FREEHOLD Freehold did a lot right in building a 26-point lead against Middletown North early in the third quarter Saturday in a Shore Conference Class A North game at the Cal Dean Wilson Athletic Complex.
And what the Colonials did over the first 2 ½ quarters was just enough to enable them to hold on for a 26-20 win over the Lions, who are ranked No. 9 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10.
“When you’re up on a team, you’ve got to keep going,’’ Freehold coach Dave Ellis said.
Middletown North (2-1, 1-1), which played without standout running back/linebacker Chad Freshnock, who head coach Steve Bush said will be out for a “few weeks’’ with an undisclosed injury and played the latter part of the second quarter without starting quarterback Donald Glenn, had a chance to pull the game out on the final play.
But, Glenn’s pass to the back end of the zone from the Freehold 22 fell incomplete.
“I’m proud of our team that we stuck through and got the win,’’ Freehold senior quarterback/safety Jake Curry said.
Middletown North started its final possession after a touchback on a Freehold punt on its own 20 with 57.8 seconds remaining.
Glenn (18-for-33 with two touchdowns and one interception for 274 yards) and junior wide receiver Brendan Kube (13 receptions for 226 yards and two TDs) combined for four completions for 69 yards to put the Lions in position to have Glenn throw into the end zone on the final play.
“I was proud of the way our kids fought back. They didn’t pack it in. They didn’t give up,’’ Bush said. “It shows some heart on this team.’’
Freehold (2-1, 2-1) had built a 26-0 lead 2:50 into the third quarter on TD runs of 28 and 19 yards by sophomore running back Ashanti Worthy (21 carries for 177 yards) in the first quarter and TD runs of 2 and 1 yard by Curry in the second and third quarter respectively.
Curry’s second TD came on a fourth-and-goal and capped a six-play, 49-yard drive on the first possession of the second half. Worthy’s 43-yard run keyed the drive.
“Ashanti is a very patient runner. He can burst when he has to,’’ Ellis said. “He has great vision.’’
Middletown North had missed out on a chance to score in the second quarter when Curry recovered a fumble on a third-and-goal at the 1.
“As a whole, when our backs were to the wall, we were able to make some plays on the goal-line,’’ Ellis said.
The Lions also failed to score after beginning a possession at the Freehold 16 later in the second quarter.
After that turnover on downs, Freehold drove 81 yards in nine plays to make it 18-0 on Curry’s 2-yard TD with 37.1 seconds left in the first half.
Glenn and Kube teamed up to begin Middletown North’s comeback with a 65-yard TD pass with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
Three plays later, a fumble recovery by Matt Dombrowski set Middletown North up at the Freehold 14, Four plays later, Demetrius Redway’s 3-yard TD run made it 26-14 with 1.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
Glenn’s 4-yard TD pass to Kube made it 26-20 with 4:06 remaining and came four plays after Austin Dewise stripped the ball away from a Freehold ballcarrier.
“We’re getting better, but we still got a lot of work to do,’’ Ellis said.
Key play: Curry’s recovery of a fumble at the Freehold 1 in the second quarter and Freehold ahead 12-0.
Offensive game ball: Ashanti Worthy, who had 177 yards and two TDs on 21 carries.
Defensive game ball: Freehold safety Jake Curry, who is the Colonials’ heart and soul.
Up next: Freehold is at Raritan on Friday night. Middletown North hosts five-time defending Class A North champion Manalapan Friday night.
Steven Falk: 732-643-4267; firstname.lastname@example.org