MIDDLETOWN Ocean Township, a team typically led by star running back Tyler Thompson and talented quarterback Kenny Pickett, relied on a pair of unlikely heroes on Friday night against Middletown North.
The Spartans got a timely interception from senior Tyler Rossback and a game-winning 29-yard field goal from senior kicker Matt Fisher in the final minutes to pull out a 17-14 victory in a road showdown against the Lions.
“We talked going into this game about making careers and becoming legends,” said Ocean head coach Don Klein. “Individual performances, when you put them together, contribute to a great team. It can’t always be Tyler and Kenny all the time. We need guys to step up and we had that today. For (Fisher) to come in and make that kick while he’s injured is a great job.”
With just over two minutes to play in the fourth, the Spartans found themselves tied 14-14 and fending off a potential game winning drive from the Lions. On 1st-and-10 from the Lions’ 35-yard line, quarterback Donald Glenn dropped back and fired a short pass that Rossback got his hands on and wrestled it away from a Lions receiver.
Four plays later, Fisher lined up a 29-yard field goal with 27 seconds to play and knocked it straight through the uprights to put the Spartans up 17-14. Immediately after the kick, Fisher fell to the ground to tend to a hip injury he had been dealing with before the game.
“Obviously, in my head I know coming onto the field that it’s a different type of kick,” said Fisher while on crutches. “But I’m good at just looking at Kenny and giving him the signal and focusing on my job … I just did the same thing I do every other kick – keep my head down and kick through the ball.”
On Ocean’s first possession, Thompson gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead when he ran in a 2-yard touchdown, but for most of the game, the Lions stymied the Spartans running game. Middletown North held Thompson to just 51 yards on 21 carries.
In the second quarter, the Lions evened up the score when Glenn hit junior Dwight Wilkerson over the top for 19-yard strike.
The two teams traded scores again in the second half. Thompson punched in a 1-yard touchdown in the third to put Ocean up 14-7, but the Lions tied it back up on an 11-yard touchdown run from sophomore Connor Welsh in the fourth.
The Spartans grabbed key interceptions in the second quarter. On 3rd-and-24 from their own 46-yard line, Glenn threw deep and was picked off by Thompson. Later, on 1st-and-10 from the Spartans’ 30-yard line, Glenn threw over the top and into the end zone, where a leaping Greyson Stuthoof snagged it out of the air for the Spartans.
“I was in charge of the middle of the field,” said Stuthoff. “I went up for the high point of the ball and tried to make a play…. We feel like when we play a complete game, no one can stop us.”
KEY PLAY: Ocean senior kicker Matt Fisher nailed a 29-yard game-winner with 27 seconds to play.
OFFENSIVE GAME BALL: Quarterback Kenny Pickett ran for 58 yards on 10 carries in the second half to lead the Spartans’ offense.
DEFENSIVE GAME BALL: Ocean senior Tyler Rossback grabbed an interception at the Middletown North 32-yard line to set up Fisher’s game winning kick.
UP NEXT: Middletown North tries to get back on track at Howell on Friday night while Ocean goes on the road to take on Long Branch on Friday.