Manalapan High School quarterback Sean Kehley pumped his fist hard as he walked to the sideline. Then he hugged a teammate as the rest of the Braves streamed onto the field to celebrate.
The Manalapan football team had just earned its biggest victory of the season at home, beating a state power in Red Bank Catholic High School, 20-14, on Oct. 18.
With the victory, the Braves improved to 4-2 while the Caseys dropped to 3-3. Both teams needed the victory for positioning in the NJSIAA playoff race.
But Manalapan got it, despite only taking its first lead in the third quarter on Andre Johnson’s 71-yard touchdown run up the middle. The play got the Manalapan crowd going wild after RBC had controlled much of the game.
Manalapan would add a field goal in the fourth quarter before RBC fumbled the ball away on its last possession. Jake Freedman dove on the fumble and recovered it for the Braves, leading to a series of kneel downs.
Johnson’s touchdown and Freedman’s fumble recovery were the big plays, but Manalapan’s special teams unit may have been the MVP of the night. Ethan Rodriguez returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Vincenzo Rea made a pair of field goals.
Elijah Jules and Billy Guidetti scored RBC’s touchdowns, on a 56-yard run and an 85-yard run, respectively.
Manalapan will look to improve to 5-2 on Oct. 25 at Freehold Township High School. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Red Bank Catholic will try to climb back above .500 on Oct. 25 at Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.