Manasquan, N.J. - The Holmdel High School football team could not overcome a 16-point first half deficit in its 16-6 loss to Liberty Division foe Manasquan on Saturday afternoon, losing to the Warriors 16-6 and dropping to 3-3 on the season.

Two turnovers by Holmdel on back-to-back drives led to Manasquan taking control of the action in the second quarter.

With Manasquan set up at the Holmdel 25-yard line following the first Hornets fumble, the Holmdel defense didn’t back down. 

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After the Warriors got a first down, the Holmdel defense pushed Manasquan back to a 4th and 25 at the 27-yard line thanks to a sack by junior defensive linemen Karim Tehlikian.

One stop away from giving the ball back to its offense, Holmdel couldn’t contain Manasquan quarterback Cam Teza from stepping up into the pocket and finding his wide open receiver Robert Pendergist down the field for a touchdown to put the Hornets down 7-0.

Rushing for 18 yards to start Holmdel’s next drive, running back Thomas Ammirati coughed up the second straight Holmdel fumble to give Manasquan the ball back at the Hornets’ 37-yard line.

Even though the Holmdel defense stepped up to force a three and out, Manasquan was able to pin the Hornets down to their 1-yard line off the punt, which resulted in the Warriors getting a safety on the next play to extend their lead to 9-0.

“Games between two good football teams usually come down to four or five plays and Manasquan got all of them,” said Holmdel head coach Jeff Rainess. “We shot ourselves in the foot with the turnovers. They got a couple of big plays. That’s part of the game of football. We just got to get better and stop making mistakes.”

Manasquan added to its lead on the very next drive, seeing Brett Patten convert a 3rd and 11 with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Matt Collins in the corner of the end zone to make it 16-0 with 3:44 to play in the first half.

Collins also had an interception in the contest for Manasquan.

Holmdel had four turnovers in the game.

Tough sledding on offense and down 16-0 coming out of halftime, the Hornets didn’t back down and continued to fight.

Making his first start under center for the Hornets, junior quarterback Mac Rainess finished off Holmdel’s only scoring drive of the game with a one-yard quarterback sneak to cut the Manasquan lead to 16-6 with 10:52 left to play.

Holmdel’s 11-play 65-yard touchdown drive was fueled by the running of Ammirati. The senior running back rushed for 40 yards on the drive, including a huge 22-yard run to set up the Hornets at the Manasquan 13-yard line.

“Thomas (Ammirati) is a gamer. Mac (Rainess) did a lot of good things in his first start,” Rainess said. “We executed better on offense in the second half. Didn’t turn the ball over in big spots and we were able to put together a couple good drives.”

Ammirati rushed for a team-high 97 yards. Rainess had 36 yards passing in the contest.

The Holmdel defense kept its team in the contest, but the Manasquan defense kept the Holmdel offense at bay the rest of the game, sending the Hornets to their second straight loss.

Holmdel’s defense hasn’t given up more than 16 points in the last four games.

Holmdel will look to bounce back next week when they host Raritan.

Despite the injuries to starting quarterback John Tomasulo and running back Cameron LaMountian and younger players stepping up to play in key spots, Rainess said his team isn’t feeling sorry for themselves and just want to go out there and play football.

“I’m always proud of our team’s effort,” Rainess said. “Our kids play hard. They always do. They love the game of football and being around each other.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports