Davies-Yaegel connection sparks Rebels to 35-22 win

Staff Writer

Howell High School wide receiver Brandon Yaegel had the feeling he was going to have a good game against Freehold Township on Sept. 16.

A sore ankle had limited Yaegel’s practice time, and it wasn’t until last week that he was able to practice and get his timing down with Rebel quarterback Ryan Davies.

“I was able to get into a groove,” he said of the practice time he had with Davies.

Davies also thought Yaegel could have a big game when he saw that the Patriots were in a Cover Two defense that had the safeties protecting the sidelines.

“I knew the middle was open,” the QB explained.

Davies and Yaegel provided the lightning on Sept. 16 as they hooked up on three touchdown passes — 72, 61 and 29 yards — as Howell (1-1) outlasted a determined Freehold Township team, 35-22, in Howell.

The Patriots fell to 0-2.

“When we hit the deep one, I knew it would be a big day,” Yaegel said. “We [he and Davies] were in a zone.”

The first deep pass came on Howell’s first possession with the Rebels already trailing the upset-minded Patriots 6-0. Davies found Yaegel open downfield in the middle of the defense and hit him in stride. Yaegel did the rest by out-sprinting the secondary to the end zone to complete the 72- yard play.

Cody Hubbs kicked the extra point for a 7-6 lead. Howell’s 82-yard drive lasted four plays and took 1:16.

In contrast, Freehold Township methodically ran the ball through the heart of the Rebels’ defense on the game’s opening possession, taking 11:42 off the clock with a 15-play drive.

Quarterback Ryan MacFarlane ran for three first downs to keep the drive alive. Drew Intile’s 20-yard run capped the drive and gave the Patriots a 6-0 lead. Howell’s Tim Donahue blocked the extra point attempt.

After Howell scored, the Patriots went on another sustained drive that was highlighted by passes for first downs from Mac- Farlane to Intile and Mike Nowin.

On fourth and nine from the Howell 19, MacFarlane hit Dan Bloodgood over the middle to pick up the first down. On the next play, Bloodgood ran it in from the 10 for the TD. The Patriots went for two points, and Intile scored it on a run to give Freehold Township a 14-7 lead.

It took 1:15 for Howell to tie the score as Davies hit Yaegel on a 61-yard bomb. Yaegel made an over-the-shoulder catch in traffic, and just like that, the teams were tied, 14-14.

“He [Davies] believes in me,” Yaegel said. “Our offensive line blocked, and that gave us time to make the plays.”

Freehold Township was on another sustained drive late in the second quarter when Walter DeCanio intercepted a MacFarlane pass to give Howell the ball at its own 23. Aided by a 15-yard personal foul called against Freehold Township and five straight completions by Davies, Howell reached the Patriots’ 25. As Davies dropped back to pass, he was flushed out of the pocket and lofted a pass toward the end zone that deflected off a defender and into the hands of Tory Robinson for the go-ahead score with :29 left in the second quarter.

“I didn’t see what happened,” Davies said. “I was trying to throw it away and I thought it was going to be intercepted.”

Howell took the second-half kickoff and seemed ready to put some distance between itself and Freehold Township, but Shane McGhee intercepted a Davies pass in the end zone to halt the drive.

Freehold Township responded with another long drive that was capped by a 25- yard TD run by Bloodgood. The Patriots went for two points, and MacFarlane ran it in for a 22-21 lead.

Freehold Township was following its game plan of keeping Howell’s offense off the field by mounting sustained drives. MacFarlane was running the triple-option to perfection and keeping the Rebels guessing as to who had the ball.

“Our game plan worked,” Freehold Township coach Mike D’Antonio said, but he added that the difficulty in playing Howell is that “you know he [Davies] is going to get points.”

After the Patriots took the 22-21 lead, Davies went back to work. Starting on the Howell 40, Davies hit Nick Craig on two passes that covered 30 yards.

It looked like the drive was going to stall when Howell faced a fourth-and-10 on the 29, but Davies found Yaegel again, this time for a 29-yard touchdown. The PAT gave Howell a 28-22 lead. The 60-yard drive took 1:55.

Howell’s defense finally held Freehold Township on downs and forced the Patriots’ first punt of the game early in the fourth quarter.

Taking over at the Howell 34, Davies hit Robinson on a 10-yard pass for a first down. After that, the Rebels went to the ground game.

Jon Oeftering carried the ball six straight times and picked up three first downs. More importantly, the running attack took time off the clock.

“We have to be able to do that [run the ball],” Howell coach Cory Davies said.

A holding penalty threatened to stall the drive, but a 17-yard pass from Davies to Oeftering moved the ball to the 3. The Rebels went on fourth down from the 3, and Davies hit Craig for the game-clinching TD.

If the Rebels have shown anything this year, Ryan Davies said, it is that “we battle back.”

Davies finished 19-25 for 343 yards passing and five touchdowns. Yaegel caught five passes for 187 yards, and Craig caught six passes for 65 yards.

On Sept. 23, Howell will host Marlboro (0-2) at 7 p.m. The Mustangs are coming off a 32-16 loss to St. Joseph of Metuchen.