MIDDLETOWN, NEW JERSEY
– With a 21-10 victory over Freehold Boro on Friday night at “The Swamp,” the Middletown South Eagles accomplished something they had not done since Oct. 2006: beat the Colonials.
The win puts an end to Middletown South’s three game losing streak against Freehold Boro, and the Eagles will maintain their spot as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference.
“It feels good to get the monkey off our back,” Middletown South quarterback Scott Meeker said about the win against the Colonials.
Freehold Boro did not go down without a fight. Trailing 14-3 in the fourth quarter, Colonials sophomore quarterback Kevin Phillips threw an interception to Connor Gilbert, which he ran back for what appeared to be a Middletown South touchdown. A penalty for an illegal block in the back erased the touchdown and gave the Eagles the ball on the Colonials 23 yard line.
On the next play, Meeker fumbled the ball back to the Colonials. Immediately following the turnover, Phillips fired a 77-yard touchdown pass to Rameer Wright, which cut the Eagles lead to 14-10.
Energized by the sudden change in momentum, the Freehold Boro defense forced Middletown South to punt the ball back to the Colonials. Punt returner Derrick Bender fumbled the kick, and the Eagles recovered the ball at midfield.
Facing fourth-and-12 with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Meeker threw his second touchdown of the game, a 20-yard pass to Scott Simonson. This extended the Middletown South lead to 21-10 and put Freehold Boro away for good.
“I had a bad drive, but that last throw just capped it all off,” Meeker said. “I can’t thank the offensive line enough for giving me enough time back there, and our defense played well until the end which kept us in it.”
Turnovers proved to be a major factor in the loss for Freehold Boro. In the first half, the Colonials only turned the ball over once, and they were able to hold the potent Middletown South offense to seven points in the half. The Colonials turned the ball over five times in the second half, and the Eagles were able to take advantage of the mistakes. All 21 of the Middletown South’s points came off of turnovers by Freehold Boro.
“We’re making some mistakes that you can’t make, and against a football team like that, they’re going to capitalize,” Freehold Boro head coach Mark Ciccotelli said. “But I tip my hat to them. They’re good kids with a good coaching staff, and they did a great job tonight.”
Freehold Boro can take some positives away from the loss. The Colonials established a passing game with Phillips, the backup quarterback. Phillips went 7/13 for 154 yards, including Freehold Boro’s first passing touchdown of the season.
Senior running back Tezzy Thorpe saw his first action this year. Thorpe practiced with the team for the past week while recovering from a knee injury. He had been sidelined for the entire preseason as well as the first three games of the regular season. Thorpe had 17 carries for 64 yards in his 2009 debut.
Freehold Boro (2-2 overall, 1-2 Federal Divison) will return home to play Liberty (2-1, 1-1) on Saturday, while Middletown South (4-0, 2-0) will travel to Central Regional (1-3, 1-2) on Friday.
“This is a good win for our football program, but we have a tough road ahead of us,” Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci said. “Central Regional is playing well. We still have Wall at home, and the big one is going to be Neptune.”
Middletown South will play Neptune (3-1, 3-0) on Saturday, Oct. 24 at Summerfield Elementary School in Neptune. This will be another critical game between two Federal Division rivals, and it will impact the Shore Conference Top 10, the chase for the Federal Division title, and the seedings for the 2009 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III State Playoffs.
The last time Middletown South went three consecutive years without winning a sectional championship was between 1983 and 1985.
Freehold Boro will try to turn around their season in the following weeks and prepare to defend their state title. If Freehold Boro happens to meet Middletown South in the state playoffs later this year, the Colonials will be the team hungry for revenge.