FRANKLIN (Somerset County) – Amier Alford has been asked to shoulder more of the load for the New Brunswick High School offense and he couldn’t be happier.
The junior tailback responded Saturday afternoon with a breakout performance to lead the Zebras to a 20-7 victory over Franklin.
Alford finished with 19 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown as the Zebras ended a two-game losing streak.
Coming off losses to North Brunswick and Edison, the Zebras (2-2) were more crisp, more physical and got a big boost from Alford.
He gave the Zebras a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to a little trick play. He turned a quick inside reverse – a play the Zebras had not run this season - into a 41-yard touchdown run.
“After I got through the tackles, I just saw green grass and I just took it,” Alford said.
“He runs behind his pads,” Coach Nate Harris said. “He’s physical. He’s tough. He keeps his legs turning. We tell all our running backs to never be tackled by the first guy and he takes that seriously.”
New Brunswick then scored just before halftime, taking the ball on the Franklin 40 and driving it to the 4. First, Quentin Tibbs was stopped at the 1-yard line. Then quarterback Bryan Latham was pushed back to the 2.
After a timeout, New Brunswick lined up with four wideouts, but Latham found a crease and crashed into the end zone with 17.8 seconds remaining in the half.
Trailing 13-0, Franklin (1-2) came to life in the second half in what was in an odd way a rivalry game.
Although no one is sure if the two schools had ever played each other, Harris and Alford said the players on each sideline know each other from battles during Pop Warner and middle school games.
When asked if there was a lot of talk during the week leading up to the game about the rivalry, Harris said, “It was big talk. We have a lot of border rivalries. Franklin is one that goes back since I was playing Pop Warner. If we weren’t in a COVID situation, this house would have been packed. We approached it as if we were coming to a packed house not knowing what it was going to be like.”
In this Battle of Route 27, Franklin looked as if it had gotten the break it needed to get back into the game when it recovered a fumble and returned it to the New Brunswick 33.
However, the drive stalled on the New Brunswick 12 when a fourth-and-9 pass was broke up by a Zebra defender.
The Zebras took over and put the game away, moving 88 yards on nine plays. The drive was capped by Jarazell Bull’s 31-yard touchdown run with 11:26 left in the fourth quarter.
By the time Franklin’s Ashwani Stuart scored on a 3-yard run with 4:59 left, the Zebras were in command.
As New Brunswick switches its attention to Friday’s game with Sayreville at Memorial Stadium, Alford, who rushed for 94 yards in the first half, said he likes the character of his team and welcomes the increased work load.
“I just wanted the team to be put on my back and I was going to carry them,” he said. “And think that’s what I’ve been doing the past two games. I’m not complaining. I love it.”