Displaying awesome intensity and the maturity to overcome setbacks, the Red Bank Regional Buccaneers beat the Lancers of St. John Vianney 27-14 in a Homecoming extravaganza that brought them to 4-2 on the season.
"We knew how much this one meant," said the Bucs' Garrett Sickels, who had three and a half sacks. "We took nothing for granted."
On the Lancers' first possession of the game, the Bucs' Tajhi Tomaino intercepted a long pass, but the Bucs lost the ball on downs at the Lancer 20. With seven minutes left in the first quarter, Sickels and teammate Isaac Coates sacked the Lancer quarterback, and the Lancers had to punt.
The Bucs took over at their own 20 yard line, but the Lancers recovered a fumble. With the Lancers driving, the Bucs' Ross Gisondi intercepted a long pass at the Bucs' five yard line, setting up Red Bank's first score. Quarterback Terrance Scanlon was able to hit Tajhi Tomaino, who went 90 yards for a touchdown. Buc Thyeem Crawford took out two defenders to clear the way for Tomaino, and Mike Malley hit the extra point for the Bucs.
The Lancers fought back, and at the end of the first quarter took the ball to the Bucs' 25 yard line. Even a sack by Dillon Stambaugh for a big loss wasn't enough to keep the Lancers out of the end zone on a long pass, tying the game at 7.
The Bucs' Gisondi returned the kick to the Lancer 41 yard line, setting off a back-and-forth battle that saw neither team score. But when the Lancers were forced to punt, putting the ball on the Bucs' one yard line, Red Bank came back hard. Ajhan Wilson, returning to action after a knee injury sidelined him for three games, took the first play 75 yards into Lancers territory. A Scanlon pass to Crawford put the ball on the eight yard line, and Jahimere Hinton scampered into the end zone on the next play with 4:49 left in the half.
The Lancers' responded by scoring their second and last touchdown of the game on a 70-yard kick return, tieing the game at 14. Nice runs by Hinton and Wilson again put the Bucs in striking distance, but the Lancers recovered a fumble with 38 seconds left in the half. Stambaugh helped stop the Lancer drive with his second sack of the day, and the game remained tied at the end of the half.
Midway through the third quarter, the Bucs' Ross Gisondi had his second interception of the game. Later, with just two minutes left in the third quarter, the Bucs returned a punt to the Lancer 42 yard line. In a textbook drive, Wilson carried the ball to the Lancer 26 for a first down. Crawford took a Scanlon screen pass to the Lancer seven yard line, and on the next play Wilson powered the ball into the end zone. The extra point fell just short, and the Bucs were up 20-14 with 45 seconds left in the third.
"[Wilson] is a warrior out there running the ball," said head coach Nick Giglio.
The Lancers threatened as the third quarter came to a close, opting to go for it on fourth down. They were not successful, as Pat Quinn and Stambaugh stopped a Lancer runner in the backfield.
In the fourth quarter, the Bucs took over with just over 11 minutes left to play. Quinn carried the ball on a long run to the Lancer 31 for a first down, and the Bucs advanced to the five yard line on a quarterback keeper by Scanlon. Wilson took it to the two yard line, but heroic efforts by Quinn, Coates and Gisondi less than a yard from the goal line were stopped by the Lancers short of a touchdown with just over six minutes left.
As it turned out, the Lancers were just putting off the inevitable.
When the Lancers took over at their own goal line, the Bucs' Wilson exploded through the Lancer line and hit the Lancer quarterback in the end zone, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Tyler Karalewich for a Bucs touchdown with 2:49 left in the game. The extra point by Mike Malley made the score 27-14, where it stayed.
But not until Sickels added two more sacks in the last two and a half minutes.
"We had our reads down today," said Stambaugh. "You just gotta be really intense and make sure you don't come out flat."
Red Bank was coming off a bye week, as they were last year when they lost to St. John Vianney, and Coach Giglio commended his players for "better overall focus [than last year], and it showed today versus a very good offensive football team. Our players played a very good mental and physical game today."
Red Bank meets Barnegat away on Friday at 7 p.m. Coach Giglio sees it as the equivalent of a playoff game. "They are a very good football team," he said of Barnegat.
Editor's Note: This story comes to you from Little Silver Mayor Robert C. Neff, Jr., who was previously a newspaper reporter for the Red Bank Register and Asbury Park Press. Neff's son Carey plays football for Red Bank.