BRICK – For three years, this closely knit brotherhood of Brick Memorial football Mustangs reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey play-offs … only to get knocked out in the first round each time.
Not this year. Not this time. Not with the heart and soul and family feel which defines this senior class.
“You guys are my family … if you ever need anything, anything at all in the future, come to me,’’ are words that were spoken by Mustang senior Mike Nobile in the celebratory aftermath of Memorial’s 28-7 CJ Group IV semifinal victory over Allentown Friday night.
These Mustangs, 9-2, and looking for their first section championship since 2008, are a team in the truest sense … and old fashioned band of brothers.
Memorial earned a ticket to the Central Group IV championship game in two weeks at a site to be announced against the winner of today’s Jackson Memorial- Hamilton East semifinal. And the seniors, including Nobile and his brother Anthony, including Chris Hayes and Billy Walsh, lead this team both with leadership and by example.
“We’ve been talking about this since middle school, said Hayes. “There is no greater feeling. We’re going to Rutgers. It won’t feel real.’’
Hayes plays alongside the Nobile brothers on both the offensive and defensive lines. Walsh is the defensive middle linebacker.
“For four years we worked so hard for this,’’ Walsh said. “Every year we let down in the first round. This year we worked all year long to get the first seed and we’re going to Rutgers.’’
Mike Nobile said simply, “We execute, we play hard, we will win the game.’’
Friday night, Allentown put some surprise into the Mustangs by driving 55 yards over 14 plays to take a 7-0 first quarter lead. Quarterback Jordan Winston used a hurry up offense which put the Mustangs on their heels, but the offense was often a straight forward power running attack.
“Allentown has a heck of a quarterback,’’ said Brick Memorial coach Walt Currie. “They were pushing us pretty good on that touchdown drive, but our kids responded when we had to. “Our defense was relentless.’’
Rick Mottram scored Allentown’s touchdown, running in from 3 yards out.
Memorial would score 28 unanswered points after the first quarter. The ‘Stangs first drive featured 55 yard run from quarterback Tim Santiago, but stalled at the Redbird one yard line. The second drive was just as frustrating. The 15-play, 80-yard march down the field bogged down with penalty flags and fumbled pitch outs, and after almost reaching the 6-yard line, Memorial was forced to punt.
As it turned out, Matt Cuppari’s 28 yard punt pinned Allentown back at its own 5- yard line and was a key play in the game. Allentown went three and out and punted. Memorial took over at the Allentown 44 yard line. On second down, sophomore Tony Thorpe took the handoff and raced around right tackle 34 yards into the end zone to knot the score at seven.
Cuppari’s kickoff stopped at the Redbird 5-yard line. Allentown picked up the football and fumbled it back into the endzone, where Mustang Victor Gomez dove on the ball for a Memorial touchdown.
After being denied on two long scoring drives … Memorial ended up scoring two touchdowns in 28 seconds. The fumbled kickoff was the Mustangs in the drivers seat.
On the last play of the first half, Memorial would strike again. This time in surprising fashion. The 11 play drive seemed destined for a Cuppari field goal attempt. But on a third and 5 from the 23- yard line and just eight seconds remaining in the half, Santiago dropped back and threw a six point touchdown strike to Elie Lavarin as time expired.
If Memorial’s second touchdown was the game’s key play, the third score came pretty close to sealing the deal and sending this team to the sectional final in two weeks.
Allentown did move the ball with some success. But a 13 play drive to open the third quarter died at the Memorial 13 yard line. A Redbird interception led to an 89 yard Memorial drive and the Mustangs fourth touchdown. Quarterback Santiago, who ran for 147 yards, scored from four yards out.
KEY PLAY – Gomez recovery of the Allentown fumble in the end zone which put Memorial on top 14-0.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME – Both Santiago and Thorpe are worthy here, but lets go with Cuppari, whose punts and kickoffs effectively make a difference.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME – Who the heck knows … how about the entire SENIOR CLASS
NEXT UP – The Central Jersey sectional title game in two weeks.
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