MONROE, NJ—Comfortable with their 20-point lead at the end of the third quarter, the New Brunswick Zebras took their foot off the gas pedal, allowing the game to finish with just a six-point margin of victory.
Starting off strong in the first three quarters, the Zebras scored massive touchdowns of 70, 63, 51, 28, and 27 yards, and caused four forced fumbles on the Monroe Falcons, recovering two of them on kickoffs.
Quarterback Jah'Bree Seawright-Jeffery, who went 2/9 for 91 yards passing, commented, "I think we played pretty well, but we got to finish on defense. We got to finish on offense and make better plays and get lined up...I think we got out the gate fast. We did well in the beginning of the game. We need to do that better."
On the first play of their second drive, the Zebras wasted no time, as Dylan Johnson sprung free for a 70-yard touchdown. After a missed extra point, the Zebras led 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Makame Gregory delivered a crushing blow to Isaiah Johnston and popped the ball lose. Nadir Hyman, who missed last week's game against Sayreville, quickly jumped on top of it to give the Zebras possession on the Monroe 31-yard line.
Unable to score through the air as the light rain would play a factor, the Zebras did not capitalize on the short field opportunity.
Monroe ran the triple option, utilizing their backfield tandem of Kaylon Bradley and Carlton Coleman. The two big running backs pounded the pigskin inside the trenches over and over again.
"They're pretty big backs," said defensive end German Pimentel. "They're mobile, but we did a pretty good job containing them inside the box. A couple of plays they broke out, but we made up for that.
The Falcons slowly made their way up field, exchanging the load between Bradley and Coleman bruising their way up the field as they continued ramming into the Zebra defense each time.
Nearly every play from them resulted in gang tackling and a pile on from both teams.
As the Zebras expected a run from either Bradley or Coleman, quarterback Russ Van de Sande cleverly kept the ball, psyching out the defense and curling around the line for a 9-yard touchdown.
Pimentel would block the extra point, leaving the score tied at 6-6.
On the first play of their next drive, Johnson caught a toss to the right side, hit the jets and outran the defense for a 51-yard touchdown, putting the Zebras up 13-6.
After forcing Monroe to punt on a three and out, the Zebras looked to Johnson on a toss to the right once again.
This time the Monroe defense anticipated the play, forcing Johnson to slice back to the left side of the field where no one would catch him for a 27-yard touchdown. Missing a 2-point conversion, the Zebras went into halftime leading 19-6.
The Zebras continued their tenacious defense, forcing Bradley to fumble for the second time of the night, but both times were recovered by the Falcons.
Bradley would next return the favor on Johnson, jarring the ball loose and creating the Zebras' lone turnover.
"I think Dylan Johnson did a great job running the ball today, minus the fumble he had in the bad weather. But he did a great job running the ball, " said Jeffrey.
Johnson would not return after this play, finishing his night with three touchdowns and 183 yards rushing.
Monroe looked to Bradley on the drive, who broke two tackles for a big 46-yard gain and finished the drive off with a 2-yard plunge in the end zone cutting the Zebras' lead to 19-12.
With Johnson out, on the first play of their next drive, Seawright-Jeffery launched a pass over to Pimentel streaking down the middle of the field.
In stride, the ball landed perfectly into his arms over two defensive backs who he outran for a 63-yard touchdown. Zebras 25-12.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bradley anticipated Jeffrey Garcia's kick to spring out of bounds.
The decision to wait cost Bradley a poor grip on the ball, as Kyell Lewis rushed down the field to knock it lose from him.
Once again, Hyman was there to scoop it up for his second turnover of the game. Zebras would take it at the Monroe 15-yard line.
On third and 13, Seawright-Jeffery used his speed and agility to side step a Falcon defender and lobbed a back shoulder throw over to Zahir James who created enough space to catch an open touchdown in the back left corner of the end zone. Zebras 32-12.
This was James' first and only catch of the game, and in back-to-back weeks he has caught one 28-yard pass.
With a 20-point lead at the end of the third quarter, the Zebras could sense an early victory, easing up the rest of the game.
But the Falcons never stopped, knowing the game was not over and the was still a quarter of football left to be played.
The Falcons went right back to their triple option and pounded the ball inside. Bradley, Coleman, and Van de Sande picked up big chunks of yardage, converting on multiple third downs.
Coleman scored with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run.
After forcing the Zebras to punt on a three and out, Coleman scored again on a 1-yard run, cutting the Zebra lead to 32-26.
The Falcons desperately needed to recover an onside-kick with just 1:03 left in the game, but Curtis Revan was there to fall on top of it, securing the Zebras' victory.
Bradley, Coleman and Van de Sande would combine to rush for over 300 yards on 60 carries, passing only three times on the night.
The Zebras may not have stopped the Falcons from scoring, but the defense wore them down and resulted in Monroe to burn too much time off the clock.
"It was pretty fun, it was pretty fun," Pimentel told New Brunswick Today. "Since they was running the ball the whole night, they had pretty much one play the whole night. We had them shut down at first...we had a lot of defensive stops that helped us win this game."
The Zebras are back in action at home against Middletown North on Friday, October 7 at 7 p.m. The game will be played in Memorial Stadium on Joyce Kilmer Avenue.