No Fluke: Central Routs No. 10 Raritan Behind Another Huge Rushing Performance
HAZLET — If, as the saying goes, that once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend, then what is four times?
For the Central Regional football team, it’s an identity.
Junior running back Chase Gumbrecht ran for 288 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries as part of a 361-yard team rushing performance, the defense made some key adjustments after some early lapses, and the Golden Eagles put together a statement-making 41-17 Shore Conference nondivisional road victory over No. 10 Raritan on Friday night.
After walloping Hightstown, Neptune, and Freehold Township while posting three straight shutouts to start the season, Central took a step up in competition against Raritan, but the final result was more of the same. The Golden Eagles proved they are for real.
“Absolutely,” said Central second-year head coach Jarrett Pidgeon when asked if Friday’s win was a statement game for the Eagles. “(It shows) that we’re here, that we can play. But every game is a statement game. It’s the next game on the schedule that is our statement game. We’ve been telling our guys that every game is our Super Bowl.”
Central’s offensive line was dominant for the fourth time in four games and Gumbrecht continued his breakout season with a patient, yet decisive running style. After rushing for a career-high 302 yards last week, Gumbrecht received a career-high 37 carries and produced nearly 300 yards again. He totaled five touchdowns for the second time this season and is now up to 977 yards rushing and 16 total touchdowns on the year. Gumbrecht also had a 41-yard reception for a total of 329 scrimmage yards. Junior quarterback Jahaziel Garcia added 73 yards rushing and a touchdown on just four carries.
“All credit to them, I love my dogs up front,” Gumbrecht said. “It’s all trust. I sit back and wait for the right moment to make the cut and then I do my best to get going.”
“Chase runs so hard and if there’s not an open hole, he finds one,” said senior offensive lineman Todd Dudley. “And then he gets into the open field and makes guys miss. That definitely gives us a lot of confidence. We block our butts off but even if we miss a guy he still breaks through and gets yards. It keeps us going.”
Gumbrecht scored on runs of 19, 1, 49, 39, and 1 yards while Garcia had a 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Golden Eagles averaged 8.8 yards per carry and also converted a pair of fourth downs that not only gained the first down but went all the way to the end zone for touchdowns.
Central had not allowed a point all season going into Friday night, but Raritan quickly ended the shutout streak by driving 65 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead. Junior running back Joseph Murphy took a pitch 32 yards on the game’s first offensive play, junior running back Kieran Falzon ran for 11 yards on the next play, and two plays later Joe Campanella ripped off an 18-yard run down to the Central 6-yard line. On second and goal, Falzon surged into the end zone to give the Rockets a quick-strike touchdown.
How would Central respond was the immediate question. The Golden Eagles were unfazed.
Gumbrecht ran for 19 yards on his first carry and Central moved to Raritan’s 42-yard line where a fourth-and-2 produced their first big play. Raritan’s entire defense swarmed to Gumbrecht but Garcia pulled the ball and took off down the left side, breaking into the open field for a 42-yard touchdown run that tied the game 7-7.
“We talked about it before the game, that there’s going to be times, especially with a team like (Raritan), that they’re going to score,” Dudley said. “We didn’t hang our heads. We went right back at them.”
Raritan came right back to take the lead, however. Another long kickoff return by Campanella set the Rockets up at the 40-yard line. On third down, Falzon burst through the line and raced to the end zone on a 54-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 Rockets advantage.
Dominick Fraulo answered with a long kick return of his own to give Central the ball at the Raritan 42-yard line. Four straight runs by Gumbrecht moved the ball to the 19-yard line where he found daylight and scored his first touchdown of the game to tie the score at 14.
It looked like it was going to be a high-scoring shootout at that point, but both defenses made adjustments and kept each other off the scoreboard heading into halftime. Gumbrecht had 120 yards rushing at the break and Falzon had 110 on the ground. Raritan did have the ball inside Central’s 20-yard line in the final minute of the first half but a fumbled option pitch was recovered by Central senior defensive back Colin Steimle to end the threat.
The second half was all Central.
The Golden Eagles opened the third quarter with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take a 20-13 lead. Gumbrecht took a swing pass from Garcia on second down and zipped 41 yards up the visiting sideline to put the ball at the Raritan 41-yard line. On third down, Garcia broke free for a 35-yard gain down to the 1-yard line and Gumbrecht polished off the drive with a short touchdown run. There was trouble on the extra point hold and the conversion pass fell incomplete.
Raritan moved to Central’s 11-yard line on its next series but a pass breakup by Central cornerback Danny Morris on third down forced the Rockets to settle for a field goal attempt. Junior kicker Jeffrey Spengler knocked through a 29-yard field goal to cut Central’s lead to 20-17 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles needed just three plays to extend their lead to 27-17. Starting at their own 35-yard line, Gumbrecht had a four-yard run followed by a 12-yard run and then a 49-yard touchdown run to give Central a 10-point lead.
The teams traded punts until Central got the ball back at its own 25-yard line with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter. Gumbrecht’s number was called on nine straight running plays and on fourth and 4 he ripped off a 39-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a commanding 34-17 lead.
“As good as our offensive line is, as good as Chase is, Danny Morris and Shane Sajewicz, those guys on the edge are phenomenal blockers,” Pidgeon said. “They make me look very good going for it on fourth down. That fourth-down conversion was because of our receivers blocking on the edge. We take pride in that.”
On the next series, Fraulo intercepted Raritan quarterback Ben Hutchins on third and long and returned it to the Raritan 12-yard line, setting up Gumbrecht for another 1-yard touchdown run and a 41-17 lead with just a few minutes left in the game.
As excellent as Central’s offense was throughout the game, the defense made a remarkable turnaround following the first quarter. The Golden Eagles yielded just a field goal over the final three quarters and held Raritan to 80 yards of offense in the second half, 32 of which came on the final two plays of the game. After having 110 yards rushing at halftime, Central bottled up Falzon and he finished with 130 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think it just went back to what we went over all week,” Pidgeon said of defending Raritan’s shotgun triple-option attack. “Dive, quarterback, pitch, instead of everybody jumping on the quarterback. The big thing was the pitch key. Our guys were getting a little overzealous because we had such respect for 11 (Hutchins) and 33 (Falzon). Maybe too much respect. We had to start believing we can play with the best of them.”
The belief is certainly there for Central and the results have followed. The Eagles have to be considered the favorite to win the Liberty Division title, which would be their first since sharing the Class A South title in 2017. Their last outright division title was the 1994 Class B South championship. Pending the result of Saturday’s game between Marlboro and Freehold Township, it could be a showdown of undefeated teams when Central hosts Marlboro next Friday night.
Big games are on the horizon for Central and the Golden Eagles have proven they are ready for the challenge. That, certainly now, is no fluke.
Central 41, No. 10 Raritan 17
R – Kieran Falzon 3-yard run (Jeffrey Spengler kick)
C – Jahaziel Garcia 42-yard run (Sean Hurley kick)
R – Kieran Falzon 54-yard run (Jeffrey Spengler kick)
C – Chase Gumbrecht 19-yard run (Sean Hurley kick)
C – Chase Gumbrecht 1-yard run (pass failed)
R – Jeffrey Spengler 29-yard field goal
C – Chase Gumbrecht 49-yard run (Sean Hurley kick)
C – Chase Gumbrecht 39-yard run (Sean Hurley kick)
C – Chase Gumbrecht 1-yard run (Sean Hurley kick)
RUSHING – CR: Chase Gumbrecht 37-288, Jahaziel Garcia 4-73; R: Kieran Falzon 23-130, Joseph Murphy 2-46, Joe Campanella 7-34, Zach Reilley 2-17, Ben Hutchins 6-12.
PASSING – CR: Jahaziel Garcia 2-3-0 44; R: Ben Hutchins 3-9-1 22.
RECEIVING – CR: Chase Gumbrecht 1-41, Tony Brinson 1-3; R: Joe Campanella 2-17, Kieran Falzon 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS – CR: Dominick Fraulo 1-37.
Central Regional vs. Raritan football
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