By Brian Deakyne
MIDDLETOWN — The Eagles couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
Last Saturday, in their season opener, they dismantled Brick Township, using a forceful running attack to take down the Dragons (0-2), 28-0.
Tonight, Middletown South (1-0) will have its home and division opener, taking on Howell (0-2) at 7 p.m.
The Eagles will look to continue their impressive running attack, which accounted for three of their four touchdowns last week, along with a stout defense, which added a defensive touchdown.
“It was our first game, we had some first-game jitters and we had guys starting for the first time so we had to clean it up,” Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci said. “The goal is to get better every week. We need to fix some mistakes, eliminate some penalties. It was just some stuff you would expect in game one.”
Senior Jake Ripnick carried the offensive load for South. He carried the ball 31 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns — including a game-setting 15-play opening drive for the Eagles.
Ripnick had touchdown scores of two yards and one yard in the first and third quarter, respectively, for Middletown South.
If anything, Middletown South will look to eliminate its turnovers from week one. In all, the Eagles turned the ball over five times, something that they will need to change as they move forward into divisional play.
Their turnovers stopped the Eagles from having a bigger lead at halftime. They entered the third quarter with a 7-0 advantage.
“I anticipated that we were really a running team, but I didn’t think we would do as well as we did,” Ripnick said. “Our line did a phenomenal job.”
Junior quarterback Kyle Brey struggled in the passing game, although it didn’t matter much. He completed 8 of 17 passes for 75 yards and tossed three interceptions.
“Our defense was great tonight, they really were,” Antonucci said. “They did a good job running around. It was a long pre-season for us and to get out and do what we did, I’m very proud of us.”
Speaking of that defense, the Eagles didn’t allow a traditional first down for the Dragons until the fourth quarter, when Brick quarterback Joe Phillips connected a long pass down the right sideline to Joe Fuino. Other than that, the other two first downs for Brick Township came by virtue of personal foul penalties against the Eagles.
Middletown South’s defense added a touchdown to its impressive resume, as well. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, junior defensive end Conner Spreen sacked Phillips, jarring the ball loose, which was recovered by senior cornerback Justin Chenoweth in the endzone.
Now, Middletown South’s attention will be focused against Howell, who, despite having a traditionally strong offense, has struggled this season. Last year, the Eagles put up 53 points against the Rebels defense in their biggest rout of the season.
“I’m so excited, my spirit is so uplifted. I can’t wait for the season,” Ripnick said.
South’s game against Howell will be the first of back-to-back games against A-North opponents. In two weeks, the Eagles will get defending divisional champion Manalapan at home.