The Middlesex High School football team parlayed a balanced offense and a group effort on defense into a 35-0 blanking of border rival Dunellen on Thanksgiving Day.
With its second consecutive victory over the Destroyers (0-9), Middlesex leads the series, which began in 1959, 16-15.
Senior running back Ryan Coke eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the Blue Jays (6-4) with 102 yards on 14 carries.
Getting it done on Turkey Day! pic.twitter.com/Fge0hujj18— MHS Athletics (@GoJaysAthletics) November 26, 2015
As the feature back in the absence of star running back Anthony Marshall, who endured a season-ending ACL tear near the end of training camp, Coke finished with 1,065 yards and was a key cog to Middlesex’s triple-option.
Senior quarterback A.J. Abate completed 3 of 6 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Dan Ffriend, a transfer from Bound Brook, on a 90-yard scoring strike and competed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Naeem Morgan.
Mike Cresitello, who split time at quarterback with Abate, completed 2 of 3 passes for 24 yards. Cresitello, Abate and Jahmari Hill each had a rushing touchdown. The Blue Jays amassed 216 yards on the ground.
Coke and Joseph Choukair were named game MVPs for Middlesex, while Adrian Brown and Preston Gibney were named game MVP’s for Dunellen.
Middlesex Most Valuable Player.... Ryan Coke pic.twitter.com/cIZXY1olwA— MHS Athletics (@GoJaysAthletics) November 26, 2015
Offensive Lineman of the game for Middlesex... Joe Choukair pic.twitter.com/ulisXUrkgP— MHS Athletics (@GoJaysAthletics) November 26, 2015
Cresitello scored on an 18-yard run, Abate scored on a 1-yard run and Hill scored on a 20-yard run.
“With it being the last game for the seniors, I wanted to get a bunch of people involved,” Middlesex head coach P.J. Jankowicz said of his desire to spread the offensive wealth after abandoning that philosophy somewhat in Middlesex’s last two games. “I think we kind of got away from that a little bit.”
Jankowicz said the Blue Jays, whose second consecutive NJSIAA playoff appearance ended with a 41-20 loss to Florence on Nov. 13, used their extra time wisely to prepare for Dunellen’s unique single wing offense.
“It’s a difficult offense to go against,” Jankowicz said. “We had a little more time so we were able to explain to the kids a little more and make sure they were on the same page going forward.”
Parenti- Vail trophy stays in Middlesex for another year! pic.twitter.com/B5dV0UvSwN— MHS Athletics (@GoJaysAthletics) November 26, 2015
Despite the fact that Middlesex graduates a senior-laden offensive line and several key skill position players, Jankowicz said the team is positioned to make a return trip to the playoffs next fall.
“One of the things I told the kids was the foundation was set last year,” the coach explained. “We built the first floor – so to speak – this year.
“I’m proud of our seniors for providing leadership (following Marshall’s devastating injury). The kids decided no matter what happens they were going to keep fighting and keep playing.”