It was a great night for football at Keller Memorial Field. What more could you ask for as a football fan? You had two excellent programs in Brick and Toms River North getting ready to battle it out for a division title. After eight long weeks of fighting through one of the most grueling divisions’ in the state, it would come down to a dogfight on the night before Halloween.
Brick had put themselves in position to repeat as Class A South Champions. With the help of the No 1 ranked defense in the Shore, the Dragons were able to get off to a 7-0 start. Through the first seven games, it was nearly impossible to find a single flaw in this defensive unit. Jordan Keefe and Dan Finelli had combined for 18 sacks. Cory Wilson and Dean Helstowski continued to pile up the tackles at the linebacker position.
When you pitch five shutouts and only give up 20 points in 7 games, it is hard to figure out how to attack such a unit. However, it was the hard work and determination of the Toms River North Mariners who would have something to say about that.
With the help of a dominating and physical offensive line, Toms River North was able to pick up a huge 26-14 win on the road. The Mariners rushed for 381 yards against the best defense in the Shore. Luke Butera, Tim Petersen, and Will Sagarese battled their hearts out in the trenches. Often times, people want to credit the skill position players and rightfully so, but when an offensive line is this productive against such an outstanding defensive front, that is really something special! You can see how comfortable and experienced this group really is.
“Our offensive line is so important. Everything always starts up front. This group has been tremendous for us all year. We were nicked up a bit in practice this week, but knew we had to play against a dominating defense. We wanted to have a great game plan for them. The kids bought into it all week, and we were able to go out on the field and execute”, added Head Coach Dave Oiserwitz.
The win allowed the Mariners to clinch at least a tie for the Class A South Championship. This is the first division crown for Toms River North since 2008. Whether they will share it with others remains to be seen. Both Brick and Brick Memorial could force a three way tie for the division with wins next week. Brick will head to Toms River South, while Brick Memorial hosts Southern.
In this game, we saw the same relentless execution that Asante Moorer had shown in the teams’ October 9th win over Jackson Memorial. Moorer hit the hole with force every time he touched the ball, running for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries. Daryn Blackwell also contributed with 58 yards on only 6 carries and a score. Moorer and Blackwell have proven to be the perfect thunder and lightning combination. Quarterback Mike Husni came up with another highlight reel, running all over the place for 119 yards and a touchdown.
“The best thing about Mike and Asante is that they work together very well. What most people don’t know is that Asante is as good of a blocker as he is a runner. He is a vicious blocker. Those guys feed off of one another. Neither one is selfish. They will do whatever it takes to win, said Head Coach Dave Oiserwitz.
“Honestly, the game was all about establishing the run and getting as many yards as we could. When it’s about the run, it’s more personal than going to the air. You have to rely on physicality with our line going against their defensive front. We were able to do what we needed by pushing them off the ball and getting down the field. Mike Husni is a physical and powerful runner for his size. His finese cutting ability is a great combination along with my powerful running. He makes yards for me, and I make yards for him”, added Running Back Asante Moorer.
The Mariners got on the board first by taking advantage of great field position. After a Brick punt was taken by the wind, Toms River North would get the ball inside the Brick 37 yard line. Three plays later, Sophomore Running Back Daryn Blackwell put the after burners on, finding the open field for a 32 yard touchdown. Dashon Copes played a little offense, coming up with a key block from the tight end position to spark the play. This gave TRN a 7-0 lead with 4:17 left in the 1st Quarter.
You can watch Daryn Blackwell hit the end zone.
The Dragons had no answer for Asante Moorer on the next series. Toms River North utilized Moorer on inside runs, and zone read plays to keep Brick on their heels. Moorer ripped off two explosive runs for 26 and 32 yards to get deep into Dragons territory. Mike Husni made it 1st and Goal inside the 4 with a 13 yard keeper. It was Husni who would finish off a 70 yard scoring drive by hitting the end zone from 2 yards out. This gave the Mariners a 14-0 lead with 11:54 left in the half.
One thing is for sure, if the Dragons need to make something happen, there is always one player who will step up time and time again. That player is Junior Wide Receiver/Running Back Ja’Sir Taylor. With 11:30 to go in the Second, Quarterback Tom Zbranak showed what he could do under pressure. Facing a heavy pass rush, Zbranak fired a dart on the run, hitting Taylor who took the ball 77 yards to the house for a score. Brick cut the lead to 14-7 and the Dragons fans were back in the game.
Brick would tie the game by marching 69 yards on the opening drive of the second half. Running Back Jay Obenauer found some good running lanes. Obenauer ripped off a 15 yard run to get into Mariners territory. Once again, Tom Zbranak found his favorite target to impact the game. Ja’Sir Taylor hauled in a 39 yard touchdown to knot it up at 14. If you’re playing the Dragons, you must account for where Ja’Sir Taylor is at all times.
The Mariners continued to use their power running game to fuel the offense. Asante Moorer was well over 100 yards at this point. Moorer was playing extremely physical, dragging defenders for an extra 3-4 yards before being tackled. The key play to keep this drive going was a 4th and 1 conversion on a fake punt by Daryn Blackwell. Blackwell took the ball and powered his way 2 yards to move the sticks. Asante Moorer finished the 14 play, 68 yard drive with a 9 yard touchdown to give Toms River North a 20-14 lead with 10:49 left in the game.
Later on in the 4th, a 50 yard punt by Javion Harris pushed the Mariners all the way back inside their five yard line. It was the perfect situation for Brick. They were trailing by only six with plenty of time left on the clock. All the Dragons had to do was force a quick three and out and get the ball back in scoring position. It sounds easy doesn’t it? Not quite when you have a signal caller like Mike Husni.
The 4th Quarter seems to always be the time for Mike Husni to shine. This is when Head Coach Dave Oiserwitz would need him the most. Many players around the league would panic being backed up all the way near their own goal line, but not Husni. The always cool, calm, and collected leader just came on the field like it was any other situation. This is leading by action, and that is something you cannot teach!
Mike Husni took control of the game with a 95 yard scoring drive to give the Mariners a 26-14 advantage. The momentum shifted back to the Mariners after Husni converted a 3rd and 3 inside his own 15. Husni rolled out to his right side and found the running room that he needed. That kept the chains moving.
The Junior Quarterback used his speed and athleticism to get behind the Dragons defense for a 39 yard dash. Husni outran about three defenders going down the right side of the field. Husni would follow that up with two more first downs that put the Mariners inside the Brick 3 yard line. Asante Moorer powered his way across the goal line for his second score of the night. Mike Husni was responsible for 72 of the Mariners 95 yards on this unbelievable drive!
Watch Mike Husni run down into the Red Zone!
However, Brick was not done just yet. Tom Zbranak found a way to get the offense going. With just over a minute left in the game, Zbranak completed three consecutive passes. The Senior hit Ja’Sir Taylor for a 13 yard play. He also connected with Matt Schleifer for 9, and 7 yard completions. If Brick could just get in the end zone, an onside kick was possible at this point.
But from there, who ever would have thought that the same hero in the fourth quarter would resurface on the other side of the ball? Tom Zbranak looked to make a play across the middle of the field, but the ball went right into the arms of Mike Husni. Husni took the interception from the Brick 2 and picked up 18 yards to the 20. All Toms River North had to do was run out the clock to get this one.
Watch Mike Husni ice the game with the 4th Quarter Pick!
The Mariners rallied to get one of their biggest victories in school history. You could hear the players celebrating as soon as the final whistle was blown. Remember, the majority of these kids were 1-9 two years ago, and now they stand at 7-1 as Division Champions. This is a core that played at the Varsity level as Freshman and Sophomores. They went through the growing pains and valued the learning experience. It is through tremendous hard work and sacrifice that they stand in this position today.
“The win feels great. Most of the team all experienced the 1-9 season and we didn’t like that too much. Last year at 6-5, we got our feet wet. This year, after the Brick Memorial game, we wanted to make something happen. In order to do that, we knew we had to play to our full capability, added Quarterback Mike Husni.
Head Coach Dave Oiserwitz talked about how important it was to go back to the drawing board after an early season loss at Brick Memorial. He also stressed the importance of winning the Oct 9th game against Jackson Memorial. “I think we grew up after we got beat by Brick Memorial. We never got down, we just went back and worked hard. When we beat Jackson Memorial, that was really the turning point. Our kids knew after we beat Jackson that we could go out and beat anybody. We had no doubt going into this game that we were the better football team at this point in the season. We would win the game as long as we stayed disciplined and kept the mistakes low”.
The Mariners defense was also a big part of the victory. Toms River North held Brick to just under 100 yards rushing. This was a Brick ground attack that had been very successful in every other game this season. Dashon Copes, Anthony Storino, Christian Lynch, and Pete LaQuaglia all contributed with sacks.
Toms River North will finish out the regular season schedule with a non-dvisional matchup against Neptune. From there, it is on to the South Jersey Group V State Tournament. The Mariners will look to win their first Sectional Title since 2007. The team currently has 130 Power Points with tonight’s victory. Lenape is also in the race for the No 1 seed.
NJSR had a chance to catch up with Quarterback Mike Husni and Offensive Lineman Luke Butera after the game.
Passing: TRN – Husni 3-9-0-31, Brick – Zbranak 6-13-1-156.
Rushing: TRN – Moorer 25-181, Husni 23-119, Blackwell 6-58, Watts 1-23. Brick – Obenauer 11-45, Taylor 10-49, Zbranak 9 – -8.
Receiving: TRN – Watts 2-20, Moorer 1-11. Brick – Taylor 4-140, Schleifer 2-16.
TRN – Daryn Blackwell 32 yard run. ( Bayha kick)
TRN – Mike Husni 2 yard run. ( Bayha kick)
Brick – Ja’Sir Taylor 77 yard pass from Tom Zbranak. ( Harris kick)
Brick – Ja’Sir Taylor 39 yard pass from Tom Zbranak. ( Harris kick)
TRN – Asante Moorer 9 yard run. ( Bayha kick)
TRN – Asante Moorer 1 yard run. ( PAT Failed)
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