Football BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff Above, Middletown South’s Knowshon Moreno breaks through the line of scrimmage during the Eagles’ season-opening home win over Long Branch on Saturday. At left, South’s Rob Kelly makes the tackle on Long Branch’s Francisco Gomez. With week one in the books, things went pretty much as expected for the local high school football teams. The local squads that expected to challenge for division titles, and perhaps more, were impressive, while the teams with lower expectations struggled a bit. Middletown South wasted little time in proving to be the team to beat. The top-ranked Eagles played host to fourth-ranked Long Branch on South’s new artificial turf field, and quite simply, it was no contest. The Eagles used a punishing ground attack and a stubborn defense to dominate the athletic Green Wave, and send an early message to the state. The final score was 33-6, and the actual game was every bit as lop-sided as that score indicates. As expected, junior tailback Knowshon Moreno was the spark that led the Eagles. Playing for the first time on the surface that replaced the renowned “Swamp” at Middletown South, Moreno looked comfortable with the change as he rushed for 183 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns. Behind a revamped offensive line, both Moreno and his backfield mate Trent MacCray (62 yards and a touchdown) found all kinds of daylight throughout the game, as did quarterback Dan Stivala, who rushed for 68 yards and a TD. Middletown South was strong from the start, scoring on all but one series in the first half. Moreno set the tone early, racking up 121 yards on just 13 carries, and getting a pair of TDs. By the time Stivala found the end zone from 28 yards out on a bootleg with just over three minutes left in the first half, the lead was 21-0, and South was cruising. The Eagles then recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kick-off, and three plays later, MacCray was in the end zone on a 10-yard scamper, and at 27-0, with the way the Eagle defense was playing, the game was essentially over at the half. Long Branch managed to get its touchdown in the third quarter on a 15-yard TD pass from Maurice Turpin to Thomas Ellis, capping a 67-yard drive, but the Eagles responded with an 11-play, 69-yard drive, which resulted in Moreno’s third TD of the night, this one from two yards out. In what is expected to be another stellar season for the defending Federal Division and CJ Group III champs, Middletown South got off to a brilliant start. They entered the season with the Shore Conference considering them the best team around. Saturday night did nothing to change that belief. Next up is a trip to Red Bank on Saturday for a rematch of last year’s CJ Group III championship game, won by South. In fact, South beat RBR twice last year, handing the Bucs their only losses of the season. Red Bank, which returns several key players, especially at the offensive skill positions, should provide the Eagles with another tough test, in a game that could very well decide the division title. All this, and it’s only week two. Game time is 1 p.m. The Raritan Rockets welcomed back head coach Bob Generelli in impressive fashion, rolling past Freehold Borough, 37-0. This game was actually more competitive than the final score indicates, as Freehold hung tough with the Rockets through much of the first half, before Raritan blew it open in the second stanza. The Rockets jumped ahead on a 13-yard scoring scamper from QB Andrew Mandeville in the first quarter, then made it 9-0 when Chris Carroll and Mike Plagianakos tackled the Freehold QB for a safety. Freehold recovered a fumble late in the second quarter and drove down to the Raritan 16, but the drive stalled on a fumble of their own. Raritan then allowed junior running back Mike Fitzpatrick to do his thing, rushing four times for 40 yards, before finding the end zone from nine yards out. Fitzpatrick finished the game with 107 yards on 18 carries, and added another touchdown, while Mandeville added a pair of TD passes to Jeff Papcun in the second half to close out the scoring. The Rockets will have their home opener on Saturday when rival Matawan comes to town. The Huskies did not play this past weekend, but should present Raritan with a challenge, with a number of key players returning from last year’s squad. Game time is 1 p.m. The Keyport Red Raiders survived a tough game with Monsignor Donovan to get to 1-0, needing some big plays from their defense in the fourth quarter to hold off a resilient Griffins team, 20-12. Keyport jumped ahead 14-0, scoring a touchdown in each of the first two quarters. R.J. Foster got the first TD, scoring from nine yards out to cap a nine-play, 55-yard drive, while Warren Gumbs raced 89 yards for the Red Raiders’ second score. Gumbs scored again with just over four minutes left in the game from two yards out. But it was the Keyport defense that held strong, forcing two interceptions and a three-and-out series on the Griffins’ final three possessions, to put the game away. Keyport will look for a better all-around effort and a second win on Friday when they head down to West Long Branch to take on Shore Regional — a 31-14 loser to Point Beach on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. The Holmdel Hornets were the only other local team to get a win on opening weekend, as they knocked off neighboring rival St. John Vianney, 41-13. The Holmdel running attack was in full force on Friday, as the Hornets rushed for 314 yards against the SJV defense, led by quarterback Tom Gorski, who found the end zone three times (63, 11 and two yards). The game was close early on, as the teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter — Holmdel on a 63-yard run from Gorski, and Vianney on a 22-yard scamper from Dave Whittaker. But Holmdel responded with another score (Gorski’s second TD) and entered the second quarter 14-7. The Hornets then opened up the second stanza with a 58-yard scoring run from Austin Misiura, and the lead was 21-7. The same play later in the second quarter sprung Misiura for a 36-yard score, and a 28-7 halftime lead. Holmdel added two more scores — a 50-yard run from Joe Musillo and a two-yard plunge from Gorski — for the final tallies and an impressive opening night win. Holmdel will look to go 2-0 on Saturday when they travel to Manchester. Manchester is coming off a tough 14-10 loss to a good Red Bank Catholic team. Game time is 1 p.m. As for Vianney, they’ll look to turn things around on Friday when they head to Manasquan to take on a Warrior squad that suffered a shocking loss to Pinelands on opening night. Game time is 7 p.m. Like the Lancers, Middletown North had a tough opening night loss against Toms River East, though the game was much more competitive than the 32-7 final score indicates. The Lions fell behind 13-0 in the first half, but came out fired up, as evidenced by Nick Dura’s 54-yard kick-off return. After driving into the red zone, Dura found the end zone from four yards out on an option, and it was a 13-7 game. However, it was all TRE from there, as the Raiders seemed to find their rhythm and reeled off the next 19 points in pulling out the win. The Lions will look to get their first win on Friday when they travel to Brick to take on the defending CJ Group IV champion Brick Memorial Mustangs — a 28-0 winner over Southern this past weekend. Game time is 7 p.m. The Mater Dei Seraphs knew they would be over-matched against a bigger, deeper Rumson-Fair Haven squad, and there were no surprises on Saturday. Rumson was clearly the dominant team, and cruised to a 47-0 win, with all 47 points coming in the first half. The Seraphs will be back in action on Friday when they take to the road to face Monsignor Donovan. Game time is 7 p.m. BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer
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