By Brian Deakyne
BARNEGAT — Despite trailing Barnegat by ten points with just under three minutes remaining, Red Bank Regional made plays and put themselves in a position to win the game on their final possession.
With the Bengals (4-3) attempting to run out the clock, Matt Schofield fumbled, which was scooped up by Red Bank Regional’s Dillon Stambaugh and returned to the Bengals’ six-yard line.
One play later, Bucs’ (4-3) quarterback Terrance Scanlon hit Ajhan Wilson on a screen pass, and Wilson made one Barnegat defender miss, and dove into the endzone, drawing Red Bank Regional within three points.
After forcing Barnegat to go three-and-out, the Bucs’ got the ball back on their own 34 yard-line with 1:03 to play, but they were unable to make anything happen, after Scanlon threw an interception on fourth down, as Red Bank Regional fell to Barnegat, 20-17, Friday night.
Scanlon was 9 of 26 passing for 103 yards, tossing one touchdown and two interceptions.
“We were down by ten in the first half and down by ten in the second half and we still fought,” Red Bank Regional head coach Nick Giglio said, “We were playing against a playoff-caliber team. It was a good gage against a very good football team.”
After falling down, 10-0, to open the game, Red Bank Regional answered with a 32-yard field goal from kicker Mike Malley. The Bucs’ were handed good field position after the Bengals had to punt near there own endzone, and Red Bank Regional took over at the Barnegat 34-yard line.
The Bucs’ would tie the game on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown to end the first half. After Scanlon threw his first interception, which was picked off in the endzone by Jordan Salt, Barnegat tried to run out the clock by kneeling the ball three times.
Red Bank Regional called a timeout after third down, with nine seconds remaining, forcing the Bengals to punt the ball, which was blocked.
An array of Red Bank Regional players were in on the block, but Garrett Sickels recovered and ran it in eight yards for the score.
The Bucs’ appeared to come out firing in the second half, but their impressive opening drive stalled at the Barnegat 26-yard line, as Barnegat’s Jim Nacion knocked down Scanlon’s pass on fourth-and-four.
It didn’t take Barnegat long to take the lead back for good.
On the very next play, Bengals quarterback Mark McCoy connected with Salt for a 76-yard touchdown strike, putting Barnegat back on top, 17-10.
On the opening play of the ensuing possession, Scanlon fumbled the snap, and Vinny Calderon recovered the ball at the Red Bank Regional 23-yard line. After knocking on the door, Salt took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, backing the Bengals up, and Pat Moran knocked the 33-yard field goal through the up-rights, putting Barnegat on-top, 20-10.
Wilson had 11 carries for the Bucs’ for 33 yards, and three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Malley missed a 38-yard field goal short, just before the Bucs’ forced a fumble to mount their rally in the fourth quarter.
Sickels had two catches for 19 yards on the night.
The Bengals jumped out to an early lead on an impressive opening drive, where McCoy was 5-5, capping it off with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Salt.
McCoy completed 11 of his 15 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns — both of them to Salt.
“We definitely had some opportunities, we let some slip away and we took advantage of others,” Giglio said, “It gives us confidence for next week.”
Moran made field goals of 27 and 33 yards, respectively, for Barnegat.
The Bucs’ will travel to Eatontown to take on Monmouth Regional on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a win sending them into the Central Jersey Group II State finals.
“It’s huge [to rebound], and that’s what we talked about. How disappointing this game was, but we learned a lot from it, we got better from it, but we have to get right at it to Monmouth. That’s it,” Giglio said.