UNION, N.J. — Kean blocked a pair of punts and forced a key turnover deep in their own territory with 50 seconds remaining in a 31-28 upset victory against third-ranked Wesley to open the 2011 season.
Junior T.J. Denehy caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior Thomas D’Ambrisi with 1:18 remaining and freshman linebacker Matt Clerk forced a late fumble, as the Cougars posted their biggest win in program history and snapped the Wolverines’ 27-game regular season winning streak.
Wesley, who handed the Cougars a 48-10 loss a year ago in the regular season finale, advanced to the NCAA Semifinals in each of the last two seasons and suffers its first regular season loss since its 2008 season opener.
Special teams ignited the Cougars, as Kean blocked a pair of punts on back-to-back Wesley possessions in the second quarter which led to a 17-6 lead. Trailing 6-3, Clerk blocked the first punt and the Cougars would take over at the Wesley 24-yard line midway through the second quarter. On the first play of the ensuing drive, D’Ambrisi went to the back corner of the endzone, hitting sophomore Lester Smith with the diving catch for a 10-6 lead after a Billy Daniels extra point.
Kean forced Wesley into a three-and-out on its next possession and the Cougars charged three at the punter, as junior Nick Graff blocked the punt, picked up the loose ball and returned it six yards for a touchdown, giving the Cougars a 17-6 lead after Daniels converted the extra point with 5:17 remaining in the opening half.
The Wolverines pulled within a field goal at 17-14 before halftime, as tight end Sean McAndrew capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive with the eight-yard touchdown reception and then was on the receiving end of the two-point conversion from quarterback Shane McSweeny with just 16 seconds left in the half. McSweeny completed 6-of-8 passes for 59 yards on the drive.
In the third quarter, the Wolverines regained the lead at 21-17 with 6:48 remaining when McSweeny connected with junior Matt Barile on the 73-yard touchdown pass down the Wesley sideline.
Both teams punted on each of their next two possessions, before Kean regained the lead on a 50-yard touchdown pass from D’Ambrisi to Smith with 9:36 remaining to take a 24-21 lead.
Two possessions later, Wesley caught a break on special teams, recovering its own fumble near midfield following the Cougar punt. Eight plays later, McSweeny hit junior wide receiver Jared Morris across the middle of the field and Morris dove just inside the left side of the end zone for the 21-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to go up 28-24 with 2:43 remaining.
After Kean’s Jamahl Williams returned the kickoff 25 yards to the Kean 40-yard line, the Cougars executed a two-minute drill, as D’Ambrisi had an 11-yard rush and completed three passes for 29 yards, before a pass interference call on fourth-and-one gave the Cougars a fresh set of downs at the Wesley 11-yard line with 1:20 left in the game. On the next play, D’Ambrisi found Denehy one-step into the front right corner of the endzone with the 11-yard touchdown reception to take a three-point advantage with 1:18 remaining.
On Wesley’s final drive of the game, McSweeny completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Morris to move into Kean territory, before a face-mask penalty gave the Wolverines a first-and-ten at the Kean 30-yard line with less than a minute remaining. On the next play, McSweeny hit Barile with a 10-yard reception across the middle of the field, before Clerk knocked the ball loose and junior linebacker Jerelle Peay immediately recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
Wesley took a 6-0 lead on its first possession of the game, as Morris’ 16-yard touchdown reception from McSweeny capped a 12-play, 83-yard drive. McSweeny completed 6-of-7 passes for 74 yards on the drive. The Cougars cut the lead in half in the second quarter on the 28-yard field goal by Daniels.
D’Ambrisi completed 21-of-36 passes, including 11-of-13 in the first half, for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Denehy had a career-high six catches for 69 yards and one touchdown, while Smith made three catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Chris Suozzo added six catches for 54 yards.
Defensively, senior Bekim Bujari made a team-high 10 tackles, while Peay had eight tackles and a fumble recovery.
For the Wolverines, McSweeny accounted for 388 of the team’s 463 yards of total offense, completing 23-of-34 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 18 rushes for 77 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Howe had a game-high eight receptions for 96 yards and Morris added four catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Mike Asiedu led the Wesley defense with nine tackles, while senior linebacker Jeff Morgan added six solo stops, including two for a loss of six yards.
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