By Jim Hintelmann
KEYPORT – With Keyport leading heavily favored Asbury Park, 7-0, midway in the second quarter and having possession of the ball, it appeared that a major upset was in the making.
That, however, never materialized as unbeaten Asbury Park used its big play ability to shove across three touchdowns in a span of a little more than two minutes and went on from there for a 40-7 rout of the Red Raiders and clinch the B Central title for the third time in the past five years.
Six of the Asbury Park touchdowns came on plays of 40 or more yards and that was more than enough to impress Keyport coach Mike Ciccotelli.
“We just fell apart,” said Ciccotelli. “We lost our intensity. Once they got up and scored, they got the momentum, we couldn’t get it back. There was no stopping them.”
Keyport got its lone touchdown in the first quarter when quarterback Alex Thomson threw a 37-yard scoring pass to Greg Armstrong. Andrew Miragliotta kicked the point after for a 7-0 lead, but the rest of the game was all Asbury Park.
The Bishops began their onslaught midway in the second quarter when Armond Conover raced 54 yards for the touchdown and then added the 2-point conversion for an 8-7 Asbury Park advantage.
“This was a statement game for us,” said Conover. “A lot of people were questioning us about the Mater Dei game (a 60-0 mismatch). We wanted to show them that we can do this week in and week out. It feels good to be division champs but this is just the first step to be where we want to be.”
Keyport picked up a first down on its next series but was stopped and a short punt rolled dead at the Red Raider 40. On the next play, Asbury quarterback Robert Barskdale tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Tajr Hammary for a 14-7 lead.
Amin Conover set up the next Asbury Park touchdown a minute later with an interception at his own 33. On the ensuing play, Barksdale tossed a pass in the flat to Jaquele Goodman, who eluded several Keyport defenders and went the remaining distance for a 21-7 lead.
”Keyport always plays us tough,” said Asbury Park coach Matt Ardizzone. “They put it to us in the beginning but then we started executing our stuff and exploited it a little bit.”
“You can say as much as you want to about talent,” he explained, “but if we don’t put them in the right position to have them execute, you can have all the talent in the world and not win.”
Any hope for a Keyport rally in the second half ended early with the Bishops scoring on their first two plays from scrimmage.
Armond Conover got the first one off a 50-yard run and then Barksdale tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Amir Conover on the first play following a Keyport punt. Islam Joshua sprinted 70 yards just before the end of the third quarter to close out the scoring.
“They are a very good team,” said Ciccotelli, “but I don’t want to compare them with other Asbury Park teams because we are not the same kind of team that we had in the past.”