Toms River South’s Otis Kearney Jr. vividly recalled last year’s opening loss to Central.
“That loss left a bad taste in our mouths for the whole season,” said the senior running back, who amassed 190 yards rushing in the Indians’ 41-27 victory over the Golden Eagles Friday night in the season opener for both teams. “We didn’t want to have a repeat of that loss, so we came in and did what we had to do. We wanted to run the ball down their throats.”
The Indians executed the game plan with clout, tallying 388 yards on the ground as a team. Junior back Khaleel Greene and junior quarterback Tymere Berry totaled 115 and 61 yards rushing, respectively.
“All we had to do was execute on the triple option,” Greene said. “Our line did a great job with it, and they couldn’t stop it.”
Right from the start, it seemed the Indians’ running attack would be a problem for the Golden Eagles, who had a rough time bringing down Kearney, Greene and Berry once they got through the line. On the third play from scrimmage, Kearney burst through the line untouched and raced 59 yards for South’s first score with just 1:07 gone by in the first quarter. Russell Messler’s extra kick made it 7-0 early.
“I threw a block for Otis and just said, ‘Go ahead and run like the wind,’ ” Greene said. “He was gone and they weren’t catching him. I knew right there that we’d be able to run the ball well against them.”
But Central rebounded on its next possession, going 70 yards in nine plays, culminated by senior running back Javon Hardy’s 21-yard TD run with 6:32 left in the first. The point-after was missed, making it a 7-6 contest.
After Berry scored on a 1-yard run and Messler kicked the PAT with 3:11 to go in the first, the Golden Eagles bounced back again, when senior quarterback Marquis Drumright found senior receiver Isiah Akers over the middle with a pass that went for a 69-yard touchdown. Central’s two-point-conversion attempt was thwarted, and South held a 14-12 lead with 1:05 remaining in the first.
Nearly midway throught the second quarter, the Indians took control of the game for good, ultimately putting up 21 unanswered points to take a 35-12 halftime lead.
Kearney started the scoring spree with a 4-yard TD run with 6:28 left in the half. Greene then delivered on a 30-yard TD run down the right sideline with 2:30 to go, and Berry hit a wide-open Darrius Hart for a 75-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left. Sophomore Tyler Sosa booted all three PATs as well.
South opened up the second half almost exactly like it did the first. After the Golden Eagles punted on their first possession, putting the Indians on their own 23, the Indians ran off two plays to get to the 35 before Greene zipped through Central’s defense en route to a 65-yard TD run and a 41-12 lead with 8:56 left in the quarter.
The Golden Eagles attempted a comeback, starting with Drumright’s 13-yard TD pass to senior Thomas Koenig with 4:22 to go in the third, followed by a successful two-point conversion. But several South defensive stops made the clock Central’s enemy as the fourth quarter dwindled.
Central managed another score, when the Indians turned the ball over on downs at their own 25 with 4:31 left and Drumright again found Akers over the middle for a 25-yard TD on the next play. Michael Drake kicked the PAT to cap the scoring, and South ran down the clock to 15 seconds on its final possession.
“We’re expecting great things this season,” Greene said. “But we want everybody to play as a team and not be selfish. If we do that and execute, we should be able to do great things.”