LAKEWOOD – The Shore Conference’s oldest continuous football rivalry game hasn’t lost its luster even though Thanksgiving Day was the 96th meeting of Toms River South football versus Lakewood.
The Indians had a commanding lead in the all-time series prior to Thursday’s game but that didn’t stop Lakewood for taking the early lead. However, Toms River South got its offense going in the second quarter and the Indians never looked back on their way to a 20-6 victory over Lakewood.
That win extended Toms River South’s lead in the all-time series to 55-37-4.
Toms River South senior running back Dashaun Alexander had a big part in the Indians comeback on Thursday as he scored on a second and goal from the four-yard line to tie the game at 6-6 with 5:44 left in the second quarter. Senior kicker Tyler Sosa then converted the extra point and the Indians (5-5) had the lead for good.
“He’s been our go-to-guy all year. He might have 1,100 or 1,200 yards this season. Dashaun Alexander had never been a running back until the end of last year. So, he is just learning how to run and he’s a hard runner,” Toms River South coach Ron Signorino Jr. said. “He was always a fullback. He’s one of the few bright spots in our offense this year. We knew we had to give him the ball.”
And the Indians did just that 27 times and Alexander made that into 118 yards and one touchdown. Sosa also scored a touchdown on a 22-yard run that capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive that pushed the lead to 13-6 with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter.
Then the Indians put the game away for good on special teams.
Lakewood’s Adi Palmer had his punt partially blocked and the ball floated to Toms River South’s Isaiah Parker, who returned it 38 yards for the score and the Indians pushed their lead to 20-6 with 3:14 left.
“We were just struggling offensively. Hats off to Lakewood they had something to do with that because they are a good football team. But we needed a spark, the defense had been playing lights out for the most part and we hadn’t done anything in the kick game all year,” Signorino Jr. said. “We haven’t scored (on special teams until then) and here we come and turn the game around. It was a good feeling.”
The Piners (6-4) had built a 6-0 lead when sophomore quarterback Zyhier Jones found senior running back Sheldon Cobbs for a 45-yard score with 7:03 left in the second quarter. However, the Piners missed the extra point.
“We had a lot of sophomores in and a couple freshmen in today. Obviously, Amir Tyler had the high ankle sprain and really couldn’t play but he wanted to try to play today,” Lakewood coach L.J. Clark said. “Not having your fastball (so to speak) kind of hurts. But I thought the kids fought hard but we just didn’t execute.”
Toms River South has now won three games in a row in the series and Lakewood’s last victory in the series came on Nov. 22, 2012 when the Piners defeated Toms River South, 7-0.
“Whether I was a player or a coach or even coming to watch it, my Thanksgiving Day has always been built around Lakewood football versus Toms River South,” Clark said. “It is always a big deal.”
Play of the game: Parker’s 38-yard punt return for a touchdown, which gave Toms River South a two-touchdown lead with 3:14 left.
Offensive game ball: Toms River South’s Alexander, who had 27 carries for 118 yards and one touchdown.
Defensive game ball: The Indians’ defense forced three turnovers, all of them fumbles, and turned one of those three fumbles into a touchdown drive.
Sherlon Christie: firstname.lastname@example.org
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