According to Middletown North captain Matt Dombrowski, such milestones are all part of the plan this program set in place upon the arrival of coach Steve Bush.MIDDLETOWN – A season ago Middletown North secured its first winning campaign in 15 years, and on Friday night with a 27-14 victory over Freehold Township the Lions clinched its first home playoff game since 1986.
“It’s great to get this done, and it’s been a goal of ours since coach Bush came to the program three years ago,” Dombrowski said. “Since he’s gotten here we’ve talked about setting goals and then taking the next step. Every year we want to do something new. Every year we have to make improvements, and get the program back on the right track, where we should be.”
Dombrowski was at the heart of a ferocious Lions (6-2) defense that grounded Freehold Township’s (4-5) high flying Air Raid Offense, keeping the Patriots off the board through two quarters by forcing four consecutive punts and a pair of turnovers on downs – including a stop by Demetrius Redway on fourth and goal from the Middletown four-yard line – to close out the half.
“We’ve got a good defense and those kids played well tonight,” Bush said of his unit, which recorded five first half sacks (Dombrowski – 2, Austin DeWise, Cory Baliatico, Josh Gomez) of Patriots quarterback Jack O’Brien. “Coach (Geoff) Massimini has done a great job with this group.”
“But the kids just stepped up to make a lot of plays tonight. They got a lot of pressure on the quarterback and were sound in coverage. This is an offense that has scored a lot of points, so we figured they would score against us a little bit too. But our guys did a real nice job.”
The Lions held a 27-6 lead after Chad Freshnock rumbled into the end zone from two yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Freehold Township answered when junior Anthony Lotti scampered in from eight yards away.
Three consecutive dump offs by O’Brien to start Freehold’s next series went for 47 yards and landed the Patriots in Lions territory.
However, the Patriot’s push wash halted two plays later, when junior defensive back Brendan Kube undercut a deep post route to record the interception and lead his club to the 27-14 final.
A 30-yard touchdown pass from Glenn to Dwight Wilkerson and a one-yard plunge by sophomore Austin DeWise led to a 20-6 Lions advantage in the third quarter – Freehold’s first touchdown was on an O’Brien 21-yard scoring strike to Nick Galanti in the third – while Middletown opened the scoring on its second possession of the game, when Freshnock found the end zone from one yard away to cap a six play series.
“We’re all really excited to have clinched the home playoff game,” said the Bucknell University bound Freshnock. “It’s great for the program, it’s great for the fans, and we can’t wait to play in front of them in that playoff atmosphere.”
Middletown had two running backs over 100 yards as Freshnock carried 20 times for 122 yards, while sophomore Connor Welsh had 101 yards on 18 carries. Glenn also had a big night, delivering 258 yard on 13-of-23 passing, as Wilkerson had five catches for 115 yards, and Kube recorded 107 yards on six receptions.
Play of the game: Following a Freehold Township touchdown run by Lotti and an interception from Dudics, the Patriots offense was buzzing, before Kube stepped in front of an O’Brien pass for a fourth quarter interception that iced a 27-14 Middletown win.
Offensive game ball: After missing his last six games due to injury, Freshnock shouldered the load with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Defensive game ball: Dombrowski led a Lions defense that dominated the Patriots offense in the first half, as the senior notched two of Middletown’s five sacks.
Up next: Middletown North will play in a North 2, Group IV playoff game, while Freehold Township will play in a consolation game next week. Details on both games will be finalized soon.
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