(This article originally appeared on Press Box.)
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Behind strong play by safety Jose Gumbs and a punishing pass rush, the Monmouth Hawks, defeated the St. Francis Red Flash 19-7 on a sunny day at Kessler Field in West Long Branch, N.J.
“This afternoon I was fairly pleased with our effort,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said. “It was good to get another win in conference and move our record to 3-1. It puts us a step closer to where we want to be at the end of the year.”
This game turned in the second quarter. After a first quarter which saw Monmouth (3-4, 3-1) have strong drives end in a blocked Eric Spillane field goal and a goaline stand by the St. Francis (1-6, 1-4) defense, Monmouth got on the board on their first possession of the second quarter.
After a Nick Romeo punt return brought the ball to the Red Flash 31 yard line, the Hawks went on a six play, 31 yard drive that took 2:50 seconds, resulting in a 20 yard touchdown run for RB Balial Sloan El. The extra point was blocked, however, so with 11:25 left in the first half, it was 6-0 Hawks.
After St. Francis punted on their ensuing possession, Monmouth went four plays on their next drive before having to punt on 4th and 9. But there was a running into the kicker penalty, the five yard variety, and Monmouth got to punt it again. On that second punt, Monmouth backup WR Darvin Henderson laid a huge hit on St. Francis returner Dan Domonkos, and the ball fell right into the hands of Gumbs.
“I can’t tell you what happened there,” Gumbs said. “It just happened so fast. I guess he [Henderson] came from the back and stripped it and the ball just happened to fall into my arms.”
The resulting Monmouth offensive possession was a four play drive that led to a Spillane 18 yard field goal, and with 5:06 left in the first half, it was 9-0 Hawks.
St. Francis did not have a very good half. In fact, they finished it with three rushing yards, two first downs, and 43 passing yards. They started a quarterback today, Timmy Myers, who was making only his second lifetime start, and his first this season. He finished the first half 1-7 passing for 43 yards and one interception.
Most of the yardage came on the next Red Flash possession, when Myers hit backup FB Kevin Parker for a 43 yard reception that got the ball to the Hawks 14 yard line. But like most things today for St. Francis, that drive did not end the way they wanted it to. Kicker Josh Thiel’s 28 yard field goal was missed wide left, and with 2:16 left in the first half it was still 9-0 Hawks.
Starting the ensuing Hawks possession in the two minute drill, QB Kyle Frazier led the offense on an eight play, 80 yard drive that took 1:47 and resulted in a 16 yard TD catch to backup TE Mike Roeder make it 16-0 with 26 seconds left on the clock. Frazier finished with 18-27 passing for 178 yards and one touchdown.
Any urge the Red Flash had to try and make a late dash for points to end the half was quickly eliminated when Gumbs intercepted Myers, and the halftime score remained 16-0 Monmouth.
Monmouth got the ball first in the 3rd quarter and used trickery to get their last points of the afternoon. In punt formation, Gumbs got the ball and scampered 14 yards for the first down to keep the drive alive. Six plays later, Spillane kicked a 46 yard field goal to make it 19-0.
“I’ve been waiting for that day since my freshman year,” Gumbs said of being able to run a fake punt. “I guess we saw that little hole there and we called it. LJ Caprio called it, and it was there.”
The rest of the third quarter would be marred by lots of punts, and the fourth quarter started the same way. In fact, the final points of the day would not be scored until the final minutes of the game. John Kelly, St. Francis’ normal quarterback, finished up his half of play by leading the Red Flash on an 18 play drive that resulted in a touchdown pass to WR Omar Winston. With 2:06 remaining St. Francis did have some life, only down 19-7.
But all hope for the Red Flash was dashed as the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Hawks’ Mike Avent, and the Hawks had notched their third win of the season and more importantly their third conference victory of the year.
For most of the game, and especially in the first half the Monmouth defense was able to keep the Red Flash stuck in neutral. The defensive line especially had a big game, highlighted by DL Dave Ogden’s one sack, one forced fumble, three tackles and two hits on the quarterback.
“It was pretty easy to see the plays unfold out there,” Ogden said. “As [a] d-line [defensive line] as a whole we were getting pressure – I cant solely say that its all on me because it takes four guys to rush the passer, contain him, etc. We scouted them well, and when they lined up in their formations we pretty much knew everything coming.”
St. Francis travels out west next Saturday to face #23 Cal Poly, with that game kicking off at 9:05pm.
The win moves the Hawks to third in the Northeast Conference standings, behind Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State, who are 5-0 and 4-0 respectively. The Hawks stay home one more week to face Sacred Heart next Saturday at 1pm on Homecoming day.
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