Manalapan, Sayreville hope to control run game
John Sieczkowski spent all season running for the end zone, running toward the ultimate goal of reaching a state championship.
Now that Manalapan is ready to play on the last day of football in the Garden State this fall, its standout tailback will be the focus of all in attendance.
Coming off two thrilling victories in the Central Group 4 playoffs, the No. 2 Braves hope to come out on top against No. 5 Sayreville in the sectional final on Saturday at Rutgers University.
Behind Sieczkowski, Manalapan edged No. 7 Brick Memorial, 28-21, in the opening round and then squeezed by No. 3 West Windsor South, 21-20, in overtime in the semifinals two weeks ago.
The senior, who is second in the state with 2,118 rushing yards and has scored 23 times, recorded a whopping 315 yards in the first round and 168 in the semifinal.
Last year, the Braves were paced by Rutgers quarterback Mike Bimonte and Josh Firkser, a fierce runner who led New Jersey with 2,053 yards and now plays at Wagner College. In the wake of graduating the pair, Manalapan entered this season surrounded by a plethora of question marks.
It’s safe to say Sieczkowski has answered the call. Look no further than his effort on October 21, when set the Shore Conference's single-game rushing record by amassing 425 yards in the Braves' 40-21 victory over Howell. Current Denver Bronco Knowshon Moreno, who starred at Middletown South, held the previous mark with 420 yards against Neptune in 2004.
Meanwhile, Sayreville boasts its own threat on the ground in Delon Stephenson. The Rutgers-bound senior has amassed over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading the Bombers to a 9-2 record and a No. 9 ranking in the current MSG Varsity tri-state poll.
Earlier in the regular season, Sayreville fell to Greater Middlesex Conference champion South Brunswick, but got revenge by knocking off the Vikings, 22-15, in the semifinals.
THE PICK: Sayreville 28, Manalapan 21
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter