By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN – The final score of 41-7 indicated a Shore Regional romp over shorthanded Mater Dei Prep Monday, but the Seraphs, who are trying to rebuild their program, showed some promising signs.
“We use some freshmen and sophomores in a lot of spots,” said Mater Dei Prep coach Steve Sciarappa. “It’s a great opportunity for those young guys to play, but it’s a challenge to play defense against the type of offense that Shore uses.
“We have 31 players on the team including three starting freshman,” he said. “That represents 22 percent of our total male population. Not every school can say that one out of every five kids play football.”
If there was a turning point in the game, it came at the start of the final quarter when Mater Dei Prep, trailing 20-7, had a first down at the Shore 7 following a 65-yard drive.
Three plays put the ball at the 3, but a fourth down quarterback keeper by Jesse Meyer was stopped a foot short of the goal line.
Shore then went 99 yards in just five plays with Stefanos Koursaris racing 75 yards for a touchdown, and that broke it open as Shore added two more touchdowns on runs of 57 and 53 yards by Jack Kelly and Mark Costantino, Jr., respectively.
“Mater Dei has a young team that is coming,” said Shore coach Mark Costantino. “We did what we had to do in the second half. We had a sluggish first half and Mater Dei made us work a little.”
After being stopped at the Mater Dei 1-yard line on its opening series, Shore forced a Seraph punt and this time went 50 yards in seven plays for its first touchdown, an 18-yard keeper by quarterback Brendan Dula.
Mater Dei Prep tied it up early in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Lantz Jones to finish off a 67-yard drive along with Meyer’s point after.
Shore, though scored on its next series after Brian Miller set it up by returning the kickoff 35 yards to the Mater Dei 32. It took 10 plays, but Dula finally scored on a 1-yard sneak.
Meyer was outstanding for Mater Dei Prep, rushing for 137 yards in 19 carries while intercepting a pass in the end zone to stop another Shore threat late in the first half.
“Meyer is one of the tougher football players around,” said Sciarappa. “He is a smart kid.”
Sciarappa is optimistic about the future.
“Our biggest classes are our younger classes,” he pointed out. “We had 13 freshmen players on the team. We’re one step away from competing on an everyday basis with a good team like Shore.”
Shore (5-2), the defending NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I champion, is battling for a playoff spot and has a key game with Metuchen Friday night.
“The way I figured it out, if we win, we’re in,” said Costantino. “We lose we are out. Highland Park, which we beat, would be ahead of us.”
Mater Dei Prep (0-7) has a strong opponent Friday facing Dunellen.