LITTLE SILVER – It takes 12 games to win a state championship, and as Red Bank coach Nick Giglio put it following his club’s 30-0 shutout of South Plainfield in Friday’s Central Group III quarterfinal matchup – the team’s ninth consecutive win – the Bucs are about to enter the fourth quarter of their season.
“We’re proud of the way you’ve played this season and for what you did tonight,” Giglio said while addressing his players in the post-game, “but the fourth quarter is what you worked for. The fourth quarter is what you play for. And right now, we’re winless in the fourth quarter. We still have work to do.”
Bucs play-maker Sadiq Palmer shared a similar sentiment.
“This feels great, but we haven’t accomplished anything yet in our minds,” said the senior, who led the way for Red Bank with a pair of scoring runs and a fumble recovery for a touchdown all in the second half. “We’re going to continue to take it game by game, and see what we can really do this season.”
Though the result was lopsided, the early proceedings were very much a defensive stalemate, as the teams took a scoreless tie well into the second quarter, before a South Plainfield lapse on special teams provided Red Bank an opportunity.
After the Bucs defense forced a three-and-out with just over four minutes remaining in the second, a South Plainfield snap sailed over its punters head and was downed back at the Tigers own 14-yard line with 3:57 remaining the half.
A quick screen from Jack Navitsky to Palmer went for 11 yards made it first-and-goal at the three. From there, Alim Godsey took over, bouncing off of first contact at the line of scrimmage and rumbling into the end zone for a 7-0 Red Bank lead following a Jack O’Connor extra point.
The Bucs carried its advantage into halftime as a series of tight coverage by Red Bank’s Teddy Mitchell resulted in three incomplete passes, and the club built off that momentum in the third, taking the opening kick and marching 62 yards down the field on 10 plays.
The Navitsky to Palmer aerial attack was featured on Red Bank’s opening drive of the second half, as the seniors connected on three consecutive passes for 28 yards, before three straight carries by Godsey took the Bucs down to the four, where the series was capped by a four-yard Palmer scoring plunge to make it 14-0 with 7:58 remaining in the third.
“South Plainfield did a great job containing us, and that seven points before the half was big, but I thought the touchdown coming out of the half was even bigger,” Giglio said. “Getting that four or five minute drive and putting seven on the board right out of the half set a tone for the rest of the game.”
The Bucs boosted its advantage to 21-0 on the Tigers next possession, when a big hit at the line of scrimmage on tailback Jason Lee jarred the ball loose, before it was scooped up at the South Plainfield 37-yard line and carried all the way back by Palmer for a defensive score.
Red Bank added to its lead in the fourth when a Godsey fumble at the Tigers five led to consecutive pressures by junior defensive end Jack Haytaian, who dropped Tigers quarterback Patrick Waldrop for a 15-yard loss on first-and-ten from the 20, before the junior knifed into the backfield on the next play and was dragged down in the end zone for a holding penalty and a safety that made it 23-0 with 7:27 to play.
Following the safety Palmer bounced into the end zone from four yards to close out the Bucs scoring and an eventual 30-0 victory.
Play of the game: After Red Bank opened the second half with a score, Palmer pounced on a loose ball and weaved his way through the opposition for a 37-yard fumble recovery that put the Bucs ahead 21-0 with under eight minutes to play in the third.
Offensive game ball: Palmer earns the honor after hauling in nine catches for 87 yards, including an 11-yard catch to set up a Godsey touchdown, and delivering two scoring runs.
Defensive game ball: Jack Haytaian gets the game ball after causing havoc in the backfield all night, before getting a sack and a safety on consecutive fourth quarter snaps.
Up next: On Nov. 20 Red Bank will travel second-seeded Ocean Township, who shutout Hamilton West 35-0 on Friday.
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