COLONIA, NJ - After a strong start to the season, momentum, at least at the moment, is starting to go south for the South Plainfield High School football team. On Friday night, the Tigers (4-2) went on the road to take on GMC White division rival Colonia. The team was looking to get a fresh start after a rough loss last week to St. Joseph’s Metuchen, but the Patriots had other ideas.
A few costly errors combined with a strong rushing attack by Colonia proved to be too much to overcome, as the Tigers went home with a 28-20 loss, their second straight setback of the season.
The coach of the Tigers, Gary Cassio, attributed much of the loss to his players not following their set game plan. The Patriots found success through a halfback counter play, a tactic that Cassio said he and his coaches expected and went over often in this week’s practice.
“We didn't do our job. We repped that play, practiced that counter all week and knew it was their bread and butter play and guys played the way they wanted to play,” a disappointed Cassio said.
“When they play their way instead of a team effort, that's the result.”
South Plainfield's rushing attack set up a short QB keeper touchdown by Ryan Marston for the first score of the game, but the biggest factor of the first half ended up being Colonia rusher Luke Pero.
After a quiet first quarter, the back started picking up steam in the second stanza, picking up just under 70 yards in a single drive that was capped off by a game-tying three yard rushing touchdown. Pero ended the game with just over 200 yards rushing.
It looked like the Tigers would retake the lead, after Deshai Smith appeared to score off a bomb from Marston in the following drive, but the touchdown was called back for a holding penalty. Colonia capitalized off the penalty, keeping the Tigers out of the endzone for the remainder of the half, and by scoring a go-ahead rushing touchdown via a short QB keeper from Tyler Layton just as time expired in the second half.
The Patriots extended the lead at the five minute mark of the third quarter, when Layton threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Tristan Weathers, and the Tigers responded almost immediately, as Marston threw a 72 yard touchdown to Smith on their next play.
South Plainfield fought for a comeback, but an interception return touchdown by Colonia’s Jordan Gutierrez proved to be the dagger. Despite the interception, Cassio spoke highly of his quarterback after the game. Marston --who was filling in for junior passer Charlie Lovett-- stepped up to throw 143 yards completing 7 of 13 passes.
“Charlie's another dimension, but Ryan did a great job,” Cassio said. “Ryan… didn't have many reps the last three weeks, and came in and he did enough for us to win.”
“He threw that one pick, but mistakes happen. He did enough for this team to win, and we didn't do our job. Offensively and defensively we didn't do our job. And we've got to regroup soon because it doesn't get any easier.”
South Plainfield will have a chance to get on the winning path next week when the take on Carteret on the road. Cassio said his players have to regroup and buy into their coaches.
“We’ve got to regroup,” the coach said. “We've got to do our job, come in, and work twice as hard. “
“Guys have to start listening and believing in the coaching staff. Instead of doing what they want to do, they have to do what they're supposed to do and taught to do. You spend hours and hours and hours repping a play and when you get on the field, guys are doing it their way because they think their way is better. Their way isn't better and the scoreboard shows it.”