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Huskies halt Pinelands’ two-point attempt to win in overtime, 28-27

Matawan Regional High School quarterback Am'ir Martinez breaks free for a first down run during a game against Pinelands on Sept. 22 in Aberdeen. Martinez recorded four total touchdowns to lead Matawan to a 28-27 overtime victory over Pinelands.

ABERDEEN — The fans in attendance at Barry Rizzo Stadium in Aberdeen Township witnessed a thrilling ending to the Matawan Regional High School football team’s game against Pinelands Regional High School of Ocean County on the evening of Sept. 22.

With Matawan leading 28-27 in overtime, the fans were on their feet as the Wildcats lined up to attempt a game-winning two-point conversion. The fans’ cheers turned to roars of jubilation when the Huskies (3-1) stopped quarterback Ryan Allen at the goal line to secure their third straight win in 2022.

“I thought we battled adversity well and were able to come out on the right side,” Matawan Coach Jay Graber said. “I am really happy for the kids and the coaches. Everyone has been working really hard all season. It’s a great win for the team.”

Overtime did not appear likely after sophomore quarterback Am’ir Martinez scored his first rushing touchdown of the game with 1:13 to play in the third quarter to give Matawan a 21-0 lead.

But the Wildcats responded to the challenge by scoring 21 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime.

In overtime, each team gets a possession from their opponent’s 25.

Watching a 21-point lead disappear did not deter the Huskies, who still believed victory was within their grasp.

Matawan had the first possession in overtime and on the third play, Martinez scored his second rushing touchdown. He juked around a defender to get to the edge and then outran a host of defenders to score from the 12 as the Huskies took the lead.

“When Coach called that play, I knew I had to make it happen and I made it happen,” Martinez said about his touchdown run in overtime. “It felt amazing. I felt the crowd with me and I was so happy.”

Martinez threw two touchdown passes in the first half. He connected with freshman Welman Crooms on a 29-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and with junior Cameron Cooper on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Martinez, who is playing quarterback for the first time, has accounted for 11 touchdowns in four games.

“It feels good doing this as a first-year quarterback,” he said.

After Martinez scored in overtime, senior placekicker Jake Zibbell kicked his fourth extra point to give the Huskies a 28-21 lead.

Pinelands began its overtime possession and scored on its first play as Allen connected with Mike Frawley on a 25-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-27. At that point the Wildcats decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win.

The Wildcats had also attempted a two-point conversion after they tied the score at 21-21 with :48 to play in the fourth quarter, but they were stopped by the Huskies and the game went to overtime.

Stopping the Wildcats on their two-point attempt at the end of the fourth quarter gave the Huskies confidence they could do it again in overtime with the game on the line.

“We got one play to win this game. Let’s go win this game right now,” senior captain Joseph Bodin told the defense before the final play of the night.

On the Wildcats’ two-point attempt, Bodin was among the defenders who stopped Allen from crossing the goal line. Junior defensive lineman Jordan Reamer delivered the first hit on Allen when he stop the quarterback in his tracks at the 1.

“I saw him (Allen) cut back and I knew I had to make a play for my team. It was exciting. I’m really proud of myself and my team,” Reamer said.

Matawan is off to its best start under Graber, who is in his fourth year at the helm. The Huskies sit atop the Shore Conference Liberty Division standings.

Graber knows there is more work to be done, but he is pleased with his team’s 3-1 start and said, “It’s still a young season, but we are where we want to be.”

Matawan will go on the road on Sept. 30 for a game at Holmdel High School.

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