Shawn O’Connor completed more passes in a division-clinching win on Saturday than he did in the Spotswood High School football team’s two losses combined.
The simple statistic suggests that when the Chargers allow the senior quarterback to air it out, that they are a more dangerous team.
O’Connor completed 12 of 25 attempts for 280 yards – career-highs in all categories – with a touchdown and no interceptions as Spotswood successfully defended its Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division championship with a thrilling 27-24 victory over Metuchen.
For his efforts, O’Connor is the Home News Tribune’s Football Player of the Week.
Ryan Szatkowski’s second field goal of the game – a 31-yarder with nine seconds left – produced the final margin and lifted the Chargers (7-2) to their fifth consecutive victory.
Spotswood, which garnered the seventh-seed for the Central Group II playoffs, will face second-seeded Delaware Valley in an opening-round game on Friday night.
O’Connor enters the contest with 1,222 passing yards, 974 of which he has thrown for during Spotswood’s current winning streak including 200-plus yard games each of the last three weeks.
“I thought he was the best quarterback we’ve seen all year,” praised Metuchen head coach Bob Ulmer. “He’s a tough kid. He stood in there and took some shots from my guys and came back and completed passes. He just made clutch throws when they needed him to. I was impressed with him.”
O’Connor’s season has been a microcosm of older brother C.J.’s two-year career at Spotswood during which the elder sibling passed for 1,309 yards as a junior and threw for just 313 yards as a senior. The first half of this season, when the Chargers relied heavily upon the run, mirrored C.J. O’Connor’s final year, while the second half of this season, during which Spotswood has taken to the air, reflected C.J. O’Connor’s junior campaign.
“The best thing about Shawn is he’s a great teammate,” Spotswood head coach Andy Cammarano said. “I say that because a lot of quarterbacks want to throw. Early on we were a pretty run-heavy team. He doesn’t care how we win, as long as it happens.”
Cammarano said O’Connor has “a nice arm” and a “quick delivery,” but is most impressed with his ability to look off primary receivers and distribute the pigskin.
O’Connor’s 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against Metuchen helped the Chargers forge a 7-7 deadlock, the first of several key completions he would make along the way, but none was bigger perhaps than his third-and-8 connection with Derek Schneider on a crossing route that gave Spotswood a first down at the Metuchen 47 yard line on the game’s final drive. Following a short inside run and an incompletion, O’Connor completed another huge third-down pass on a wheel route that put the Chargers in range for the winning field goal at the 20-yard line.
Andy Madsen (117 yards), Marlon Hart (100 yards) and Jack Kennan (44 yards) combined for 11 receptions.
Hart turned in the second biggest play of the game – on the final play of the opening half – with an 85-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff after Metuchen had scored to take a 14-7 lead.
Spotswood 27 points against Metuchen were three fewer than the Bulldogs, who have blanked four opponents this season, have allowed all year.
An unselfish quarterback who waited patiently for his chance to shine was the main reason for the offensive explosion.
Samad Davila, New Brunswick 28-225-3
Luke Yakely, St. Joseph 31-178-1
Jason Lee, South Plainfield 27-164-1
Elijah Barnwell, Piscataway 29-148-2
Nasir Boykins, Highland Park 19-128-1
Mario Nigro, South River 12-120-3
Michael Liberti, Sayreville 16-119-1
Peter DiMeglio, Metuchen 10-111-0
Bashir Lauderdale, Colonia 15-106-1
Shawn O’Connor, Spotswood 12-25-277-1
Haaziq Daniels, Edison 8-20-190-2
Danny Haus, Piscataway 9-13-123-2
Tommy Galante, Bishop Ahr 3-5-110-1
Jah’bree Jeffery-Seawright, New Brunswick 6-9-108-1
Ben Baez, Edison 4-106-1
Marlon Hart, Spotswood 4-100-0