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Knights second half comeback attempt falls short vs. Freehold

September 27, 2012

Wall falls to 1-2 with road loss to B North foe

FREEHOLD BOROUGH — There is no question the Crimson Knights are giving everything they’ve got out on the gridiron for first-year head coach Nick Gregorio.

The group is buying into the system.

In week three on the road against Freehold Borough this past Saturday, the team displayed that same tenacity and effort it showed during a week one loss to Jackson Liberty — and, also, a dramatic, overtime victory over Red Bank Regional in week two.

On Saturday, though, despite a strong, second-half comeback effort that gave Wall a four-point lead late, the fight did not translate to victory.

A 18-yard screen pass from Colonials quarterback Bradley Jones to wide receiver Rashon Webber on third-and-long with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter would be the game’s biggest play, putting the Colonials on top of the Crimson Knights, 17-14, which would remain the score until the final horn.

With the loss, Wall dropped to 1-2 on the year and 1-1 in the B North Division, as the Colonials improved to 1-2 [also 1-1 in the B North].

“That screen pass was a great call at the time,” said Gregorio, in reference to Freehold Borough’s game-winning call.

There were many positives to take from Saturday’s loss, highlighted by a stellar effort from the Wall defense throughout the game.

Removing Webber’s 18-yard touchdown score from the equation, Wall’s defense allowed just 157 yards of total offense throughout the rest of the game, including just 47 more yards through the air.

The Colonials offense was forced to punt on its first five possessions of the game, scoring just three points on a 27-yard field goal by Dan Parr on the final snap of the first half.

Parr’s field goal, coupled with a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown by Freehold Borough defensive back Josh Dixon earlier in the second quarter, gave Freehold Borough a 10-0 lead at the half.

Despite trailing in the game, Gregorio could not have been more pleased with the effort from the defense in the first half.

“Our defense played phenomenal — we had a great scheme for what they were trying to do,” the coach said. “They executed it really well.”

Wall senior defensive back Scott Van Glahn felt holding the Colonials to just two yards and a quick three-and-out on their first drive set the tone for the rest of the half.

“We wanted to come in and play hard-nosed football,” said Van Glahn, a captain. “We wanted to stop the run and we were able to do that.”

Perhaps feeding off the stellar play of the defense, the Crimson Knights offense found a rhythm right out of the gate in the second half.

A 69-yard, 4:30 drive to open the half by Wall, capped off with a 3-yard touchdown run by senior running back John Louro, cut the Colonials’ lead to 10-7 with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter.

The drive was evidence that the Crimson Knights were far from done in the game.

“That was a great drive,” Gregorio said.

After forcing Freehold Borough to punt on its ensuing possession, Wall went right back to work from its own 36-yard line, eventually working its way down the field to take its first lead.

After Gifford connected with junior wide receiver Chris Quinlan for a 16-yard pass to put the Crimson Knights in Freehold territory, Louro carried Wall the rest of the way, finishing with a 10-yard, bruising touchdown run with just 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

After junior kicker Phil Shields added the extra point, the Crimson Knights held a 10-7 lead.

“We had momentum,” Gregorio said. “We were getting up the field.”

The Crimson Knights had their next drive stalled by the Colonials, forcing a punt back to Freehold with 8:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was on this drive that Jones and Webber decided the fate of the game with their deal-sealing pass and catch.

Wall had one last opportunity, starting its final drive on the 27-yard line with 3:43 left on the clock.

A few plays into the drive, the offense attempted a flea-flicker near midfield, with Gifford’s pass sailing just out of the reach of a receiver near the 5-yard line.

“We just missed,” Gregorio said.

After a big fourth down conversion from Gifford to junior Kyle McDonough for 11 yards down to Freehold’s 45-yard line, the Crimson Knights faced their second, fourth down with 1:18 left to play.

The fourth-and-10 attempt, though, would be picked off by Dixon, his second interception of the game, allowing Jones to take a couple of knees for Freehold to run out the clock.

Off the loss, the Crimson Knights will be back in action tomorrow, hosting a tough Long Branch team in week four of the regular season [see related story].

Gregorio is looking for his team to combine the effort shown through the first three weeks of the season with better overall execution of Xs and Os. He is hoping for a complete game from the Knights.

“The effort was there and I thought we played tough, and we have,” he said. “We just needed to execute better in certain aspects of the game. Hopefully we can do that against [Long Branch].”

The B North Division matchup between the Crimson Knights and the Green Wave is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Wall High School.

A complete game story will be available in the Oct. 4 edition of The Coast Star.

Follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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