By Jim Hintelmann
MANASQUAN – Manasquan has won 11 NJSIAA sectional football titles since the NJSIAA football playoffs began in 1974, and Red Bank Regional found out why Saturday.
The unbeaten Warriors dominated both sides of the ball and cashed in on Red Bank Regional mistakes for a solid 34-7 win over the Bucs in a first round NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoff game.
“We came into the game knowing what the challenge would be and I think we accepted that,” said Red Bank coach Nick Giglio. “But what Manasquan does is wear you down and that is why they are a good football team.”
Red Bank did a fairly good job on Manasquan’s running game, especially in the first half when it limited the Warriors to just 46 yards, but it could do little with Manasquan’s passing attack with quarterback Tyler Saito completing 13 of 21 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
“He did a good job,” said Giglio. “They have a balanced team and you have to decide where you want to get hurt from. The run slowly, or get picked apart by the pass.”
Red Bank stayed with Manasquan most of the first half with its biggest threat coming late in the first quarter when a 40-yard run by Jahimere Hinton gave the Bucs a first down at the Manasquan 26, but Red Bank fumbled the ball (one of four for the Bucs) two plays later with Manasquan recovering on the 34.
That set up Manasquan’s first touchdown, a 16-yard pass from Saito to Josh Aromando on a fourth and 1 play. The first of four Bryan Abadrabo’s extra points made it 7-0.
Manasquan made it 14-0 just before halftime when Saito closed out a 58-yard drive with a 25 -yard scoring toss to Connor Grogan.
Manasquan ended any hopes of a Red Bank comeback when it took the second half kickoff and rolled 62 yards in 10 plays capped by Joe Fittin’s 8-yard touchdown run.
Manasquan scored again on its next series an a 2-yard run by Mike Ariante following a 71-yard drive.
The Warriors closed out the scoring early in the final quarter when Zack Vasilenko returned a Buc fumble seven yards for the touchdown.
Red Bank (5-4), which was playing in its first playoff game since 2004, scored late in the game on a 5-yard touchdown run by Hinton.
Red Bank played without two starters: Tyheem Crawford (concussion) and Tajhi Tomaino (discipline), and lost another key player, Ross Gisondi, due to a leg injury.
“They are a big part of what we can do,” said Giglio. “Other guys stepped up, but it limited a little bit of what we had been doing all year.”
Red Bank will close out its season Thanksgiving Day when it meets long-time rival Long Branch.