Braves’ season ends with overtime loss to Edison in state playoff opener

Manalapan High School running back Elijah Marquez runs up the field for a first down during a game against Edison in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group V Tournament on Nov. 5 in Manalapan. Edison defeated Manalapan in overtime 23-20.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Manalapan High School running back Elijah Marquez runs up the field for a first down during a game against Edison in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group V Tournament on Nov. 5 in Manalapan. Edison defeated Manalapan in overtime 23-20.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Following a 6-2 regular season, the Manalapan High School football team entered the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V state playoffs as the No. 2 seed and hosted No. 7 seed Edison High School in the first round on Nov. 5.

The teams were tied 20-20 at the end of four quarters and the game went to overtime, during which each team would have a chance to score from its opponent’s 25.

Manalapan went on offense first, but the possession ended when Michael Calton missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.

Edison made its possession pay off as junior Selbin Sabio kicked a 25-yard field goal to seal a 23-20 victory and send the Eagles to the sectional semifinals.

“The kids fought all year coming off a COVID season,” Manalapan coach Dominick Lepore said. “It’s just disappointing because the kids worked so hard. They are resilient kids. We just came up short.”

In the first quarter, Manalapan senior running back Elijah Marquez scored on a two-yard run and Calton kicked the extra point and a 38-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

With 2:41 to play in the second quarter, Calton capped a 13-play drive with a 28-yard field goal to put the Braves ahead 13-0.

 

But on the ensuing kickoff, senior Jaden Peart got Edison on the board with a 99-yard return for a touchdown to make the score 13-6.

Peart stung the Braves again on the following Manalapan possession when he intercepted a pass thrown by senior quarterback Mike Heckel with 1:00 left in the second quarter.

The Eagles took over at their 30 and and junior quarterback Matt Yascko lead his team on a nine-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Stansbury. The extra point made the score 13-13 at halftime.

“We didn’t execute well on the kickoff return before the half,” Lepore said. “(Edison) killed us all night on their returns.”

On the first possession of the third quarter, Yascko connected with Stansbury on a 20-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down play. The extra point gave the Eagles a 20-13 lead.

The Braves were still trailing as the game entered the fourth quarter. Following a one-handed interception by Michael Bimonte, junior Thomas Clark-Glasco accounted for all 51 yards on a five-play touchdown drive. He finished the drive with a 25-yard dash to the end zone and Calton’s PAT tied the game, 20-20, with 7:09 to play.

“Tommy (Clark-Glasco) was a spark there in the second half,” said Lepore. “We had some guys make some plays, but we didn’t make enough of them.”

Manalapan forced its third turnover on Edison’s following possession and Mario Chierchia recovered the ball at the Eagles’ 40 with 5:23 to play, but the Braves went three and out.

The Braves got the ball back at the Edison 49 with 2:29 to play and drove inside the 25. The drive stalled and Calton came out to attempt a 42-yard field goal with :56 to play.

Calton had the distance, but the kick was wide right and the Eagles ran out the clock to send the game to overtime, where the visitors from Middlesex County prevailed.

The Braves ended the 2021 campaign with a 6-3 record.