Ocean football shows heart of a champion to defeat Middletown North and remain unbeaten

OCEAN - Ocean Township spent much of Friday night hanging on by a thread against an extremely physical Middletown North team.

Middletown North, for much of the night, had its way up front on both sides of the ball.

But, somehow, Ocean got a reprieve when the Spartans pressure from the outside resulted in a missed 27-yard field goal that would have given Middletown North the win on the final play of regulation.

Senior defensive lineman Shane Garrett made a diving interception of a tipped screen pass to stop Middletown North's overtime possession and then senior C.J. Flannigan scored on a tough 6-yard run three plays into Ocean's overtime possession to give the Spartans a dramatic and crazy 34-28 win that enabled them to improve to 7-0.

Ocean's C.J. Flannigan is surrounded by his jubilant teammates after he scored the winning TD in Ocean's 34-28 overtime win over Middletown North Friday night.
Ocean's C.J. Flannigan is surrounded by his jubilant teammates after he scored the winning TD in Ocean's 34-28 overtime win over Middletown North Friday night.

"I think we learned something about our team because we faced adversity and we really hadn't faced it to this extent this year,'' Ocean senior quarterback Tyler Douglas said. "It shows our team is ready to rally, and we did rally.''

Ocean had major problems stopping the run. Middletown North ran for 233 yards on 43 attempts, led by 171 yards and two TDs on 26 carries by junior Neno Morgan-Acker.

In the second half, the Lions (3-3) had a 10-play, 44-yard drive for a TD that took 5:33, a 13-play, 65-yard drive for a TD that took 8:02 and an 11-play, 55-yard drive that consumed the final 6:58 after Ocean tied the game 28-28 on Caleb Thompson's 2-yard TD run. It was Thompson's second TD.

Ocean, which is 7-0 for the first time since it started 2019 8-0, ran just nine plays in the third and fourth quarters, but yet scored twice to stay in the game.

"Our heart is where we're at,'' Ocean coach Don Klein, who told his team in the post-game huddle they got punched in the mouth.

Ocean also overcame adversity during the week

“We had a lot of players nicked, players hurt and bodies banged up,’’ Flannigan said. "But, we don't give up. We kept battling and battling.''

Early in the third quarter, Friday night, junior linebacker Stephen Falco sustained a significant leg injury, Klein said.

What Flannigan's touchdown run showed about Ocean

On the winning play, Flannigan swept the right. It looked he was going to be forced to the sideline by a host of Middletown North defenders.

However, he somehow stayed in bounds, turned up field and barreled into the end zone to set off a wild celebration among Ocean players, coaches and fans.

"I was trying to get to the corner. The safety came into the gap, filled the gap, I just broke a tackle and got in,'' Flannigan said.

"C.J. Flannigan is all heart,'' Klein said. "Nobody has made more high character plays than C.J. Flannigan. That's just another example of it right there.''

Tyler Douglas' attributes that make him a Division I recruit

Douglas, a Temple University recruit, has had an outstanding season. His play-making ability is the major reason Ocean is 7-0.

He showed in several ways why he will be playing Division I football in college.

He set up Ocean's first TD with a 36-yard completion to senior receiver Mateo Andrews to the Middletown North 1 on a fade pattern. It was the type of throw one sees from NFL quarterbacks.

In the third quarter, Douglas, who ran for 68 yard on 16 carries and threw for 141 yards and a TD on four completions, took a bad snap, picked it up and somehow ran about 50 yards deep into Middletown North territory only for the play to be called back by a penalty.

Douglas also showed a lot of toughness as he got up time and again after being chased and hit hard.

"Tyler Douglas is the best player in the Shore Conference, if not the state of New Jersey," Klein said. "He does a great job of taking care of his body. Last week, after our Brick game, Tyler Douglas went to the gym and worked out at 11:45 at night. That tells you about the work ethic and focus of this young man. That's why he's able to keep coming for four quarters and take some of those hits and keep going. He's so physically strong and developed.''

Ocean can score from anywhere

The Ocean offense is a big play waiting to happen.

But, sometimes a little bit of luck does not hurt either.

Ocean's Mateo Andrews takes a tipped pass and races 86 yards for a TD in the Spartans' 34-28 win over Middletown North.
Ocean's Mateo Andrews takes a tipped pass and races 86 yards for a TD in the Spartans' 34-28 win over Middletown North.

In the third quarter, after Douglas' big run was called back because of a personal foul, Ocean faced a first-and-36 from its 14.

Douglas threw a pass to Andrews that looked like might be intercepted. However, the pass was tipped by a defender, Andrew made the catch at his shoestrings and completed an 86-yard TD play to tie the game 21-21.

"He scared me a little bit. It was a little bit of a bobble,'' Douglas said. "But, he caught it. I was real happy with that play. It swung momentum back.''

Up next

Ocean hosts Red Bank (4-2) next Friday night. It can clinch the outright Shore Conference Freedom Division with a win.

Middletown North hosts powerful Toms River North (8-0) next Friday night in the game that will decide whether Toms River North wins the outright Shore Conference Colonial Division championship or shares it with Middletown North.

Ocean 34, Middletown North 28, OT

Middletown North 7 7 7 7 0 - 28

Ocean 7 7 7 7 6 - 34

First Quarter

MN: James Barnao 3 run (Ian Poole-Morgan kick).

O: Nicolas Iacouzzi 6 run (Michael Sorrentino kick).

Second Quarter

O: Caleb Thompson 38 run (Sorrentino kick).

MN: Derek Soto 8 pass from Luke Sheehan (Poole-Morgan kick).

Third Quarter

MN: Neno Morgan-Acker 21 run (Poole-Morgan kick).

O: Mateo Andrews 86 pass from Douglas (Sorrentino kick).

Fourth Quarter

MN: Morgan-Acker 1 run (Poole-Morgan kick).

O: Thompson 2 run (Sorrentino kick).


RUSHING: MN: Neno Morgan-Acker 26-171, James Barnao 11-50, Peter Dempsey 1-14, Derek Soto 2-3, Dylan Briggs 1-(-2). Luke Sheehan 2-(-3). O: Caleb Thompson 11-96, Tyler Douglas 16-68, C.J. Flannigan 3-32, Nicolas Iacouzzi 2-4, Shane Garrett 1-3, Team 1-(-8).

PASSING: MN: Sheehan 10-16-1-100. O: Douglas 4-7-0-141.

RECEIVING: MN: Briggs 6-39, Soto 4-59, Brian Dunleavy 1-2. O: Andrews 3-137, Flannigan 1-4.


This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Shore NJ Football: Ocean shows character to remain unbeaten