Freehold Township’s new head coach Cory Davies was all business Friday night, but returning to Howell with his new team made for an emotional trip as well.
“After 24 years of being there (Howell) and 21 years as the head coach and loving that school, community and the people in that school, it was kind of tough from that standpoint,’’ Davies said. “But, from a football coaching standpoint, it was just another game. It was not like I left there on bad terms.’’
It was a winning return for Davies, who was Howell’s head coach from 1991-2011 and coached the Rebels to the 2007 NJSIAA Central Group IV championship — the only sectional football title the school has ever won. Behind three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Jack O’Brien and a solid defense, Freehold Township recorded a 21-14 win to give Davies his first win as Freehold Township’s head coach.
”We’re doing a lot of things different offensively and defensively than what they’ve (Freehold Township) done in the past,’’ Davies said. “This shows that whatever we’re doing as coaches, they (the players) have the ability to buy it and see it actually might work.’’
Davies has installed the Texas Tech spread offense, which relies on a lot of four and five receiver sets. O’Brien, in his third season as a starter, has thrown for 504 yards and five TDs the past two weeks.
“He’s (O’Brien) continuing make progress and understand the offense,’’ Davies said.
If Davies is able to build a solid program at Freehold Township, he and his coaching staff will probably look back at the heart-breaking 21-20 loss at Manalapan on Sept. 18 as the game where things started to turn the corner.
Manalapan, which is the defending NJSIAA Central Group V champion and has won the Shore Conference Class A North championship the past five seasons, won that game on a deflected pass for a TD on a fourth-and-7 from the 9 with six-tenths of a second left and the ensuing extra point.
“For our players, the light switched on, where we can possibly be a pretty good football team,” Davies said. “The fact we got so close (to beating Manalapan) and then the following week they (Manalapan) do a number on Sayreville shows that was still a very good team we came close to beating.’’
Freehold Township has not had a winning season since 2004, when it went 6-4. From 2005-2014, it went 25-75. The Patriots have qualified for the playoffs only once, and that came in 2001. They have never won a playoff game.
But, for Davies, the job was attractive for several reasons when it opened up last winter following the resignation of Mike D’Antonio as head coach after five seasons.
“I didn’t have to leave the district (as a teacher. Davies now teaches at Freehold Township) and I did think there was the possibility of building a program. You look at Township and they have an awful lot of success in a lot of sports. We’ve just got to get football up to that level.’’
This and That
Red Bank is 3-0 for the first time since 1997. It has not won four straight games since 2003, when it won 10 straight after an opening day loss to Middletown South. That team then lost to Middletown South in the Central Group III championship game.
Raritan is 2-0 for the first time since 2010 — head coach Anthony Petruzzi’s first season. That team wound up 6-4. The Rockets’ 40-3 win at Matawan was their first win over Matawan since a 25-17 win at Matawan on Nov. 8, 2008. Matawan had won the past seven meetings between the two neighboring schools.
Jackson Liberty’s 20-17 win over Barnegat was its first over the Bengals since a 22-21 win at Barnegat on Oct. 2, 2009. Barnegat had won the past three meetings between the two schools.
The 55 points Toms River North scored in its 55-20 win over Toms River South was the most either team has scored in the 44-year history of the rivalry. Toms River South scored 49 in a 49-10 win in 1998 and Toms River North had scored 49 in a 49-3 win in 2007. Both of those games were at Toms River South’s Detwiler Stadium.
The four TD passes thrown by Jackson Memorial quarterback Dan Barker in the Jaguars’ 42-0 win at Southern ties the school-record set twice by Tom Tarver in 1985 and Joe DeMaio in 2012.
DeMaio had four TD passes in a 45-28 loss at Lacey. Tarver, who went on to play at Rutgers University and is now an administrator in the Jackson school district, had four TD passes against Lakewood in a 43-3 win and Brick in a 48-14 win.
The Lacey at Toms River South game is now Friday at 7 p.m. It had originally been scheduled for Saturday night.
Keyport’s 21-7 win over Point Beach was its first over the Garnet Gulls since a 55-0 win in 2010.
Neptune is 0-3 for the first time since 2003. It then won six of its last seven games to finish 6-4. Matawan is 0-3 for the first time since 2005 when it started 0-4 and finished 2-8.
Middletown South senior running back Cole Rogers did not play against Marlboro because of a shoulder injury and his status is day-to-day, Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci said.
There are three games this weekend matching teams who are unbeaten in their respective divisions.
In Class A Central, St. John Vianney (3-0, 2-0) will host Rumson-Fair Haven (2-0, 2-0). In Class A South, Jackson Memorial (3-0, 2-0) will play at Brick (3-0, 3-0), and in Class B Central, Lakewood (3-0, 3-0) will play at Jackson Liberty (2-1, 2-0). All of those games are Friday night.
Asbury Park: Senior wide receiver Jaedon Stephens; The entire defense.
Brick: Junior wide receiver/running back Ja’Sir Taylor. The entire defense.
Jackson Memorial: Junior quarterback Dan Barker. The entire defense.
Keyport: Senior running back Desmond Underwood; The entire defense.
Manasquan: Senior quarterback Liam Grieb.
Red Bank Catholic: Senior running back Mike Wilen.
Wall: Junior quarterback Shane Richey.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; email@example.com