POINT PLEASANT What a difference three weeks make. Raritan senior Derek Ernst’s 24-yard run in the third quarter set up the tie-breaking touchdown in the Rockets’ 17-7 victory Friday night over Point Boro in the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs — in a game that had an entirely different tempo and different result from Point Boro’s high-scoring victory when the teams met in the regular season.
Ernst, a 5-foot-9 tailback who collected 106 yards on 27 carries, had two long runs on the winning drive to follow junior quarterback Marc Carnivale’s 36-yard pass to Nicholas Pasquin. Carnivale’s 1-yard run broke a 7-7 tie with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
Point Boro (8-2) won 33-27 when the teams met Oct. 23 but Ernst said that result didn’t diminish the Rockets (4-5) “remaining hungry and confident.’’
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,’’ Ernst said. “But we also knew if we gave everything we have for the whole game, we were going to come out on top.’’
Raritan moves on to the semifinals in Central Jersey Group II and will visit Delaware Valley, which beat Spotswood 34-20 in another quarterfinal game.
Point Beach coach Sean Henry, whose team won a share of the Shore Conference Class B South title and was seeking its first sectional title since 2005, said, “Our offense just couldn’t get it going at times, but Raritan made the plays they had to and beat us on the field.’’
Instead of an offensive shootout like last time, the teams played a nearly scoreless first half until Raritan drove 50 yards on the last two plays of the half with back-to-back passes from Carnivale to Jordan Smith. The second throw covered 38 yards for a touchdown that put the Rockets up 7-0 with six seconds left in the half.
Carnivale completed 5 of 12 passes for 106 yards.
Point Boro answered on the opening drive of the second half, getting into the end zone on 12 plays, with quarterback Noah Husak tying tying score on a one-yard run.
The back-and-forth nature of the game went away after Carnivale’s second touchdown, however. Point Boro’s comeback bid resulted in only two first downs in the fourth quarter.
When Gavin Toth booted an insurance 23-yard field goal with 3:08 remaining, stretching the Rockets’ lead to 10 points, the host Panthers showed one more sign of life when Husak connected with Hayden Frey on a 41-yard pass, but Husak’s next pass was grabbed by senior defensive back Jahciere Jones for a game-icing interception.
Key play: Derek Ernst after a 12-yard run then carried the ball into the red zone with a 24-yard run. That set up Raritan’s winning touchdown.
Offensive game ball: Ernst mixed power with outside speed to pick up 106 yards on 27 carries.
Defensive game ball: The Jones interception for Raritan ended Point Boro’s final bid.
Up next: Raritan takes on Delaware Valley in the Central Jersey Group II semifinals.
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