A Red Bank defense that had been gashed for big plays and plagued by missed tackles one week earlier was looking for a way to redeem itself.
After forcing three turnovers -- each leading to a touchdown -- and stiffening on a goal-line stand just before halftime, the Lions proved to be opportunistic in a pivotal 35-20 District 6-AA win over visiting Central.
"Much better effort on both sides of the ball," Lions coach Tim Daniels said. "The defense really stood up several times and got big stops when we needed them and forced some turnovers that helped us, too."
After Central fumbled the opening kickoff, Red Bank scored when quarterback Niquia McDuffie scrambled to his left and found a wide-open Michael Robinson in the back of the end zone for a quick score.
But Red Bank managed just 37 yards of offense the rest of the half. The Purple Pounders closed within a point on Robert Cobb's 33-yard run but failed on the conversion attempt.
On the Pounders' next possession they drove 88 yards in 16 plays, but quarterback LaDarrius Jackson was tackled for no gain at the Red Bank 1 and time ran out before Central could get another play off.
"Our guys really bowed their neck there, and that stop was huge," Daniels said.
Feeding off that momentum, Red Bank needed just three plays to extend its lead when McDuffie hit Kameno Watson in stride for a 47-yard score. The Lions scored on three of their first four second-half possessions, with McDuffie capping their second drive with a 24-yard TD pass to Deres Benn.
McDuffie finished with 222 passing yards and the three TDs. The Lions' ground game was nonexistent as Central's defensive front held them to minus-8 yards rushing. Central recorded 14 negative-yardage plays and the Pounders outgained Red Bank 333-214 in total offense.
"We were making a lot of little mistakes in the first half," McDuffie said. "We were stopping ourselves.
"We really wanted to come out and redeem ourselves after last week. This was a big win for our confidence."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...