KEYPORT – There has been a lot of fun and excitement on display at Mike Ciccotelli Field this fall with the outstanding play of the Keyport High School football team.
Keyport is off to a 4-1 start in 2021 and the Red Raiders have their sights set on making their first trip to the state playoffs in three years.
“We want to put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs and maybe have a home playoff game,” Coach Jason Glezman said. “There is a lot of football and great things to look forward to this year.”
The Red Raiders have a lot of firepower on offense and they showed that by winning their first four games. Keyport scored 127 points during that stretch and in each of their first three games the Red Raiders scored 28 or more points.
Senior quarterback George Mitchell has played well and has accounted for 10 touchdowns through five games. He powered Keyport to a 28-21 victory over Keansburg on Sept. 11 as he threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score.
The biggest touchdown pass against the Titans was Mitchell’s 55-yard strike to wide receiver D.J. Thomson with under 2:00 left in the fourth quarter that secured the win.
Thomson has been having a standout senior campaign. From offense to defense to special teams, Thomson is a playmaker Keyport has been able to use in different ways to win.
Through five games, Thomson leads the team with 17 catches, 412 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions. He has returned two punts for touchdowns and one kickoff for a touchdown (97 yards). On defense, Thomson leads the team with two interceptions
“We are not here (4-1) without him and we won’t have success moving forward without him,” Glezman said of Thomson. “He does a great job. He opens up a lot of things for the other guys. We need him to play his best football.”
Senior Zivon Crank has made an impact in the passing game with four catches for 67 yards and one touchdown. On defense, he returned a fumble for a touchdown during a 45-26 victory over Point Pleasant Beach.
In the running game, sophomore tailback Nazir Treadwell has 275 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns.
Treadwell ran for a season-high 161 yards and scored two touchdowns in Keyport’s 37-20 season-opening victory over Metuchen on Sept. 6. He also has one touchdown reception.
Senior Christyan Azevedo has been a solid performer at defensive end and leads the team with four sacks through five games.
Keyport’s unbeaten streak hit a speed bump on Oct. 2 when the Red Raiders hosted Shore Conference National Division opponent Monmouth Regional High School of Tinton Falls. Keyport turned the ball over three times and fell to the Falcons, 28-7.
“We were just playing a little tight and doing things that were uncharacteristic for us,” Glezman said after the loss to Monmouth Regional. “We only had one or two turnovers during a game and we had three today. We have to learn to settle down in big games like this.”
The Red Raiders found themselves trailing 20-0 with :18 left in the third quarter after Monmouth Regional’s Julian Jones ran in from the 1 for his second touchdown of the game.
Keyport responded as Mitchell tossed a 48-yard touchdown pass up the seam to Thomson on the final play of the third quarter to get the Red Raiders on the board.
Trailing 20-7 entering the fourth quarter, Crank intercepted a pass to give Keyport the ball inside the Falcons’ 25. But the Red Raiders could not sustain the momentum as Mitchell lost a fumble two plays later as he was being sacked by Nelson Harris-Thomas and Eric Crossley.
The Falcons put the game away with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a nine-yard touchdown run by Jones with 2:21 to play. Jones rushed for a career-high 226 yards and three touchdowns.
Keyport will host Lakewood on Oct. 9. The Red Raiders would have to defeat Lakewood and see Monmouth Regional lose to Point Pleasant Beach to clinch a share of the National Division title.
As for what type of response he wants to see from his squad coming off its first loss of the season, Glezman said he wants his players to learn from their mistakes and to focus on getting back on track against Lakewood.
“We have to learn from these mistakes with big games going forward,” the coach said. “We are playing Lakewood next. It’s our Senior Day. We are looking to win that game and get a win for our seniors.”