By Jim Hintelmann
LITTLE SILVER – Red Bank Regional, which had won just six games from 2005-2009 before a 4-6 record last year, took big step toward its first state playoff berth since 2004 Saturday.
Playing its best defensive game of the season by shutting down St. John Vianney’s potent passing game, the Bucs (4-2) broke a 14-14 halftime tie with two touchdowns in the second half for a 27-14 A Central win.
The key to the game was slowing down SJV quarterback Anthony Carlucci, the second leading passer in the Shore behind Howell’s Ryan Davies. Going into the game, Carlucci had completed 61 of 120 passes for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions.
Red Bank’s defense, led by end Garrett Sickles and safety Ross Gisondi, held Carlucci to only 15 completions in 39 attempts for just 176 yards. Most of the completions were for short yardage except for a 38-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Pante in the second quarter.
“We did a good job of mixing up how many men we were rushing,” said Buc coach Nick Giglio. “maybe three, four or five. That was a goal our ours.
“Gisondi does a good job playing the ball for us,” said Giglio. “He has great instincts and made two athletic plays, but I think we still have a lot of work on offense.
“We shot ourselves in the foot with the turnover game, which hurt us early on this year,” he noted. “Hopefully, we can get back to get that taken care of and capitalize a little more.”
Locked in a 14-14 halftime tie, Red Bank finally got moving late in the third quarter when it drove 42 yards for a touchdown in six plays following Gisondi’s first of two interceptions in the game. Ajhan Wilson scored on a 5-yard run after a 20-yard pass from quarterback Terrance Scanlon to Tyheem Crawford set it up, but a failed PAT left the score at 20-14.
Red Bank got the insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter when Carlucci fumbled in the end zone after being tackled by Wilson with Tyler Karalewich recovering for the score.
Sickles had three sacks in the game while putting good pressure on Carlucci.
Red Bank’s losses were to Central (21-12) and Rumson (30-0), but Sickles believes that the Bucs are playing better now.
“We felt that we should have beaten Central in our opener,” said Sickles. “Rumson has a great football team but we have a chance of playing them again in the states if we work hard. That is a motivation for us.”
Red Bank opened the scoring in the first quarter in stunning fashion. Pinned back on its 10-yard line, Scanlan passed to Tajhi Tomaino, who caught the ball at the 25 and outran the SJV secondary for a 90-yard touchdown. Mike Malley kicked the first of two extra points for a 7-0 lead
“That helped us early on and gave us a lot of confidence,” said Giglio. “ That was what we needed.”
SJV, though, tied it up at 7-7 when Carlucci completed his only big pass of the game, a 38-yard scoring strike to Pante, who grabbed the ball on the sideline at the 20 and ran it in.
Red Bank answered later in the second period when Jahimere Hinton scored on a 9-yard run after Wilson had set it up with a 76-yard run to the 24.
SJV, however, came back with a big play of its own on the ensuing kickoff when Ishmael Hyman took the kickoff on his own 25, slipped away from several Buc tacklers and took it the remaining distance. Julius Simmonds’ PAT tied it at 14-14.
Red Bank has some big games coming up in its quest to not only qualify for the Central Jersey Group II playoff, but to secure, perhaps, a home game. It has a big game with Barnegat Saturday and follows it up with a game Nov, 4 against winless Monmouth Regional.
“We don’t want to look that far ahead,” said Giglio. “Barnegat has a very good football team and are a playoff caliber team. Hopefully that will give us a good idea of where we are.”