WEST LONG BRANCH – It was a performance that Tymere Berry, the former Toms River High School South standout now playing cornerback on the Monmouth University football team, would prefer to forget.
Even Berry, one of the Hawks’ captains, admitted as much Saturday after being burned for two touchdowns in coverage situations.
“It was not my best day,” the redshirt junior said after his team’s 54-47 victory over Wagner College. “As a captain, my job is to pick up the defense and I didn’t do it.”
Berry was beaten for the first time with 5:38 left in the opening quarter, allowing a 23-yard touchdown pass as the Seahawks went ahead 14-2. Berry was beaten on the right sideline in the end zone.
Berry was victimized on a 48-yard touchdown pass on the left sideline with 5:23 to go in the first half. Berry, who also starred in boys basketball for the Indians, finished the game with six tackles, including three solo stops, in the Sept. 29 game.
“Tymere gives us great leadership,” Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan said. “He sets a great example. Obviously, the team thought enough of his leadership and play to elect him as a captain. He is a great role model for our younger players.”
One of the Hawks’ veterans, senior wide receiver Reggie White Jr., came up huge in the clutch, scoring the winning touchdown with 1:14 left in regulation in the non-conference game.
White hauled in a toss from junior quarterback Kenji Bahar on the right sideline and raced 84 yards as the crowd of 3,971 fans roared its approval. The catch placed White atop the Hawks’ career receptions list with 213. Monmouth began its possession at its 1-yard line after a 39-yard Wagner punt with 1:44 to go. White scored three plays later. The series lasted just 30 seconds.
“I faked out a defender,” White said. “A couple of good blocks opened it up. The catch was huge. Leslie (Marcus, a Monmouth defensive back) called it and said the record breaker would be the game winner.”
Monmouth was in survival mode on a warm, sunny afternoon at Kessler Stadium where it won its seventh straight home game dating back to last season.
The Hawks stumbled to four turnovers. The miscues cost the winners 28 points overall, including 21 in the first half, in which Monmouth trailed 21-2 with 5:19 left in the opening quarter. The Seahawks took advantage of a fumble by Matt Castronuova, a senior out of Jackson Memorial who coughed up a kickoff for their third touchdown.
Another turnover resulted in a 40-32 deficit with 6:32 left in the third quarter. And with 12:49 remaining in the game, the Hawks found themselves down 47-32 before burying the Seahawks under a 22-0 avalanche to win the game.
“If you turn it over four times and give up big plays, it’s very, very difficult to win,” Callahan said. “At times, it looked like we could not do anything right. At times, it looked like we could not do anything wrong. There are a lot of things that we have to work on. There are a lot of things we have to do better, but I am very, very happy with the outcome.”
Monmouth pulled to within 47-46 with 4:17 to go in the fourth quarter on an 18-yard touchdown on a sweep of left end by freshman running back Juwon Farri, who broke several tackles. Junior Matt Mosquera tied the game at 47 with the extra point.
Monmouth also received contributions from wide receiver Vinny Grasso, a graduate student out of Monsignor Donovan (now Donovan Catholic).
Grasso helped the Hawks draw to within 47-38 with 10:24 to play in the game, making a leaping catch over the middle for 12 yards and another grab for 17 yards on consecutive plays. Both resulted in first downs and the second reception put the Hawks at the Wagner 29.
“We needed a pick me up,” Grasso said. “The guys did a good job of blocking. We had a sense of urgency. We all looked at each other and said, ‘We gotta do what we gotta do.’ ”
Grasso set up a touchdown, blazing 47 yards up the left sideline with a punt return and putting the Hawks at the Wagner 18.
“He did a very good job on returns,” Callahan said. “He gave us very good field position.”
Newsy notes: White beat the previous record held by Neal Sterling, now a tight end with the New York Jets after starring at Manasquan.
White, who has played in 39 career games, is second on the Hawks’ career receiving yards list with 2,807. He’s 60 yards behind Miles Austin, who starred for the Dallas Cowboys.
Grasso is third on the Hawks in receptions (14) and second in receiving yards (184) as the Hawks head into their bye week. He’s second on the team in all-purpose yards (583). He has returned 10 punts for 87 yards and nine kickoffs for 206 yards.
Castronuova has caught two passes for 10 yards and returned one kickoff for 14 yards.
Monmouth freshman Eddie Morales III, who played for Howell Township, made five tackles, including four solo stops. Castronuova added one assist and broke up one pass. Morales has made eight total tackles, including seven solos, this year. Berry has turned in 23 total tackles, including 16 solos, while making one interception.
Monmouth took a 14-10 lead in its series against the Seahawks. Monmouth bested the Staten Island, N.Y., team for the fifth straight time.
Callahan said he was not surprised at the game’s turn of events.
“It was an exciting game,” he said. “I knew it would be like the 23 before it. The turnovers were obviously a cause for concern. That’s when I said, ‘We can’t do anything right.’ It looked like a long afternoon. We got back in it and got within striking distance.”
Scoring summary: Team safety (Monmouth), Knight (W) 18 pass from Linta (Silvester kick), Wilson (W) 23 pass from Linta (Silvester kick), Wilson (W) 26 pass from Linta (Silvester kick), White Jr. (M) 5 pass from Bahar (pass failed), Guerriero (M) 5 run (Mosquera kick), Bahar (M) 68 run (Mosquera kick), Dale (W) 48 pass from Massei (pass failed), Jones (M) 2 run (Mosquera kick), Wilson (W) 3 pass from Massei (pass failed), Mosquera (M) 37 field goal, Fulse (W) 5 run (Silvester kick), Woodard (W) 26 pass from Massei (Silvester kick), Farri (M) 21 run (Farri run), Farri (M) 19 run (Mosquera kick), White (M) 84 pass from Bahar (Mosquera kick)
First downs: Wagner 47, Monmouth 54; Rushes-yards: Wagner 31-59, Monmouth 38-263, Passing yards: Wagner 377, Monmouth 251, Passes-attempts-completions-interceptions: Wagner 45-31-1, Monmouth 26-14-2, Total offense plays-yards: Wagner 76-436, Monmouth 64-514
Fumble returns-yards: Wagner 0-0, Monmouth 0-0, Punt returns-yards: Wagner 0-0, Monmouth 3-63, Kickoff returns-yards: Wagner 8-158, Monmouth 7-161, Interception returns-yards: Wagner 2-7, Monmouth 1-4, Punts (number-average): Wagner 7-40.3, Monmouth 3-33.3
Fumbles-lost: Wagner 1-0, Monmouth 3-2, Penalties-yards: Wagner 6-34, Monmouth 2-23, Possession time: Wagner 34:51, Monmouth 24:41, Third-down conversions: Wagner 7 of 18, Monmouth 3 of 8, Fourth-down conversions: Wagner 2 of 2, Monmouth 0 of 0, Red zone scores-chances: Wagner 3-3, Monmouth 5-5
Wagner rushing: Fulse 28-72, Massei 1-5, Sieczkowski 1-2, Monmouth rushing: Farri 7-104, Guerriero 16-95, Bahar 6-42 (net), Grasso 2-38
Wagner passing: Massei 25-34-1-289, Linta 6-11-0-88, Monmouth passing: Bahar 14-26-2-251
Wagner receiving: Wilson 10-127, Knight 7-64, Bost 5-71, Dale 2-55, Monmouth receiving: White Jr. 7-161, Grasso 3-58, Guerriero 2-23, Moore 1-5
Wagner punting: Silvester 7-282 (40.3-yard average), Monmouth punting: McCreary 3-100 (33.3-yard average), Wagner punt returns: none; Monmouth punt returns: Grasso 3-63; Wagner kick returns: Knight 6-129, Sieczkowski 1-9, Monmouth kick returns: Grasso 6-147, Castronuova 1-14
Wagner tackles: Graham 7 solos, 2 assists, Byard 6 solos, 3 assists, Monmouth tackles: Schoer 5 solos, 5 assists, Nelson 4 solos, 4 assists
Team records Wagner 1-4, Monmouth 3-2