The enormity of what is brewing at Ocean, ranked No. 5 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, as the calendar heads towards November doesn’t appear to be lost on anyone, and that is a good thing as the Spartans have been nothing short of dominant.
Friday night’s 21-6 Shore Conference Class B North victory over Long Branch makes the Spartans undefeated through six games for the first time in 20 years. They have given up an average of 5.6 points in their last five contests, have proven capable of winning low-scoring slug fests or putting up big numbers.
At this point, Ocean is looking like a legitimate contender is NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III, but work remains before thinking about December and state championship games. A win over Wall next week will give Ocean at least a share of its first division title since 2006 when it won the Federal Division after ending Middletown South’s Shore Conference-record 43-game winning streak.
“We’re taking this one game at a time and we mentioned to the kids that no one is happier about being 6-0 than I am, but our goals are more than 6-0,” Ocean head coach Don Klein said. “We’re here to win championships and we have not done that yet. We knew this was a big football game, we’re happy with the way we competed, but there are bigger games moving forward.”
As has been the case at various points this season in Class B North, Friday night’s game opened as a battle of stalled drives, punts and bad field position.
The first breakthrough for either side came late in the second quarter. On second-and-6 from the Long Branch 42-yard line, junior quarterback Royal Moore rolled out to his right before flicking a pass down the right sideline that found Cole Mehr. The senior wide receiver was open enough that he had time to turn around, control the pass and scamper the final five yards into the end zone to open the scoring. Matt Fisher’s extra point gave Ocean a 7-0 halftime lead.
Ocean wasted little time adding some insurance. On the second play of the third quarter, sophomore running back Tyler Thompson took a handoff, broke one tackle and outran two defenders for a 67-yard touchdown run as Fisher’s extra point made it 14-0.
Thompson finished with 156 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“As soon as Royal handed me the ball, I saw a huge hole,” Thompson said. “I saw the safety sitting there, made one move and I was gone.”
That stout Ocean defense, led by the continued strong play of senior linebackers Mike Halawani and Danny Loizos, yielded just 177 yards of total offense. A Jordan Rodriguez touchdown pass right down the middle of the field to Myson Pennington midway through the fourth quarter accounted for 45 of those yards.
After that score, Ocean went on a 9-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a Mehr 6-yard touchdown run off a jet sweep.
With Long Branch having come into the game with five wins, the victory will help the Spartans immensely in terms of power points toward seeding in CJ III. Ocean was third in the section in power points, but this win should vault them in position to capture a top-2 seed should it win out.