STAFFORD — It was a circus catch worthy of ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Running a fade pattern down the left sideline, Middletown High School South senior Anthony Brasco tipped the ball away from his defender, tipped it again toward himself and, somehow retaining his balance, hauled it in behind Southern’s defense, racing ahead for a 51-yard touchdown as the visiting bleachers exploded in delight and disbelief.
That third-quarter score provided the margin of victory as Middletown South edged Southern 21-14 Friday night, improving to 5-0 and clinching the outright title of the Shore Conference’s Colonial Division.
“That was an amazing play,” fellow senior Jack Willi said. “The joke about Anthony in practice is he doesn’t drop balls — because he doesn’t, no matter what. I’ve been in coverage against him before and it’s so frustrating, because you do everything you can and he still comes down with the ball.
Southern (3-2) knows that feeling now.
“I knew I could go up and get it,” Brasco said. “I have a lot of those in practice, actually.”
The tight spiral of a pass, delivered by senior quarterback Tom Schork, helped set the table.
“I know he’s always going to get me the ball if I’m open,” Brasco said. “It makes my job easy.”
On the night Schork competed 9-of-12 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yard screen to Logan Colleran early in the second quarter that opened the scoring. Schork also rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown.
But Southern did not make it easy. The Rams sacked Schork four times (three by Nate Committee) and knocked him out of the game twice (he returned both times). On the offensive end, Southern tailback Jaiden Brown racked up 202 yards on 16 carries, including an 85-yard touchdown scamper and a 30-yard run that set up the Rams’ second score, which pulled them within seven midway through the fourth quarter.
Southern had the ball last, taking over near midfield with just under two minutes remaining. But Willi effectively sealed the deal by throwing quarterback Nolan Schubiger for a 10-yard loss on third down.
“I’m on the left side, and I drop into coverage,” Willi explained. “I see him roll out to the left toward the sideline, and I made a beeline right toward him.”
It was the exclamation point for a defense that, aside from the 85-yard breakaway, allowed just 122 yards from scrimmage. The Eagles had one takeaway, an interception by Jake Czwakiel, who also kicked three extra points and completed a 13-yard pass while filling in for Schork at quarterback.
“It’s a brotherhood, and everyone doing their job,” Willi said. “It’s all of us playing together.”
That’s the formula for a team that has won three nail-biters and will have a championship banner to show for it.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Willi said. “Last year was a tough year; we kind of got the playoffs stolen from us. It just feels great to win something right now.”
Middletown South (5-0) 0-7-14-0–21
Southern (3-2) 0-7-0-7–14
MS: Logan Colleran 49 pass from Thomas Schork (Jake Czwakiel kick)
SR: Jaiden Brown 85 run (Jaden Anthony kick)
MS: Schork 2 run (Czwakiel kick)
MS: Anthony Brasco 51 pass from Schork (Czwakiel kick)
SR: Nate Committee 1 run (Anthony kick)
MS: Primiano 12-61, Schork 13-40, Summey 4-18; SR: Brown 16-202; Committee 6-12, Schubiger 3-(-19).
MS: Schork 9-12-1-143, Czwakiel 1-2-0-13; SR: Schubiger 4-10-1-12.
MS: Brasco 3-76, Colleran 3-35, Latore 1-13, Yeserski 1-4, Grab 1-7, Primiano 1-1; SR: Levy 1-9, Anthony 1-7, Committee 2-0.
MS: Jake Czwakiel; SR: Nick DeVane.