The South Brunswick High School football team may not be able to end its season in the state championship game, but it did finish with a pretty big win on Thanksgiving.
Six days after being defeated in the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals, South Brunswick ended its season with a 28-18 win over North Brunswick. The win allows the Vikings to finish with a school record of 10-1.
"I don't care who you're playing, 10-1 is a very good record," South Brunswick Coach Rick Mantz noted.
Making it even better was the fact that SBHS faced numerous talented teams during the season, including North Brunswick.
"It was a great year," Mantz noted. "It was the best record in school history. The kids did a heck of a job."
South Brunswick managed to overcome a lot to get its final win. Not only was it playing after a devastating playoff loss to Sayreville less than a week ago, South Brunswick trailed, 18-14, after North Brunswick returned a fumble for a touchdown with 4:03 left in the third quarter. South Brunswick even had to shake off 109 yards in penalties.
"We make mistakes, but the kids bounced right back," Mantz said. "We believe in each other."
Right after giving up the score on the turnover, South Brunswick scored on its next possession to take a lead it would never surrender.
The Vikings went 55 yards on seven plays. Dahrae Ford scored on an 8-yard run to cap the drive. Ford was hit well short of the goal line, but kept going.
"I just kept moving my feet, pushing forward and I got in," Ford noted. "I just used my strength and kept working."
Darrell Harper added a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
South Brunswick finished with a touchdown in every quarter, starting with a seven-minute drive to open the game. Azim Blakey finished off the 15-play drive with a 17-yard run.
South Brunswick also scored in the second quarter on a 59-yard run by Jevon Tyree, who finished the game 143 yards on 16 carries.
"Good things can happen whenenever he touches the ball," Mantz noted.
North Brunswick was able to answer both of South Brunswick's first two scores with touchdown passes. North Brunswick trailed at the half, 14-12, because of two missed conversions. North Brunswick also failed on its third conversion attempt. South Brunswick's final score minimized the importance of the missed conversions.
As usual, South Brunswick was able to make the plays it needed to in order to win a game. And while this might just be a regular season contest, it helped the team get over some of the pain for losing in the states.
"It was really important for us," Tyree said. "Coach wanted this one and so did we. We wanted to end the season on a positive note."
For the record, South Brunswick's players ended with musical notes, singing "Happy Birthday" to Coach Mantz.
"This is my birthday," Mantz told his players, pointing to the fact the team finished off such a great season with a win.
A school record for wins was a pretty nice gift.