There is one way to determine the character of a team, and that is how they are able to respond under difficult circumstances. That’s exactly what the Panthers were able to do this week. After experiencing their first loss of the season, Pt Boro responded in a big way by defeating Lakewood 14-13 to earn a share of the Class B South title. The Panthers also fought through adversity by overcoming three turnovers. This is what I call a temporary setback that ended in a major comeback!
“We’ve been through a lot as a team, especially this Senior class. We got outplayed last week and when that happens you just got to move on. This is a very resilient and special group of kids who really fought hard today”, added Pt Boro Head Coach Sean Henry.
Senior Quarterback Noah Husak led the way with two rushing touchdowns in the game. Husak finished a game winning drive by powering his way across the goal line with :50 seconds left in the contest. Colin Ansbach’s extra point gave Boro the 14-13 lead.
However, it was the stingy defense of the Panthers that would ultimately seal the deal. Lakewood was faced with the tough task of having to go 86 yards in only :40 seconds. On 3rd and 8, Pt Boro’s Gene Franceschini leaped into the air and came down with a Zyhier Jones pass. This was the interception heard around town as the fans went absolutely crazy! Noah Husak took a knee and Pt Boro had a share of Class B South for the first time since 2008.
Watch Gene Franceschini clinch the game!
— jim rosa (@jimrosa519) November 7, 2015
“This was a tough game, but we all believed in each other and that goes for everyone on the sideline. There have been guys fighting and clawing their way to get any possible yard that they could. We knew we could get it done today”, said Noah Husak.
It was a tremendous performance by the Panthers defense who kept Lakewood Running Back Amir Tyler in check for the entire day. Tyler who came into the game with 885 yards, picked up just 40 today. Pt Boro also kept the pressure on Quarterback Zyhier Jones throughout the afternoon. The coaching staff did an excellent job putting together a game plan to slow down the Piners.
“Our Defensive Coordinator does a phenomenal job and our kids buy into the program. It was going to take more than one guy to get the job done. We had to play and tackle as a unit. Our kids were 11 strong today”, added Sean Henry.
Watch a group of Pt Boro defenders stop Amir Tyler!
Lakewood got on the board late in the First Quarter with a 14 play, 94 yard drive. Amir Tyler made an acrobatic catch all the way down to the Panthers 8. Two plays later, Tyler was able to pound the ball into the end zone. However, this was the only long drive that Lakewood would execute all day.
Boro would knot it up at 7 in the Second Quarter as Noah Husak found running room, sprinting down the left sideline behind the Lakewood defense for a 33 yard score. Two big runs from brother Nathan Husak helped put the Panthers in scoring position. The drive started at the Boro 45 after a big return from Devin Connelly.
Watch Noah Husak score a 33 yard TD.
The Piners took the lead in the third quarter. Pt Boro came out driving the ball on running plays from both Noah and Nathan Husak. After driving all the way down inside the Lakewood 19, Jaqel Hunter picked up the ball after a mishandled snap. Hunter raced 81 yards all the way down the field. Pt Boro would block the PAT and Lakewood took a 13-7 lead.
Devin Connelly would make two huge plays to put the Panthers in scoring position with 3:00 to go. Connelly returned a kickoff down the right sideline all the way inside the Lakewood 47. On the next play, Noah Husak fired a 13 yard completion across the middle to Connelly driving the Panthers all the way to the 34.
From there, the next play would turn the game for good. On 1st and 10 inside the 34, the Panthers went for it all with a long pass to the end zone. After the incompletion, the officials threw a flag against Lakewood for offensive pass interference. Jyhier Jones was snagged for pushing off the Pt Boro defensive back. This caused a major stir among the Lakewood sideline.
Boro would continue to pound the ball after getting the first down inside the 16. The Panthers utilized the inside running ability of Nathan Husak to get all the way down to the 8. Pt Boro was wearing down the middle of the Lakewood defense.
Three plays later, it was Noah Husak who plowed his way across the goal line from 3 yards out to put Boro ahead for good. Gene Franceschini finished the job with the takeaway and the rest is history. It was another memorable performance from this Pt Boro team!
Noah Husak scores the winning touchdown!
One common theme has been Pt Boro’s ability to take over in the second half. The Panthers also rallied from first half deficits against Central and Raritan. This is the type of fight that you want to see in a team that is headed to the playoffs.
“We have faced adversity all season long. We have always said that we were a second half team. From the beginning, everyone was counting us out across the board. Our answer to that was to go out and execute. That’s what we did”, said Nathan Husak.
Pt Pleasant Boro improved to 8-1 on the season. The team has earned the No 3 Seed in Central Jersey Group II. The Raritan Rockets will come into Pt Boro for a playoff matchup next week. Boro defeated Raritan 33-27 in a thriller during the regular season.
“We believe in all our guys and what they can do. We know going forward that there is nothing we can’t do. The playoffs are going to be tough, but we know what it’s like to fight to the end. We will be ready”, added Noah Husak.
For tonight, the kids that make up the Panther Pit will simply celebrate the first division championship since 2008. You got to love the fire that was coming from the student section. For a small town community, this is one they will always remember!
NJSR had a chance to catch up with Head Coach Sean Henry, Noah Husak, Nathan Husak, and Gene Franceschini.