Barnegat Football Team Cruises Past Pinelands for Third Straight Win

Sep 26, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Following its 3-0 start last season, the Barnegat High School football team still had to get through the tougher part of its schedule and was relying on a relatively young and inexperienced crew to keep the winning going. The Bengals ended up 5-5. After their 31-0 victory over Shore Conference Patriot Division rival Pinelands Regional on Sept. 21, the Bengals again are off to a 3-0 start, with arguably the tougher part of their scheduled still on the way. The difference this year is head coach Rob Davis’ squad is more experienced.

“We have 19 seniors, and they’re good role models in the classroom, on the field and in the community,” Davis said. “We have a group of leaders, which is a little different than in past years. Each game, somebody different shines, and when you have great leadership, it really helps.”

Against the Wildcats, the Bengals’ experience showed immediately. Using an up-tempo offense, they received the opening kickoff, utilized seniors Charlie Cotton, Brian Finucan and Sean Morris, and went 60 yards in just four plays for their first score of the game – a 43-yard touchdown pass from Finucan to Morris down the left sideline. Aaron Osborn’s point-after kick made it 7-0 just a few minutes into the game and immediately put Pinelands on its heels.

After trading possessions, a Barnegat punt put Pinelands deep in its own territory, starting at the 8-yard line. The Wildcats went three and out, and the ensuing punt didn’t travel far, giving the Bengals the ball at Pinelands’ 38 with 1:34 left in the first quarter. Barnegat worked down to the 11 before Osborn booted a 27-yard field goal to end the quarter with his team on top, 10-0.

With 2:52 to go in the half, the Bengals gained possession at their own 44-yard line, and on the first play of the drive Finucan tossed a pass to junior Caleb Schafer down the right sideline for a 48-yard play that gave Barnegat first-and-goal at Pinelands’ 8. Three running plays later, Cotton busted into the end zone from 3 yards out, and Osborn kicked the PAT to make it 17-0 at the half.

The score was stuck at a 17-point margin through the third quarter, but while Pinelands’ defense seemed to be keeping the Bengals in check, its offense mustered very little, with two possessions of five and six plays before punts gave the ball back to Barnegat. On the Wildcats’ third possession of the half, which bridged the third and fourth quarters, several mistakes led to the Bengals’ next score.

Facing fourth-and-6 with just under 12 minutes to go, the Wildcats opted to go for the first time in an attempt to build some offensive rhythm and possibly try to get into Barnegat territory. It didn’t work. Sophomore running back Nik Dileo was stopped short of the first down, and on the next play a personal foul penalty on the Wildcats put the ball at Pinelands’ 20-yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the next play put the ball on the 8, and Cotton ran the ball into the end zone on the next play, followed by Osborn’s third PAT to make it 24-0.

After a Pinelands three-and-out, the Bengals took two plays to score on their next possession – senior running back Mike Godfrey ran the ball 23 yards on the first play, then scored from the 6-yard line on the next.

“Coming into tonight, we knew we were going to play Barnegat football and take it to them the way we did,” said Cotton, who finished with 102 yards on 26 carries. “Our tempo offense has been really good, and our offensive line has been the strength so far. Those guys are playing great, and I love them all.”

Finucan finished with eight completions for 165 yards, including five to Morris for 95 yards. Defensively, Andrew Vernieri and Brian Ewan had 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.

Now the question becomes whether the Bengals can keep winning. They haven’t started a season 4-0 since 2013, when they ended up in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II championship. Barnegat has some tough opponents ahead – Mater Dei Prep on Oct. 5 and Point Pleasant Borough on Oct. 19 are the two games in which the Bengals will be tested the most – but right now things look great.

“We’re undefeated, and that sounds really good,” Cotton said. “Now we just have to keep the momentum going. We have to keep doing what we’re doing and take it up another level each week. We have to keep working hard in practice and keep bonding as a team.”

As for Pinelands (1-3), scoring a big come-from-behind victory over division foe Matawan – Barnegat’s opponent this weekend – was a huge lift considering the squad’s difficulties last season and through the first two games of this season. But the Wildcats still have improvements to make if they want to compete with the better teams in the division.

“We’re a team on the rise, and we’re still learning how to win games,” said head coach Matt Fuller. “We have to play physical football on both sides of the ball, and keep playing hard to the end of every game.

“We keep reminding these guys that they’re the toughest kids in the school. With what they’ve had to deal with, the adversity they’ve had to face, they keep going, and they should be proud of that. But we have to get back to basics, get back to who we are and maintain our identity.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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