Eagles defeat Sayreville to clinch spot in state sectional title game

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Middletown High School South linebacker Colin Gallagher tackles Sayreville running back Zaimer Wright for a short gain during the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV Tournament on Nov. 12 in Middletown. Middletown South won 17-8.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South running back Dan Primiano runs over a Sayreville defender for a first down during the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV Tournament on Nov. 12 in Middletown. Primiano rushed for a game-high 152 yards in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South linebacker Colin Gallagher tackles Sayreville running back Zaimer Wright for a short gain during the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV Tournament on Nov. 12 in Middletown. Middletown South won 17-8.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South running back Dan Primiano runs over a Sayreville defender for a first down during the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV Tournament on Nov. 12 in Middletown. Primiano rushed for a game-high 152 yards in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

For the first time since 2015, the Middletown South High School football team will play for a state sectional championship.

The Eagles raced to a 17-8 victory over Sayreville War Memorial High School in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV state sectional tournament on Nov. 12 in Middletown to punch their ticket to the school’s 22nd appearance in a sectional final.

Being able to lead the Eagles into a sectional title game means a lot to Coach Steve Antonucci. The 2021 Eagles will be trying to win the program’s 11th state sectional title when they face Irvington High School at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 in Irvington.

“I’m really excited for us to be here,” Antonucci said after the win over Sayreville. “This group is very special. We are happy to be where we are, but we are not satisfied by any means. We are going to go play a good Irvington team next week and try to win a championship.”

The ground game and a stellar defense were the keys to the win over Sayreville. Middletown South improved to 8-1 with the victory over the Bombers.

Senior Dan Primiano rushed for 152 yards, while sophomore Donovan Summey rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown. On defense, the Eagles held Sayreville to a season-low eight points.

Sophomore placekicker Jake Czwakiel began a perfect night with just over 1:00 to play in the first quarter by capping a 14-play drive with a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Czwakiel kicked three field goals in the game from 31, 27 and 25 yards.

“Points are important anytime you are playing in a game like this,” Antonucci said. “Any time you can add points and make them chase points, that’s the name of the game and that’s what we were trying to do.”

Sayreville answered back on its next possession. A 31-yard completion from junior quarterback Michael Colonnello to senior wide receiver Osei Bonsu moved the ball to the Eagles’ 12.

Several plays later, sophomore running back Zaimer Wright scored on a 1-yard run. Wright ran in for the two-point conversion to give the Bombers an 8-3 lead.

Summey helped the Eagles regain the lead with 5:08 to play in the second quarter. He took a pitch from quarterback Thomas Schork and galloped up the sideline into the end zone for Middletown South’s only touchdown.

“It was a speed play to the outside and Dan (Primiano) made a great block for me to get the touchdown,” Summey said. “They put me in and gave me a chance. It feels great.”

Schork ran in the two-point conversion for an 11-8 lead.

The Eagles regained possession at their own 30 with 2:13 to play in the second quarter. Primiano rushed for 66 yards on the drive as the Eagles moved the ball to the Bombers’ 5 with :09 left in the second quarter.

An apparent touchdown was nullified by a penalty for an illegal player downfield, and Czwakiel ended the drive with a 27-yard field goal to give Middletown South a 14-8 halftime lead.

“My O-line was making the holes and I was finding them,” Primiano said about the final drive of the first half. “I love my offensive linemen.”

Primiano appreciates the chance the Eagles will have on Nov. 19 to add another state sectional title to the program’s history.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “Ever since you are a kid, this is a program you want to play for. Playing here is unlike anywhere else.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Czwakiel kicked a 25-yard field goal with 11:14 to play in the fourth quarter to make the score 17-8.

The Eagles’ defense ended Sayreville’s hopes for a comeback on the Bombers’ following drive as Sayreville came up empty inside the 10 and the Eagles took possession at the 4 with 4:17 left in the fourth quarter.

Primiano, Schork and Summey continued to roll behind the offensive line to run out the clock and send the Eagles to the 2021 state sectional championship game.

The opportunity to put their names into the Middletown South record book now lies ahead for this group of players, who are ready to win a title Antonucci and the program have sought since 2015.

“We are ready to go,” senior lineman Jake Williamson said. “We’ve got a great group of guys. We know it’s going to be a dogfight and we are ready to punch them in the mouth.”