ASBURY PARK – The Thanksgiving Day meeting between Asbury Park (6-4) and Neptune (4-6) opened with 47 minutes and 50 seconds of quality, hard-hitting and exhilarating football.
However, it was a messy final 10 seconds and a post-game scrum between the two rivals that left somewhat of a cloud over this 27-17 Scarlet Fliers victory, and overshadowed what was an impressive and well-executed game-winning drive.
With nine seconds remaining in regulation and Asbury Park clinging to a three-point lead, Neptune set up for a first-and-goal play at the Blue Bishops six, when senior Rasheed Martin rumbled up the middle and was brought down in a heap near the goal line.
Lost in the pile up, the sideline official signaled for a touchdown, cuing the clock operator to cut the time, while the back judge ran forward and spotted the ball at the half-yard line.
After a series of official explanations as to why the Neptune touchdown was waved off, and further discussion about the clock’s stoppage with under five seconds to play, Martin finished the job, punching in the eventual game-winning touchdown with two seconds left in regulation, but more remarkably capping an incredible 21-play, 81-yard drive that spanned 11 minutes and 58 seconds of the 12-minute fourth quarter.
“It feels great,” said Martin, who carried 24 times for 66 yards and the score. “We started close to the opposite 20 yard line and focused on running the ball. We ran smart plays. Coach (Rodney Taylor) called a great series of plays. We came together as a team when it mattered most. And we won it all.”
“This team persevered all season,” Neptune coach Rodney Taylor said. “It’s rough when you come in with 22 new starters and a loaded division. These kids played their hearts out tonight, against a quality opponent with a coaching staff that did a very good job …The team fought hard and believed in each other.”
Asbury Park carried a 10-0 lead into halftime, taking a 7-0 advantage in the first quarter when senior quarterback Davon Thompson scrambled out of pressure, shed a tackler near the sideline, stretched through goal line traffic to break the plane.
The Blue Bishops lead was extended to 10-points with 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter, when junior Dyquan Young delivered a kick from 21-yards out, his first field goal of the season.
Neptune answered with a quick score out of the locker room, as Martin whipped a short pass over the middle to tailback, and Shore Conference and Central Group III 100-meter sprint champion, Marvin Morgan, who used his speed to split two defenders and raced in for an 80-yard strike that cut the deficit to 10-7.
After Martin picked off Thompson on Asbury’s next possession, and proceeded to throw an interception to the Blue Bishops’ Jaedon Stephens (who returned it to the Neptune 10), the Scarlet Fliers defense stood strong, forcing a turnover on downs.
Three plays after the defensive stop, it was Martin again firing a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kahmar Rice for a 14-10 advantage with 5:29 to play in the third.
On Asbury’s next series, Thompson started with a 21-yard run, before completing a 43-yard pass to Stephens, and closing out the three-play drive with five-yard touchdown run, putting the Blue Bishops back on top 17-14.
Neptune followed with that nearly fourth-quarter long drive for the go-ahead score, and closed out its 27-17 win with a Seth Harrington interception return for a touchdown on the Asbury’s final play from scrimmage.
Play of the game: In the midst of its final 21-play, 11-minute and 58-second fourth quarter touchdown drive, sophomore Chase Fairbanks entered at quarterback and on a fourth-and-six play from the Asbury 28, and delivered a 12-yard strike to Kahmar Rice to extend the game-winning drive.
Offensive game ball: Rasheed Martin earns the honor after carrying for 66 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, while finishing 3-for-5 through the air with 160 yards and two scoring strikes.
Defensive game ball: A stout defensive effort by the Scarlet Fliers was fronted by a strong first half by Jameari James (two sacks) and a big second half by James Roberts (two sacks), so the seniors share the honor.
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