ROSELLE – We won’t know if Roselle is good enough to take down Manasquan until next week.
However, there is one thing we do know about this team called the Rams – they know how to bring the ball with them into the end zone and in a hurry.
Their relentless pursuit of producing six points at a clip has the opposition continuing to scratch their heads.
Harrison, which finished 5-4, was the latest foe to experience that Saturday.
Roselle scored the first six times it had the ball against a Blue Tide team that was making only its third playoff appearance in program history and which recorded five victories for the first time since 2003.
Senior running back Isiah Byrd produced six more touchdowns, most of them consisting of a burst of speed up the middle and untouched into the end zone, while senior quarterback Gerald Hairston ran one in himself and passed for one to senior wide receiver Drew Stephens.
Stephens also returned a punt 70 yards for a score some 10 minutes after he previously returned a punt for six points, but it was called back because of a Roselle penalty. It took the refs that long to figure it out.
Second-seeded Roselle’s 69-26 victory over seventh-seeded Harrison Saturday at Arminio Field, in essence, turned out to be nothing more than a practice for the Rams, who now must game-plan for a third-seeded Manasquan team that eliminated sixth-seeded Johnson 33-29 Saturday at home.
Manasquan is now 8-1 and has won six straight. Its only loss is to North 2, Group 4 school Middletown South, which was a 21-14 defeat at home back on Sept. 24.
Roselle is now 9-0 and has a 10-game winning streak dating back to beating holiday rival Roselle Park on Thanksgiving last year.
The Rams are now averaging 53 points in the eight games they played and have scored at least 60 four times. They scored 10 more touchdowns Saturday.
When looking at their results, you have to wonder how Hillside managed to keep the final score at 26-0 at Hillside when the arch rivals clashed Oct. 1.
For the second time in three years Roselle is a home playoff win away from reaching the program’s fourth state championship game and first since 1990. Roselle’s lone state championship in the playoff era came in 1989.
Manasquan last reached a state championship game in 2009 and last captured one in 2008 when the Warriors came back in the second half to down Johnson 19-14 in that season’s CJ, G2 title game played at Rutgers.
Both Roselle and Manasquan had losing seasons last year. This is Manasquan’s first winning season since 2013.
“We just have to continue to work hard and have a good week of practice,” said Byrd, an East Orange Campus transfer who rushed for nearly 300 yards Saturday.
“My job is to keep the offense composed,” said the lefty-throwing Hairston, a starter since his sophomore season. I just give the ball to our playmakers.
“Our offense has just come naturally. We focus on what we do.”
Roselle’s defense hasn’t really had to step up and make a critical stop in some time. That may be the case against Manasquan next Saturday.
“We have to make sure we close the gaps,” senior lineman Xavier Young said. “We have to focus and can’t make any mistakes. We didn’t need to see Harrison put up 26 points.”
Hairston remembers – all too well – Roselle’s 28-12 home loss to Delaware Valley in the 2014 CJ, G2 semifinals
“I want this bad, especially as a senior,” Hairston said. “When we lost two years ago, that was such a horrible feeling.
“This week we need to focus, have discipline and listen to our coaches.”
“We have to keep on doing what we’ve been doing,” fourth-year Roselle head coach James Williams said. “Harrison showed us a little wrinkle with its offense. Football is a game of adjustments.
“We fought today once we were faced with a little adversity.
“Our kids are humble and hungry. They work hard.”
NOTES: Next Saturday’s game is a noon start at Arminio Field.
“We moved our home games up to noon this year because we don’t have lights,” Williams said. “It stemmed from our game against Brearley last year.”
Harrison went 5-5 in 2003 and then the next 12 seasons – 2004-2015 – the Blue Tide finished under .500.
Junior running back-linebacker Dustin Huseinovic, who scored two touchdowns, will be a key player back for Harrison next season. He also had an 82-yard kickoff return that led to his team’s second score.
On the drive in which Harrison scored to pull to within six points at 26-20, sophomore wide receiver Michael Oeckel made a spectacular, diving, two-handed catch on the right side of the field that was good for 36 yards and a Blue Tide first down at the Roselle 15.
The first time Roselle did not score was the result of Mateo Derosa intercepting a tipped pass for Harrison.
Stephens had an interception in the first half that led to Roselle’s sixth score.
After Harrison pulled to within 26-20 in the second quarter, Roselle scored the game’s next 43 points.
CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2 FIRST ROUND
7-HARRISON (5-4) 07 13 00 06 – 26
2-ROSELLE (9-0) 20 35 14 00 – 69
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 10 run, point after failed (R 6-0)
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 46 run, point after failed (R 12-0)
ROSELLE – Gerald Hairston 3 run, Junior Jean pass from Gerald Hairston
7 plays, 45 yards, 2:32 used
HARRISON – Dustin Huseinovic 36 run, Mike O’Donnell kick (R 20-7)
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 2 run, run failed (R 26-7)
5 plays, 70 yards, 1:04 used
HARRISON – Dustin Huseinovic 6 run, Mike O’Donnell kick (R 26-14)
3 plays, 8 yards, :50 used
HARRISON – Raphael Santana 23 pass from Mike O’Donnell, kick failed
6 plays, 51 yards, 1:25 used
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 40 run, pass failed (R 32-20)
2 plays, 47 yards, :33 used
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 6 run, Gerald Hairston run (R 40-20)
3 plays, 43 yards, :43 used
Roselle capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Drew Stephens.
ROSELLE – Drew Stephens 22 pass from Gerald Hairston,
Gerald Hairston run (R 48-20)
2 plays, 29 yards, :26 used
ROSELLE – Drew Stephens 70 punt return, Drew Stephens kick (R 55-20)
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 42 run, Drew Stephens kick (R 62-20)
ROSELLE – Marvens Lormejuste 33 run, Drew Stephens kick (R 69-20)
HARRISON – Landor Vallejo 20 pass from Mateo Derosa, run failed