Loss to Lakewood Hurts Barnegat Football Team’s Playoff Chances

Nov 01, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

It didn’t matter if it was against the run or the pass. The Barnegat High School football team’s defense had a tough time keeping up with the Joneses on Oct. 27. Brothers Zyheir and Jyheir Jones made some big plays and accounted for all of Lakewood’s points during its Shore Conference Class B South clash with the Bengals, as the Piners scored a 33-14 victory and delivered a tough blow to Barnegat’s playoff chances.

“They have some really good athletes on that team, and we had a hard time stopping them,” said head coach Rob Davis, whose Bengals dipped to 4-3. “Their guys can make big plays, and they did it again tonight. We just couldn’t match their athleticism.”

That was apparent from the opening possession, when the Piners converted on a pair of fourth downs and worked their way to the Bengals’ 35-yard line before Zyheir Jones – Lakewood’s quarterback – kept the ball, zig-zagged his way through the heart of Barnegat’s defense and took it into the end zone with 7:26 left in the first quarter. The point-after kick made it 7-0.

On the ensuing possession, Barnegat moved the ball 28 yards into Lakewood territory before a Brian Finucan pass was intercepted by Jyheir Jones near the 30-yard line and he zipped down the right sideline to the house for a 14-0 lead with 5:22 to go in the quarter.

As the first quarter neared its end, the Bengals mustered their first scoring opportunity, when a Zyheir Jones pass was deflected at the line by Levin Musawa and picked off at the Lakewood 27 by a diving Sean Morris. On the next play, Finucan tossed a pass near the left sideline, and Morris made a leaping grab at the 2-yard line. Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 9, Finucan fired a strike to Morris for the touchdown, and the extra point made it 14-7.

But the deficit didn’t remain seven points for long, as Zyheir Jones took the snap from Lakewood’s 45, busted through the line and again weaved his way through the Bengals’ secondary, ending up in the end zone with 7:11 left in the first half. After a three-and-out on its next possession, Barnegat punted and downed the ball at the Piners’ 27. On the next play, Zyheir Jones ran around the left side and down the sideline for a 73-yard score, making it 27-7 by halftime.

Barnegat controlled the tempo on the other side of halftime, chewing up nearly 6 minutes and scoring on its opening possession when running back Charlie Cotton took a handoff up the middle and fought off a pair of defensive backs en route to a 21-yard TD. The PAT made it 27-14, and it appeared the Bengals were starting to shift the momentum a bit.

Early in the fourth quarter, after Lakewood turned the ball over on downs at the Barnegat 49-yard line, the Bengals moved the ball to the Piners’ 34 before coming up a yard short of a first down. Two plays later, from Lakewood’s 31, Zyheir Jones hit his brother down the left sideline, where Jyheir Jones snatched the ball as the defensive back slipped and fell to the turf, giving Jones an easy trot the rest of the way to the end zone.

“Their quarterback is legit,” Davis said. “Lakewood’s a really good team with him on the field. He was hurt for a few weeks, but they’ve been playing really well with him back on the field, and he showed why they’re going to be a tough team to beat in the playoffs.”

Unfortunately, the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II playoffs may be a memory for the Bengals now. Just a few weeks ago, Barnegat was sitting in the second spot within the section. But since their 27-7 win over Jackson Liberty on Oct. 6, a pair of losses and a bye sandwiched in between have allowed other teams in the section to move past the Bengals.

Now, heading into this weekend’s qualifying cutoff, Barnegat is chasing the top-eight in the 11th position with 71 power points, one behind Middle Township, seven behind Overbrook and 17 behind Pleasantville (88), which holds the eighth spot behind Cinnaminson (90).

But the big problem in the playoff equation for the Bengals isn’t that they can’t accumulate enough points to surpass Middle, Overbrook, Pleasantville or even Cinnaminson. It’s the team they have to get through on Friday to do so – undefeated Point Pleasant Borough, which is averaging 35 points per game and has allowed more than 20 just once this season, against Lakewood.

“Group II is the most loaded section in South Jersey,” Davis said. “If we were a Group III team, we’d be in the playoffs, maybe with a seventh or eighth seed with a 4-4 record. But we’re not in Group III. It sucks, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

“We’re having a successful season so far. We just happen to be in Group II, where you’re going to need 95 points to get an eighth seed. It’s crazy, but we’re just going to keep playing the best we can. We have a young team, so I’m proud of these guys for what we’ve done so far.”

— David Biggy


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