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Mustangs defeat Freehold Township, 35-7, to start season at 2-0

Marlboro High School quarterback A.J. Schwartz completes an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Jake Houston during a game against Freehold Township on Sept. 10 in Marlboro. Schwartz had two touchdowns in Marlboro's 35-7 victory over Freehold Township.

There has been a changing of the guard in regard to the expectations surrounding the Marlboro High School football program over the last year.

Following a 7-3 campaign in 2021, Coach Jason Dagato and the Mustangs came into the 2022 season with the mindset of proving Marlboro is synonymous with good football and that has been the case over the first two weeks.

On Sept. 1, Marlboro went on the road and defeated Brick Township High School, 34-7.

On Sept. 10, the Mustangs played their home opener and defeated Freehold Township High School, 35-7.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Dagato said about the 2-0 start. “We want the expectation to be now that Marlboro is a good football team. The kids have high expectations for themselves. Every time they come out on the field they have expectations of winning and doing well.”

The Mustangs overcame a slow start against Freehold Township, scoring 35 unanswered points starting in the second quarter.

Trailing 7-0, senior quarterback A.J. Schwartz appeared to have scored on a 13-yard run, but a holding penalty negated the touchdown and pushed Marlboro back to the 18.

Two plays later, Schwartz hit wide receiver Jake Houston for an 11-yard completion as the Mustangs moved inside the 10. Junior running back Matthew Cassidy ran in from the 7 on the next play and the PAT tied the score at 7-7 with 9:37 to play in the second quarter.

Marlboro took the lead with 2:36 left in the quarter on a five-yard touchdown pass from Schwartz to senior tight end Lucas McEvoy.

Schwartz threw for 37 yards on the drive, including a 10-yard completion to wide receiver Ryan Mendes on fourth and eight.

“Offensively, we feel like if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we can’t be stopped,” Dagato said.

In the final minute of the second quarter, the Patriots reached the Marlboro 24 before junior outside linebacker Anthony Tropeano sacked Mark Augello on third and 10.

On fourth down, senior defensive lineman Hunter Boilen hit Augello in the backfield and stripped the ball from the Patriots’ quarterback to end the first half.

“We were really hyped on defense after getting those two sacks (to end the half),” Tropeano said. “We knew coming into this game that we could get pressure on the quarterback and we kept getting after him all game.”

In the final minute of the third quarter, Schwartz scored on a one-yard sneak and the PAT extended the lead to 21-7.

Two plays before he scored from the 1, Schwartz ran in from the 10, but once again his score was nullified by a holding penalty. He shook it off and hit Mendes for a 19-yard gain to move the ball to the 1. Schwartz’s TD sneak came on the next play.

“You have to be resilient,” Schwartz said. “It’s football. Holding and blocks in the back are going to happen. You just have to take it one step at a time and keep your focus on the game and not let it get to you.”

Schwartz has three touchdowns through two games. Cassidy rushed for three scores in the season opener and has four touchdowns through two games.

The Mustangs’ defense scored twice in the fourth quarter against Freehold Township to seal the victory.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Houston intercepted Augello and returned it nine yards for a touchdown. The PAT pushed the lead to 28-7.

On the Patriots’ next possession, Tropeano intercepted a screen pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. The PAT gave Marlboro a 35-7 lead.

Tropeano finished the contest with two sacks and a pick six and said, “I’m speechless. I was so confident in our defense coming into this game. I expect our defense to be dominant and our offense to be dominant. I was so happy for our defense.”

Junior placekicker Luke Rubin was 5-5 on his extra points against the Patriots.

The Mustangs have outscored their opponents 69-14 through two games and will look to improve to 3-0 when they host Freehold High School on Sept. 17.

Winning has become synonymous with the football program, but Dagato knows there is more work to be done as the Mustangs strive to make the school’s first state playoff appearance in 23 years.

“I still feel like there is a lot better football ahead of us. We still have some mountains to climb and things to improve on. We have to focus on ourselves and our personal improvement and I think we are going to like that at the end (of the season),” the coach said.

Marlboro High School running back Matthew Cassidy runs off tackle for a six-yard gain during a game against Freehold Township on Sept. 10 in Marlboro. Cassidy had a seven-yard touchdown run in the contest.
Marlboro High School tight end Lucas McEvoy is hoisted up in the air by teammate Hunter Boilen after catching a five-yard touchdown pass during a game against Freehold Township on Sept. 10 in Marlboro. Marlboro defeated Freehold Township, 35-7, to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Marlboro High School wide receiver Ryan Mendes plows through two Freehold Township defenders for a 20-yard gain during a game played on Sept. 10 in Marlboro. Marlboro won 35-7.
Marlboro High School punt returner Nicholas Scaff returns a punt up the field during a game against Freehold Township on Sept. 10 in Marlboro.
The Marlboro High School football team runs out onto the field before its home opener against Freehold Township on Sept. 10 in Marlboro. Marlboro is 2-0 to start the 2022 season.
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