Highland thrives in the underdog role; wins on the road to Manasquan

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MANASQUAN – “Carte blanche” puts it forcefully.

But if Highland wide receiver Avant Stewart sees something he likes, he’s free to exploit it.

“We talked about how they were playing him inside, trying to take that tilt away from him,” Tartans coach Brian Leary said. “So we had kind of said to stay outside. Go to the corner of the end zone. He made a good adjustment, Connor (Leary) threw a good ball – that was good to see. They can make adjustments. They feel comfortable enough to do so.

Connor Leary and Stewart made two adjustments on Saturday that resulted in two touchdowns, as Highland bruised host Manasquan 32-7 in their Group 3 playoff from Central Jersey.

Leary only threw the ball twice as Highland ran for 81 yards in 10 plays on the way to his first touchdown of the game – a 23-yard run by Nehemiah Butler-Mayhew.

The next trip was much shorter. After the Tartans forced a three-and-out, Leary found Stewart wide open down the left side for an easy 56-yard touchdown. Stewart was wide open again late in the second quarter, when Leary hit him for 27 yards.

“The first one was just a message,” Stewart said. “The second was just a straight fly; my coaches told me to run and I ran. The corner was playing me inside, so I had to go back outside. In fact, I thought I was off limits. I didn’t think I scored on that until the ref put his hands up.

Connor Leary knew it though.

“Our connection is great and we work every day to improve it,” the quarterback said. “In the group they want obliques, but me and Avant said the back corner would be there, so we executed it. It was really big, and then we went from there. We didn’t let go. “

They have, however, moved on to a power play. The Tartans forced a three-and-out to start the second half, then walked 51 yards for the score in nine plays — all runs. Angelo Rodriguez scored from one yard to make it 26-0. He added a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter, after an interception and 37-yard return from Anthony Alford gave the Tartans short ground.

Manasquan’s only touchdown came a few plays later, on a 40-yard pass from Brett Patten to Julian Walthall.

There were 9:17 left in the game at that time. Highland erased all of that with 10 straight runs on the stomach.

“It’s (hard to stop them) and what made it even worse was that we weren’t producing first downs,” Manasquan coach Jay Price said. “We were on the field (defensively) for what felt like the whole game. What did they play, six quarters? It was frustrating all around, but it was just one of those days when you can’t get out from under the steamroller.

What this means

The fifth-seeded Tartans will be on the road again for their sectional semifinal at Seneca. The group-first seeded Golden Eagles improved to 9-0 on Friday with a 47-33 win over Somerville.

key set

Highland fumbled for the ball in the second game of the game and was in danger of going empty on his second practice as he faced a third-and-10 at Manasquan 35, but Leary threw a screen pass to Angelo Rodriguez , who stiff-cocked the first tackler and headed for the marker to keep the drive alive. Butler-Mayhew’s TD run came in the next game.

By the numbers

Highland has been a sectional semi-finalist four times in the past 10 years, but has never reached a final. … Highland has rushed for 220 yards as a team on 43 carries – an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. Rodriguez went for 116 of 25 attempts. Butler-Mayhew had 15 bins for 97 yards. … The Tartans intercepted two passes, forced four three-outs and held Manasquan to under-6 rushing yards. The Warriors were facing fourth-and-48 when they pitched with 1:19 left in the first half.

“(The defense was) a bit tested this week because last week we gave up a lot of points,” Brian Leary said. “They take it on themselves, and even if we win or lose as a team, they take it personally. Coach (John) Small and those guys did a great job, and they came out and played an outstanding game.

unsung heroes

Byron Williams, Billy Taylor, Dominic Masselli, CJ Crowley, Andrew Dworacek and Amori Rodriguez – the Tartans offensive line. When Leary needed time, they gave it to him. When running backs needed space to run, they provided it too.

They said it

Price, thinking back to this season:

“We’re not done yet. We have yet another game; I hope we will remember the last game we played as a good game. But this group of kids – our seniors arrived in a class that was really good; good skills, good leadership, and I think these guys – it’s not that they were taken by surprise, by what it means to step in and lead, but they grew into it. And it took us a while to find kids we could get behind and play behind. Now that we have it, we have a lot to build on next year.

“But again, hopefully we’ll have another game or two before we talk about it.”

Stewart on being overlooked on the road:

“A lot of people believed in us, but a lot of people didn’t. We just showed up and showed what we could do. My quarterback threw good passes, the line blocked, the backs did well. It was team work. »

Connor Leary on what this win says about Highland:

“We’re going to have a run in the playoffs, and we’re back. This is a great victory for the program.

And after

Manasquan will host Wall on Thanksgiving Day and have the option of playing a consolation game next weekend.

John A. Lewis is a sportswriter for the Burlington County Times, the Courier Post and the Vineland Daily Journal. Email him at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism with a subscription.

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