EAST BRUNSWICK The East Brunswick High School football team received a safety tackle from a freshman, two diving plays by Anthony Torres and some offensive trickery in its 16-14 win over North Brunswick in a GMC Red Division game Friday.
“This game meant a lot to us,” an emotional running back Kyle Wiggins said. “Because we knew that we could get this, and everybody just worked hard. … It’s all about heart.”
Heart – and some moxie.
With East Brunswick leading 9-8 and facing a second-and-14 from North Brunswick’s 24-yard line, Bears quarterback Brendan Kennedy went right and Wiggins moved in for the snap. The junior took off up the middle, getting stopped at the 1-yard line. North Brunswick seemed surprise that the running back took the direct snap. Two plays later, Kennedy punched in the score for a 16-8 lead with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter.
East Brunswick coach Bob Molarz said the Bears had a couple players that were hurting, and it was a good time to call the play, which the coaching staff put in during the week.
Wiggins liked it because he got to check off playing quarterback from his bucket list.
“I (liked it) because I got to play QB,” he said with a laugh, noting he’s quite content to stay at halfback full time. “I just like to be in control sometimes. … Our O-line did good and I just cut off of them and that was it.”
Late in the quarter, North Brunswick moved the ball on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Dillion Seal to Jake Destefano that gave the Raiders a first down on East Brunswick’s 9-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Eddie Carpenter rushed nine yards for the touchdown with 11:44 left in the game to cut the deficit to 16-14. But on the two-point conversion attempt, Torres, a defensive back, dove and stopped the quarterback and East Brunswick maintained the lead.
Torres said he didn’t have much time to think.
“Under the lights just everything is intense,” he said. “Everything just stops.”
The first half featured mostly special teams and defensive highlights, as neither team could sustain long drives. The punter doesn’t usually get much credit, but East Brunswick’s Patrick Fitzgerald set off a chain of events that gave his team an early lead.
On fourth-and-seven from North Brunswick’s 39-yard line, the senior’s perfectly-placed kick rolled out on the three yard line. An East Brunswick defensive stop pushed it to the one. Bears freshman Isaiah Jackson broke through and tackled the runner for the two-point safety with 3:03 remaining in the first quarter.
East Brunswick’s Almaliek Fitzpatrick returned the kick nearly 30 yards to the Raiders’ 35-yard line. On third-and-goal, Brendan Kennedy found a diving Torres in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass 13 seconds into the second quarter. Alex Boyko’s extra point gave the Bears a 9-0 lead.
“Our run game really set up the pass,” Torres said. “It really helped me out to get free on some open routes. We’ve been practicing all week. And Kennedy, my quarterback, just put the ball in a place where I could catch it.”
Enter the Raiders’ special teams highlight. The Bears’ Patrick Fitzgerald, punting from his team’s 18, booted a short line drive that North Brunswick’s Max Emannuel scooped up and sprinted up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds left in the first half. The Raiders followed with a two-point conversion pass from Seal to Zach Rowell to cut the deficit to 9-8 heading into halftime.
Both teams’ strong defense continued into the second half. As North Brunswick drove late in the game, the Bears forced the Raiders to punt late in the game keyed by a sack by defensive end Matt Bartus.
North Brunswick got the ball back with 34 seconds remaining on its own 43-yard line, but there would be no Raiders miracles. After an incompletion, the Bears’ Jair Davis sealed the win with a pick. East Brunswick’s Marcus Flax added an interception in the first half.
“I thought our defense played fantastic tonight,” said Molarz, whose team rebounded from an opening week loss to Piscataway. “It was our effort and our focus on the game that was a complete difference from our first game. I could tell as soon as we kicked the ball off that we had a whole different mindset tonight. That was the difference.”
NORTH BRUNSWICK (0-3) 0-8-0-6-14
EAST BRUNSWICK (1-1) 2-7-7-0-16
EB – Safety
EB – Torres 6 pass from Kennedy (Boyko kick)
NB – Emannuel 28 punt return (Rowell pass from Seal)
EB – Kennedy 1 run (Boyko kick)
NB – Carpenter 9 run (run failed)
Rushing – NB: Carpenter 18-50, Puentes 3-2, Seal 1-minus 3; EB: Wiggins 22-117, A. Fitzpatrick 6-3.
Passing – NB: Seal 9-25-2-146; EB: Kennedy 5-20-1-45.
Receiving – NB: Destefano 3-87, Puentes 3-27, Hall 1-16, N. Rowell 1-14, Nance 1-2; EB: Torres 2-16, McSweeney 1-13, A. Fitzpatrick 1-12, Flax 1-4.