Matawan starting to look like its old self

first_img BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer Upset of Monmouth proves Huskies are back BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer RICH GRAESSLE Above, Matawan’s Daniel Cleary finds the end zone to score the Huskies’ second touchdown on Saturday night during their win over Monmouth Regional. Everything had been going Monmouth Regional’s way this season. As a result, the Falcons entered Saturday night’s game in Matawan with a perfect 6-0 record and sitting atop the Shore’s Liberty Division. The Huskies, on the other hand, were a team in need of a statement game – a performance that would prove they are indeed beginning to resemble the type of team that has made Matawan one of the winningest programs in the Shore Conference. Something had to give. And on Saturday night, before a capacity crowd, it was Matawan senior kicker Greg Coleman who did most of the giving, as he led his team to a thrilling 16-14 win over the Falcons with some clutch kicking that proved to be the difference in the game. “Greg Coleman played a huge game for us,” Matawan assistant coach John Kaye said. “Our special teams’ play in general was outstanding.” It started with sophomore Kyle Hardy’s 82-yard return of the opening kickoff, which gave the hometown Huskies the early 6-0 lead. Following the TD, the Huskies were flagged for one of two excessive celebration penalties (much to the dismay of the Matawan coaching staff – “Our kids got flagged for being happy, jumping up and down in celebration, and they weren’t even on the field. I’m still scratching my head over that,” Kaye said), forcing Coleman to attempt a PAT kick from 35 yards out. Fortunately for Matawan, he split the uprights, matching his longest field goal of the year. Matawan made it 13-0 on a Dan Cleary six-yard run, which was set up by a Jamiel Sims interception off a tipped pass. Matawan’s Andrew Tolian got his hand on a Tom D’Ambrisi pass, and Sims was there to make the play. D’Ambrisi would recover to lead his team back, getting the Falcons on the board with a seven-yard TD pass to Edrick Alleyne, and later engineering an 11-play, 94-yard drive that led to a 10-yard Marcus Brooks touchdown run. With the Falcons holding a 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter, it was Matawan that fought back to steal the win. The Huskies allowed J.T. Anderson to set up the game-winning field goal. Anderson, who rushed for 121 yards on the game behind a vastly improved Matawan offensive line, broke free for a pair of crucial runs during the final drive, helping the Huskies set up Coleman’s game-winning 30-yard field goal with 9:00 left in the game. From there, the Huskies’ defense held the Falcons in check, giving Matawan its most important win in over two years. “It legitimizes what we’ve been trying to do,” Kaye said of the win. “The last couple of years we’ve had a lot of young kids, and they’ve taken their lumps. This win puts us back in the picture in the Shore Conference football landscape.” It also continued a recent trend that has the Huskies playing much better at home – another thing the coaching staff can’t quite put their finger on. “I wish I knew,” Kaye said. “I’d change it if I knew why. I think it’s a combination of the home crowd, and having a comfort level on our own turf. We’re going to have to change that, though. We’ve got to play Freehold Borough (on Nov. 4), and we’ll need to play well to win there.” With the win, the Huskies greatly improved their chances of qualifying for the upcoming state playoffs. Matawan entered the game in eighth place in the Central Jersey Group II race, but were just four power points behind third-place Johnson High School. A win over Freehold Borough would assure the Huskies of a return to the postseason. “It would be huge for us,” Kaye said. “We set some attainable goals when the season began, and through hard work, we’re on track to reach them. We got out of the gate a little slow, losing to Red Bank Catholic and then dropping a tough one to Red Bank, but we’ve turned it around. “We’ve played well in all facets of the game,” he added, while predicting that Matawan could be a dangerous team come playoff time. “He have a lot of weapons. We can run the ball effectively with anybody with a big offensive line, and we have threats at flanker. Our defense is starting to play real well, and we have a dangerous kicker. “Once you get to the playoffs, everyone is 0-0. All you’ve got to do is win three games to be champions.” It’s been a while since we’ve been talking about Matawan football and winning championships in the same sentence, but following Saturday’s win over Monmouth, it certainly seems appropriate. Welcome back, Huskies. Eagles’ toughest test looming on Friday Is this the week that it finally happens? Will somebody, can anybody snap Middletown South’s 43-game winning streak? The Eagles, who improved to 7-0 with a 34-7 pasting of Freehold on Saturday, face what is likely to be their stiffest challenge yet on Friday night when the defending Central Jersey Group III champion Ocean Spartans come to town. Ocean enters the game ranked eighth in the Shore with a 5-1 record (5-0 in Federal Division play), and is hoping to snatch the division title away from the Eagles on top of snapping their brilliant winning streak. Surely, the Eagles are the favorite entering the showdown, based largely on their dominance on the field throughout the season. Those who were expecting the Eagles to come back to the pack after graduating 19 seniors from last year’s state championship team have been disappointed to see the Eagles demonstrating the same type of workmanlike brilliance we’ve come to expect from Middletown South under head coach Steve Antonucci. However, with a break here or there, Ocean is certainly a talented enough team to make things interesting in the Swamp. Get there early – it’s guaranteed to be a full house. Game time is 7 p.m. While the Matawan Huskies are beginning to entertain thoughts of making a run at the CJ Group II title, the Raritan Rockets are in the same boat. Raritan, which dropped its second game of the year on Saturday, 37-7, to the Shore’s top team, Manasquan, still has to be looked at as one of the top teams in the CJ II section. There’s no shame in losing to the Blue Warriors, who have looked every bit like the favorite in the South Jersey Group II section, and head coach Bob Generelli’s Rockets have proved that their loss of 14 starters from last year was a mere bump in the road for them as well. Raritan can still play with anybody the CJ II section has to offer, and with a win on Nov. 3 against Rumson-Fair Haven, the Rockets will begin their quest for another state title, after losing to Manasquan in the state final last season. That game will be no walk in the park though, as Rumson, which enters Saturday’s game with Point Beach sitting atop the Patriot Division at 5-1, could be in must-win mode in order to qualify for the state playoffs. Needless to say, both teams will be hungry. The only other local team still entertaining thoughts of a state playoff bid is the St. John Vianney Lancers, who scored a huge win over Point Boro on Friday night to greatly improve their chances of qualifying. SJV got strong running performances from Chris Lewnes (105 yards) and Dave Whitaker (101 yards), and a surprisingly strong performance from back-up quarterback Ciaran Andrews to shock the sixth-ranked Panthers, last year’s South Jersey Group II champs, 32-15. Andrews, who moved to the QB position from his linebacker slot, finished 2-4 for 75 yards, including a 60-yard TD pass to Lewnes that made the score 13-6 after the first quarter. From there, SJV scored three more TDs, including a 58-yard interception return from Tom Moncrief, to build an insurmountable lead, and improve to 3-3 on the year.last_img read more