Topsail slips by in OT
Fri. October 25, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. | By Vince Nairn | StarNews Staff Writer | Vince.Nairn@starnewsonline.com
Topsail's Grant McKoy carries the ball against South Brunswick on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. (Photo by Paul Stephen)
BOILING SPRING LAKES | The South Brunswick High School football team had its best chance at a win all season, only to have it ripped away with two untimely mistakes.
A fumble after an interception negated a scoring threat for the Cougars and sent the game to overtime, where South Brunswick fumbled on its opening possession. Josh Jessup's 1-yard touchdown run three plays later gave Topsail a 13-7 Mideastern Conference win Friday against the Cougars.
"We're very fortunate," Topsail coach Wayne Inman said.
With the game tied 7-7 with 2:17 to go, Topsail (4-6, 1-4) started with the ball at its own 19. Quarterback Nick Altilio's pass was intercepted near the 40 by Nick Beecroft, who ran the ball inside the Pirates' 20, which could have set up a game-winning score. But he fumbled, and the Pirates recovered inside their 10 and sent the game to overtime.
"The ball just kind of fell out," South Brunswick coach Josh Rusk said. "You're trying to make plays. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. Unfortunately for us, not a lot has gone our way this year."
The Cougars (0-9, 0-4) had the ball first in the extra session from the Topsail 10. On third down from the 1, the ball came loose and Topsail recovered. Three plays later, Jessup – who had a game-high 65 yards on 22 carries – scored the game-winning touchdown.
"We'll take the ball 10 yards in four plays," Inman said. "I'm confident in that. We'd just take the ball with Josh and grind it. We felt very confident if we got the ball in overtime we'd score with it."
Jessup was held in check for most of the night as the Cougars identified the weak spots on the Topsail line and invaded the backfield. But the Pirates' lead back stayed focused and made sure to get into the end zone when he had the chance.
"We just had to keep believing in our team," Jessup said. "We have our struggles up and down. My line works really hard every day, and that's how we pulled it out."
All the regulation scoring happened on back-to-back drives. After a muffed snap on a punt, Topsail took over at the South Brunswick 3-yard line, and Altilio ran for a touchdown two plays later.
But the Cougars rallied with their best drive. They moved eight plays and 58 yards, aided by a 15-yard penalty on the Pirates. Zhamar Joy's 12-yard run tied the game 7-7 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter.
That's how the game remained, as neither team could sustain a drive. The Pirates managed only 91 yards of offense. The Cougars had 186.
The win gives the Pirates the second Class 3A playoff spot from the MEC, which Inman said gives the team a chance to refresh after a tough start to its inaugural season in the conference.
Joy had a team-high 56 rushing yards for South Brunswick. The loss was another frustrating one for the Cougars. Rusk talked to the team after the game about being proud despite not having a win, and that he did not want them to hang their heads about the close loss.
"The kids want to make plays so bad for one another because they have been working so hard," Rusk said. "I love that they want it that bad. They're putting it all out there, and at high school football, you can't ask for much more than that."
Vince Nairn: 343-2262
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