points and a 7-0 lead.
Midway through the third quarter, the Neptune defense forced a three-and-out and the Scarlet Flier offense took over from Matawan’s 47-yard line. After a 13-yard carry from Richardson and a 19-yard run from Jaree Parrish, Mora rumbled 15-yard right up the middle untouched for a go-ahead touchdown.
After another three-and-out from Matawan, Mora broke through a pack of tacklers for a 47-yard gain that moved the Scarlet Fliers to Matawan’s 31-yard line. Three plays later, he took another carry straight up the middle 15 yards and into the end zone to give Neptune a 20-10 lead.
In the first quarter, Richardson got the Scarlet Fliers on the board on their first drive of the game. On third-and-17 from Neptune’s 41-yard line, Richardson dropped back, took a hard hit as he released the ball and still delivered an accurate over-the-shoulder pass to junior receiver Oshane Curate, who was streaking down the right sideline and went the whole way for a 59-yard score.
“I always look left, look off the safety,” said Richardson. “I came back, I saw (Curate) and I put it up there. I didn’t even see the hit. I got back up, it happens, it’s just football.”
Said Ciccotelli, “He’s a tough kid, he’s a scrapper, a winner. He took a big hit, sacrificed his body and put it in there.”
Matawan tied the score at 7-7 in the second quarter when quarterback James Pierce connected with senior tight end Nick Tomkins. Matawan kicker Mike Creamer put the Huskies up 10-7 with a 43-yard field goal as time expired at the half.
Creamer gave the Huskies life midway through the fourth quarter, when he booted a 45-yard field goal that pulled Matawan within 20-13. Four straight incompletions on Matawan’s next possession, though, stymied their comeback hopes.
Neptune kicker Hunter Daly chipped in a 32-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining to give the Scarlet Fliers insurance.