Neptune’s Myles Mooney didn’t start on Friday night against Wall, but when the Scarlet Fliers’ defense got depleted due to injuries, he stepped in and made the biggest play of the game.
With four minutes remaining and Wall attempting to climb out of a 10-7 hole, Crimson Knights quarterback Jack Gifford was hit by junior linebacker Mi’Jaut Berry as he tried to deliver a deep ball. Gifford’s errant pass went directly to Mooney, who snagged it and carried it 55 yards to the end zone.
Mooney’s touchdown extended the Scarlet Fliers’ lead and sent them to an eventual 17-14 Class B North win at Wall.
“Coach needed me because two defensive ends got injured, so I got in,” Mooney said. “I saw a screen. The offensive lineman on me was letting me off, so I read screen. I read the quarterback’s eyes. My middle linebacker (Berry) hit the quarterback, and he passed it right to me.”
The interception return was part of a stellar performance from the Scarlet Fliers’ defense. Neptune (4-4, 3-3) got on the board early thanks to a pair of first-quarter interceptions.
On Gifford’s first pass attempt of the game, the ball was tipped at the line and grabbed by Berry, who returned it 35 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Neptune quarterback Shakeem Richardson.
At the end of the first quarter, Dyshon Day dove to pick off another Gifford pass. Three plays later, kicker Hunter Daly made a 32-yard field goal to put Neptune up 10-0.
“People talk about the turnover ratio,” head coach Mark Ciccotelli said. “When you force turnovers and you capitalize on them like that, that’s a good thing. You’ll usually win the game.”
Richardson finished with a game-high 105 rushing yards on 21 carries. Junior running back Jaree Parrish added 97 yards on 21 carries.
Gifford, who was consistently pressured by the Neptune defensive line, finished 10 for 33 for 176 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He threw several deep balls to senior receivers Chris Quinlan and Cadell Kennedy that were well defended or broken up by the Neptune secondary.
“(Gifford) can sling it,” Ciccotelli said. “We were trying not to give him a clear picture. We were trying to pressure him because if you give him a clear picture, he’ll hurt you.”
Wall (3-5, 2-4) got on the board in the third quarter when Gifford found tight end Paul Calamaras wide open for a 34-yard score.
In the final minute, Gifford threw a short pass to senior running back Pete Miceli, who took it 54 yards to the end zone to keep Wall’s comeback hopes alive. With 44 seconds left, though, Neptune senior Isaiah Calhoun fell on Wall’s onsides kick attempt to seal the win.