By Tim Morris
The depth that the Freehold Township High School football team has developed in the last year was never more of a factor that it was in its season-opening contest.
One of the last things Patriots head football coach Cory Davies reminded his players before they took the field against their arch rivals from across town, Freehold High School, was that the game was 48 minutes long and they had to play all 48.
With the game-time temperature in the 90s and humidity high, Davies was confident his club had a big advantage against the Colonials. His team had just one player who was playing on both sides of the field, while Freehold had several. The Patriots’ no-huddle, pass-happy offense would make it difficult for the Colonials to substitute and take a toll on the defense if the Patriots played the full 48 minutes.
“We thought we could wear them down,” Davies said.
The Patriots’ coaching staff thought right, as Freehold Township rallied in the fourth quarter to score a 16-12 win Sept. 9 on Freehold Township’s home field. The game-winner was a 75-yard pass from quarterback Charles Sabbagh to Anthony Lotti with under four minutes to play in the game. Lotti got behind the Colonials secondary and won the sprint to the end zone.
“Down 12-0, the kids fought back,” Davies said. “We found a way to win.”
While the come-from-behind scenario was important going forward for the Patriots’ confidence, the victory was also important for Sabbagh, who made his first varsity start. He showed the mental toughness and leadership a quarterback needs.
It was a shaky start for the Patriots’ signal caller. An interception of the game’s first drive was returned 65 yards by the Colonials’ Jahvonte Hair to the Patriots’ 21-yard line. From there, running back Ashante Worthy punched it in from the 6-yard line, and Freehold had the quick 6-0 lead.
Still in the first quarter, Freehold’s Jared VanDuysen scooped up a mishandled snap from center by Sabbagh and rumbled 30 yards for another touchdown and a 12-0 Colonials lead.
Sabbagh put those negative plays behind him and led his team to the comeback win.
“Nothing bothers him,” Davies said of Sabbagh. “He came through with some big throws.
“At halftime I called him into the office and we talked. I wanted to get him to calm down and let him know I still had confidence in him.”
Davies’ confidence was rewarded, as Sabbagh completed 20 of his 34 passes for 290 yards and a pair to touchdowns. Besides the game-winner to Lotti, he connected with Javier Rodriguez on a 16-yard scoring strike.
Place-kicker Tyler Schulman hit a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that narrowed the Colonials’ deficit to 12-10.
Lotti was the offensive standout overall for the Patriots with 225 total yards – 107 running and 118 receiving.
Freehold Township would not have been able to mount its comeback without its defense keeping the team in the game. The players did an outstanding job limiting Worthy to just 43 yards on 14 carries.
“We were very conscious of [Worthy],” Davies said. “If we were going to get beat, it was going to be by someone else.
“[The Colonials] run a lot of option, and we had someone taking him on the option.”
The Patriots limited the Colonials to just 140 total yards and had a pair of picks by Kevin Doherty and Patrick Laricy.
“Our defense played really well,” Davies said.
Mike Ferdinandi (11) and Damian Rybaltowski (10) were the Patriots’ leading tacklers. Rybaltowski led in solo stops with seven.
With the win, Freehold took home the Norman “Duke” Ferrell Trophy that goes to the winner of the clash each year.
Freehold Township hits the road for its second game to play another A North opponent, Colts Neck High School, Sept. 17. Kickoff in Colts Neck is at 12 p.m.
Next up for Freehold is its home opener Sept.17 against Howell High School in another A North game. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Auspicious debut for Braves
When a team has accomplished what Manalapan High School has the last few years, it’s hard to call the team’s potential just hype. There has been a lot of anticipation swirling around this year’s squad because of its wealth of talent at the skill positions. It has drawn comparisons to previous outstanding Braves teams.
The hype and anticipation is over. Manalapan unleashed all that potential on Marlboro High School Sept. 10, defeating their rivals, 49-12.
Quarterback Luke Corcione completed nine of 13 passes for 279 yard and three touchdowns, and Naim Mayfield, the brother of Imamu Mayfield — the star running back of Manalapan’s 2014 state championship team — made a spectacular debut as the team’s main running back, rushing for 97 yards on just nine carries and picking up 122 more on three receptions for 219 total yards. He also scored three touchdowns.
Scott Scherzer caught two of Corcione’s three touchdown passes. He caught three passes for 84 yards in total.
Manalapan returns to the gridiron Sept. 16 to play its home opener against Southern Regional High School in a non-division game at 7 p.m.
Marlboro’s Cameron Carosi had a big day, denting the Braves defense for 154 yards on 30 carries and one touchdown.
Marlboro hits the road to take on Pinelands Regional High School Sept. 16 in a non-division contest at 7 p.m.
Big win for Howell
Howell High School head coach Luke Sinkhorn likes to run the football, but he has a playmaking quarterback in Eddy Morales that has altered his game planning.
The result was a rousing 35-13 win against Colts Neck for the new-look Rebels, as Morales was everything the Rebels were hoping for. He completed 15 of his 22 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Chambers, Ean Craig and Nasiem Brantley each caught one touchdown pass from Morales.
It was just the type of start the Rebels, whose goal is to make the state playoffs this fall, needed.
Colts Neck got rushing touchdowns from Carmen Catena and quarterback Hayden Volk in the road loss.
Howell will try to go 2-0 when it travels to Freehold Sept. 17.
Colts Neck will look to get in the win column in its home opener against visiting Freehold Township High School the same day.