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The Manasquan Warriors advanced in the Central Jersey Group II playoffs, coming away with a thrilling 33-29 win at home over Johnson in the first round.

Timely stops by their defense, paired with key plays on offense and special teams, saw Manasquan stage a second half comeback.

Trailing 16-13 at the half, the Warriors would see Johnson tie the game at the start of the second quarter with QB Vin Crisafi patiently breaking through the Warriors defense and dashing for a long touchdown run.

Manasquan’s defense – led by their front – was solid against the Johnson rushing attack in the first quarter, but began to bend as the game went on. Their own rushing attack was not to be taken lightly either, as Conor Morgan ran over multiple defenders to keep the chains moving on the Warriors’ first possession, capping it off with a five yard touchdown.

With the score tied at seven in the second quarter, Tommy Meyer would rip off a big run for Manasquan down to the 15 yard line. No matter who came out of the Warriors backfield in this game, they were able to come up with big runs that kept the Johnson defense on the field.

Morgan set up another first and goal, which Canyon Birch converted with a touchdown run to put Manasquan up 13-7.

The Crusaders would not back down though, as they answered with a crisp touchdown drive of their own. A step ahead of Manasquan the entire drive, Jon Duffy – the featured back in Johnson’s triple option attack – scored on a sweep play to make the score 14-13 in his team’s favor with 5:36 to play in the first half.

Johnson would quickly extend this lead, as a third down sack brought up a Warriors punt from within their own end zone. A bad snap forced Manasquan to recover the ball for a safety, and just like that it was 16-13.

Manasquan’s deficit would increase following a three and out to start the third quarter, as Duffy got loose again for a long score to make it 23-13 in favor of the road team.

Manasquan needed to balance out their offense to come all the way back, calling on Senior QB Jerry Maher to open up the passing game.

Big target Adam Schreck would convert a third down, and Damaso Jaime adjusted to a ball over the middle on fourth down to make a spectacular catch – setting up first and goal.

Wasting no time, Maher found Schreck again, sliding in the end zone for a touchdown that cut Johnson’s lead to three.

This back-and-forth affair would not see its last fireworks though, as Johnson calmly sent their offense back onto the field. One play later, Joe Turek ran all the way down to the Manasquan six. On third down and goal, Crisafi kept up the middle and broke the goal line, putting the Crusaders up 29-20 (extra point missed).

Manasquan was staring down a two-score deficit heading towards the fourth quarter, until Jaime made the play of the day on the ensuing kickoff. Racing down the far sideline, in front of the bleachers packed with Warriors’ fans, Jaime somehow stayed in bounds all the way up the field – returning the kick for a touchdown that cut the Johnson lead to 29-27.

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Now in need of key stops, Manasquan would get one to start the fourth, as Duffy was denied just short of the marker on third down.

Capping off a methodical drive, Jaime beat Duffy to the outside down the sideline, catching a touchdown in stride to put the Warriors ahead 33-29.

In need of one more stop, Manasquan backed up Johnson after two plays that lost yards to start the drive. On fourth down, Crisafi was intercepted by Peter Mills, sending Manasquan’s offense back out with the lead – focused on killing the remaining clock and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Conor Morgan would ensure that they did just that, as he punished the tired Johnson defense to fight for positive yards on every play.

A final third down and one would prove to be the Crusader’s last chance, and Morgan moved the chains to end the game.

Manasquan, the third seed in this Central Jersey Group II playoff bracket, will travel to #2 Roselle – who defeated #7 Harrison 69-26 earlier today in first round action.

On advancing to the quarterfinals, Conor Morgan said after the game:

“As we move on I think we need to come out better in the first half. Sometimes I think we come out slow, we need to come out firing from the first whistle to the last whistle.”

Watch Manasquan celebrate this win in the locker room after the game: