FARMINGDALE – On the night they honored its 2007 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship for inclusion into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, the 2017 version of Howell Rebels football made a little statement of its own.
Senior quarterback Edwin Morales III threw for four touchdowns, including three to senior wide receiver Naseim Brantley, to lead Howell to a 28-26 victory over Middletown North in Farmingdale.
Howell (3-0) snapped a six-game losing streak to Middletown North dating back to 2010. Since 2003, Middletown North leads the series, 8-4, with no games being played in 2004, 2005 and 2009.
Middletown North Lions (2-1) lost its second straight game.
“We knew we had to grind it out a bit against a good team like Middletown North. We improved on offense tonight and the big plays are great, when you get them, but sometimes you have to play with a grind it out mentality. We took another step in the right direction,” said Howell head coach Luke Sinkhorn, who is in his fourth year at the helm. “We respect them greatly. They have a great coach, great staff, and great players. We knew what we had to bring to the table and we executed very well.”
After the Lions opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run by junior Connor Robbins, Morales hit senior Brandon Wilson on a 19-yarder to give Howell the lead for good at 7-6 in the first quarter.
Morales threw a 24-yard TD pass to Brantley with 6:23 remaining in the first half to extend Howell’s lead to 14-6 and hit Brantley again from 12 yards out to give Howell a 21-12 halftime lead.
The senior play caller was a perfect 11-for-11 with 166 yards and three TDs, plus 25 rushing yards in the first half for Howell.
Morales threw his third and final TD of the night to Brantley from five yards out to cap a 10-play drive to open the second half and give the Rebels a 28-10 advantage.
Robbins, who rushed for three TDs on the night, scored two in the game’s last 5:22 but it was not good enough as Howell went on to the win.
For the game, Morales completed 16-of-18 passes for 230 yards and added 10 carries with 55 yards. Brantley finished with a game-high eight receptions for 101 yards.
Senior Braedon Baldwin led the Rebels defense with a game-high 11 tackles.
“I think we are hungry as a team. We had a lot of hype coming into this season and we know we have to play well each and every game,” said Sinkhorn. “We have a quick turnaround for Thursday against Toms River North, so right away we get ready for another game in a short week.”
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