FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – In the first half against Howell on Friday night, Freehold Township senior running back Matt Pine scored more than a quarter of the total points the Patriots scored all of last season.
Pine had four touchdowns before the break, three on the ground and one interception return, and the Patriots never looked back as they started the season with a resounding 40-20 win over Howell in Class A North that matched their win total from all of last year. A team that only scored 87 points in 10 games last season looked transformed behind Pine and its new spread offense. Pine rolled up 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only five carries to spearhead a 234-yard rushing effort as a team.
On the first series of the game, Pine gave an indication that it would be a huge day with a 27-yard scamper on third down to keep the drive alive. One play later, he took off for a 46-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead only 1:06 into the game. After the defense came up with a stop, Pine scored his second touchdown of the game on just his third carry, racing in from 25 yards out for a 13-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, Nick Galanti scampered 20 yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-10 for the Patriots to set up Shane Laricy’s 15-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Sophomore Anthony Lotti killed the Rebels’ ensuing drive with the first of his two interceptions on the night, and then it was Pine with some heroics on defense.
Pine ballooned the lead to 27-0 when he stepped in front of a pass and returned an interception 25 yards for his third touchdown with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Pine stepped in front of a pass intended for Howell running back Jarvis Leaks and took off on his way to the end zone.
Howell got on the board when junior safety Mike Reilly intercepted a tipped pass and zig-zagged his way 94 yards to the Patriots’ one-yard line to set up an eventual seven-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Mark Iacobino to Leaks to make it 27-7 with 4:05 left in the half.
Pine had an immediate answer when he scored on a 29-yard touchdown run with 2:03 remaining for his fourth score of the half to push the lead to 34-7 at the break. Howell closed the gap to 34-14 to start the second half when Leaks scored on a 1-yard run that was set up by a 56-yard pass from Iacobino to senior Joe Salafrio.
The Patriots’ defense then kept the Rebels at bay until quarterback Jack O’Brien scored on a sneak to all but end the game by making it 40-20 with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. Reilly capped the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run for Howell.