SPOTSWOOD – Momentum can last just a matter of seconds, the Middlesex High School football team learned on Saturday afternoon. At the end of the first half, the Blue Jays snuck in a 19-yard fake field goal for a touchdown, as Michael Cresitello dove in with the score with 11 seconds left.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Spotswood’s Marlon Hart raced 80 yards for a touchdown as time expired, sending “Uncle Mo” back to the Chargers’ side and upping the hosts lead to 31-20 at the half.
Hart would ice the game with a 33-yard touchdown catch from Shawn O’Connor in the fourth quarter and a fumble recovery on the following play, leading Spotswood to a 45-28 victory over Middlesex.
Spotswood (6-2) did its part to remain in control of the Greater Middlesex’s Blue Division race, setting up a win-and-celebrate scenario against Metuchen next Saturday. It would be the Chargers’ second straight Blue Division title.
“We were all pissed about that bad call, you might say,” Hart said about the fake field goal run being awarded a touchdown on the field when it appeared Cresitello didn’t cross the goal line. “So I told Chance Fee who was back there with me, ‘if you get it, toss it back to me and we’ll run a reverse.’ But they ended up kicking it to me so I was surprised and I just had the momentum to go up the field and score.”
The Chargers didn’t score again until Hart left his defender in the dust with 6:34 to play, essentially putting the game on ice, but he didn’t have to, as the Spotswood defense stepped up and made the necessary plays to emerge victorious, including having Hart be in the right place at the right time when Middlesex’s James Esposito fumbled with 6:26 to go.
“We kept motivating ourselves and hopefully we could get a couple of stops on defense,” Hart said. “I was surprised when that pitch came and I saw him fumble it and I just jumped on the ball.”
Hart exploded for a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the second play in the second quarter, running away from the secondary and putting the Chargers up 21-14. Middlesex (5-3) had tied the game one offensive play earlier when Joe Ffriend raced home from 48 yards out. But after the kickoff, O’Connor lofted a perfectly-thrown pass to Hart and the speedy senior did the rest.
“I like to run the ball, but you better be balanced. Marlon allows us to be balanced. We have a lot of threats and Shawn can run, but Marlon is very good. Clearly,” Spotswood head coach Andy Cammarano said. “Marlon has earned everything he’s gotten here from the get-go and he’s had to learn from the start.”
O’Connor finished 7-11 passing for 218 yards and the two touchdowns to Hart, and added 80 yards on four carries for Spotswood, which got another big game from bruising tailback Joe Hayford.
Hayford punished the Middlesex defense for 110 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Jake Keenan chipped in with 61 yards on three catches and 55 yards on seven carries, including a 25-yard touchdown run.
But the star of the day was Hart, who had 149 yards on three catches, plus the momentum-swinging kickoff return, which is something Cammarano is happy his squad can finally rely on.
“I have never had a kid on kick and punt returns that can change the game like that. As a coach, you prepare for so many things, so finally we have a guy that can wreck it for us. He does a heck of a job and he follows his blocks,” he said.
Ffriend piled up 119 yards on offense, rushing eight times for 72 yards and catching two balls for 47 yards. He scored twice, on a 48-yard run and an 18-yard reception. Ryan Coke rushed 17 times for 89 yards and a touchdown for Middlesex.
MIDDLESEX (5-3) 7-13-8-0-28
SPOTSWOOD (6-2) 14-17-0-14-45
M – Coke 3 run (Semon kick)
S – Keenan 25 run (Szatkowski kick)
S – Hayford 1 run (Szatkowski kick)
M – Ffriend 48 run (Semon kick)
S – Hart 70 pass from O’Connor (Szatkowski kick)
S – Szatkowski 23 field goal
M – Cresitello 19 run (kick failed)
S – Hart 80 kickoff return (Szatkowski kick)
M – Ffriend 18 pass from Cresitello (Ffriend run)
S – Hart 33 pass from O’Connor (Szatkowski kick)
S – Hayford 1 run (Szatkowski kick)
Passing – M: Cresitello 3-9-60-1; S: O’Connor 7-11-218-1.
Rushing – M: Coke 17-89, Ffriend 8-72, Cresitello 8-40, Esposito 2-6, Kressbach 1-2; S: Hayford 24-110, O’Connor 4-80, Keenan 7-55.
Receiving – M: Ffriend 2-47, Esposito 1-13; S: Hart 3-149, Keenan 3-61, Schneider 1-8.