As his team celebrated its second sectional championship in four years, South Brunswick High School head football coach Joe Goerge took a moment to reflect upon his ineffably talented senior skill position players.
“The is the end of a four-year run with these seniors, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time coaching,” Goerge said after his team steamrolled to a 42-0 victory over Old Bridge for the Central Group V title at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“I couldn’t be more proud of those seniors. Those skill guys are the best skill group I’ve had since I started coaching in 1981. I’ve never had guys like that playing together.”
Goerge was referring to seniors Phil Campbell and Mo Jabbie, a couple of Rutgers University commits who each scored a touchdown Saturday on their future home field, as well as Monmouth University scholarship recipient Wendell Allen and Jaier Garrett.
The quartet combined for 263 rushing yards while junior quarterback Josh Liao and sophomore wide receiver Justin Shorter, who the former Rutgers staff was recruiting, connected on five passes for 89 yards in the rout.
Jabbie and Campbell could not even enjoy their championship without reporters asking them about Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash, who the Scarlet Knights are expected to officially introduce as the successor to Kyle Flood as the program’s next head coach on Monday. News of Ash’s imminent hiring broke shortly after the sectional final kicked off.
“I just heard now,” Campbell said, “so I’m just going to enjoy this win and get into that later.”
Highly touted Old Bridge sophomore quarterback Artur Sitkowski, who holds scholarship offers from Rutgers and Maryland, was limited to 4 of 12 passing for 78 yards, 49 of which came on the game’s final drive against the second-team defense.
The Knights, who rushed for more than 600 yards in two previous playoff games, were limited to 51 yards on 26 carries.
Garrett (five tackles), Jabbie (four tackles) and Xavier Cargile (four tackles) anchored South Brunswick’s defense. Andre Eldridge and Josh Hypolite each recorded a sack for the Vikings, while Shorter and Dillon Donaldson each had a tackle for a loss.
South Brunswick (11-1), which squandered a 15-point third-quarter lead in a season-opening loss to undefeated Middletown South, rebounded to win its final 11 games including a 20-9 comeback victory over Old Bridge (8-4) earlier this year.
Unlike that game, in which the Vikings used a Jabbie punt return for a first-quarter score and a Shorter touchdown reception in the closing seconds of the opening half to take a 13-9 lead it would not relinquish, Saturday’s sectional final was never in doubt.
The Knights were outgained 360 to 129 in total yards from scrimmage with 61 of those yards coming in the closing minutes.
Jabbie’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, which gave South Brunswick a 35-0 lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter, set a running clock in motion.
“I’m just speechless at how we played,” Jabbie said. “I feel like we played excellent today and that’s what showed on the scoreboard. It’s my new home and I’m happy that I was able to score my first touchdown here.”
Campbell, who finished with a game-high 90 rushing yards on 17 carries, capped the scoring on a 4-yard run with 6:09 left in the contest. He also threw a huge block on Garrett’s first of two touchdown runs.
“I knew I had to get into that end zone,” Campbell said of his rushing touchdown. “This was my last time running (he will play defensive back in college), so I just really had to go out strong. My line told me that they got me and we just executed. It’s a great way to wrap it (a high school career) up.”
Garrett, the least heralded perhaps of South Brunswick’s skill position players, but no less talented, turned in the two biggest rushing plays of the afternoon. His 39-yard scoring jaunt gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead with 3:23 left in the first quarter and his 31-yard touchdown jaunt put South Brunswick up 28-0 with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter.
“Our offensive line is the best in the state,” Garrett said, deflecting attention from himself the way he shed defenders on Saturday. “They block well for us and we play as a team. Last time (against Old Bridge) we weren’t as focused. This time we came in motivated, and that’s why we were able to establish the run game.”
South Brunswick, which passed for more than 400 yards in each of its two previous contests combined, established the run early and it used it to set up the pass. Seventeen of the team’s first 22 plays were on the ground before Liao connected with Shorter on a back-breaking 49-yard touchdown pass that gave the Vikings a 21-0 lead with 1:45 left in the first half. Liao capped a 48-yard drive with a 3-yard run on South Brunswick’s previous possession.
“Even though we’ve thrown the ball and Josh has been outstanding, this is what we felt we wanted to get back to,” Goerge said of his vaunted triple-option offense. “That (running game) opened it (the pass) up for us.”
South Brunswick scored on five of seven possessions, controlled the clock for more than 25 minutes and sustained drives with 15 first downs including two fourth-down conversions.
“After that first game (loss to Middletown South), we went on a great run,” Goerge said. “I couldn’t be more proud of those seniors.”