Edison's Justin Turner is HNT Football Player of Week
Greg Tufaro , @GregTufaro 7:05 p.m. EDT October 4, 2016
Old Bridge 42, Edison 42iPhone video by Greg Tufaro
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Despite losing the Greater Middlesex Conference’s leadingpasser to transfer, the Edison High School footballteam’s offense has not skipped a beat.
The Eagles, in fact, are on pace to conclude this seasonmore productive than a year ago, thanks in large part to the stellar play ofsenior quarterback Justin Turner, the Home News Tribune’s Football Player ofthe Week.
Turner completed 17 of 27 passes for 211 yards and twotouchdowns, and engineered an 80-yard game-tying scoring drive in the closingseconds of regulation that helped Edison salvage a 42-42 triple overtime drawwith Old Bridge in a key Red Division battleFriday night.
A converted wide receiver, who started each of the past twoseasons at that position, Turner did see action as a backup quarterback a yearago, playing in the second half against Sayrevilleand seeing mop up duty in place of former teammate Haaziq Daniels. A two-yearstarter who transferred to St. John Vianney, Daniels completed 102 of 209passes for a league-best 1,551 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall.
“(Turner) was our backup all last season, so he did practicequite a bit at (quarterback) in between working as wide receiver,” Edison headcoach Matt Fulham said. “We haven’t had any drop off in production at all. Hebrings his athleticism and good decision-making to the position.”
READ: Edison and Old Bridge battle to 42-42draw in triple overtime
Turner, who is among the state’s highest rated quarterbacks,is the conference’s top-rated passer with a 123.9 quarterback rating. He hascompleted 37 of 58 passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns without throwing aninterception.
The lone turnover Turner committed this season came against Old Bridgewhen the athletic senior lost his handle on the ball while making a secondeffort to stretch the pigskin across the goal line after getting wrapped up atthe line of scrimmage on the game’s final play (a first-and-goal from the 1).
“He was devastated Friday, as was everybody,” Fulham said,noting the miscue in no way undermines all that Turner accomplished in the gameor the season. “That’s in the past. We’re focused on beating South Brunswick this week.”
Edison, ranked No. 5 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, entersFriday night’s game at fourth-ranked South Brunswick with a 1-1-1 record, butthe Eagles could easily be 3-0 had they been more fortunate againstthird-ranked Old Bridgeor in an 18-13 loss to second-ranked Sayreville.
Against the Bombers, Edisonfumbled the ball out of the end zone when it was just one yard away from paydirt in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Sayreville scored on an 80-yard pass to produce the finalmargin.
Edison is averaging 31.7points per game. A revamped offensive line featuring just two returningstarters has been integral to the team’s success.
Right guard Lance Rice, left tackle Jay Kelly, centerAnthony Burke, left guard Jason McGrady and right tackle Xavier Long form thefront five.
“They’ve been doing a great job,” Fulham said of theoffensive line. “That was a big question coming into the season.”
Turner and running back James Stewart (307 yards and sixtouchdowns on 38 carries) are the primary beneficiaries of the line’s play. Abevy of gifted wideouts includes Keanu Reed (245 yards), Nick Yanik (178yards), Dominic Kurtyan, Tahjae Thomas and Noah Stansbury. The entire unittrusts Turner with the keys to the offense.
“They respect him,” Fulham said. “He’s an athlete, he’s aleader and he’s a playmaker. He knows our offense very well and the kidsbelieve in him. He had a real good summer commanding our offense (after Danielsannounced his transfer), and I think the team was behind him pretty well(during 7 on 7 camps).”
Against Old Bridge, Turner’sathleticism stood out. He made excellent decisions on the read option,demonstrated tremendous scrambling ability and proved he could deliver the ballon the run.
“He has been using his ability to run to get out oftrouble,” Fulham said. “Overall, we’re real satisfied. The biggest thing ishe’s protecting the football.”
Sincere Williams, a transfer from Piscataway, saw limitedaction against Old Bridge due to an ankleinjury. He entered the contest with 169 yards rushing through Edison’sfirst two games (the presence of Williams, who is also used as a slot receiver,was missed in the secondary, where he plays safety).
Old Bridge initially did anoutstanding job stuffing the run – limiting Stewart to 29 yards on his first 12carries – before Turner softened the defense with an intermediate passing gameand demonstrating that he could throw the deep ball.
“When they started bottling up James, we decided we neededto throw to loosen things up a little bit,” Fulham said. “Just being able tothrow some short high percentage passes and a couple long loosened things updefensively and James was able to get more running room.”
Edison’s spread offensefits its personnel well, allowing the Eagles to take advantage of theirathleticism with Turner’s receivers being afforded opportunities to make playsin open space.
Turner demonstrated the poise and leadership that has becomea trademark of his play on Edison’s final drive of regulation against Old Bridge,completing three consecutive passes for 68 yards before capping the 80-yardmarch with a 4-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 55 seconds remaining.
“It’s not just that last drive,” Fulham said. “It’s allyear. He’s been making good decisions, taking what the defense gives him. He’smaking his reads, throwing to the right receivers, scrambling when he need toand protecting the football.
“All those things are keys to our success.”