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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Devils slide continues with loss to Ocean City

HAMMONTON—For the third-straight week, mistakes and sloppy play cost Hammonton High School’s football team, as a last-second field goal from Ryder Hay lifted Ocean City to a 24-21 victory against the Blue Devils on Oct. 20.

The loss was Hammonton’s third-straight and dropped the Blue Devils record to 4-5.

Hammonton limps into the playoffs this weekend where it faces a rematch with the Red Raiders on Oct. 27 in a Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs.

“[The game was] up and down and we just make mistakes at key times,” a frustrated Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.

Hammonton’s late-season slump has featured gut-crushing losses as the Devils have coughed up leads and hurt themselves with penalties and turnovers at critical points in the game.

It’s a trend that the Blue Devils have not been able to turn around and will need to if they hope to advance in the postseason.

“Listen, we make way too many mistakes. You can’t do that and beat good teams. It’s on us as a coaching staff to figure it out,” Raso said.

Against Ocean City last week, Hammonton had several big plays negated by penalties, turned the ball over at the Red Raiders goal line, and cost themselves a chance to force overtime on a bad snap late in the game.

That play, on a fourth down deep in Hammonton territory with less than a minute left in a tie game, set Ocean City up for Hay’s game-winning field goal.

“Right there at the end, the snap [was low] and then putting our knee down. You can’t do that. It started with the snap and just missed tackles and turned the ball over going in and it’s just we don’t do anything to help ourselves and that’s the most frustrating part. There’s time we do some nice things but we’re so inconsistent. That’s on us, on the staff we have to find some ways to get these guys in better shape to make some plays,” Raso said.

Coming off a lopsided loss at Delsea, Hammonton hoped to turn its fortunes around against a rebuilding Ocean City team last weekend.

The Blue Devils played well to start the game, stopping the Red Raiders opening drive and answering with a score of their own when Drew Craig connected with DeAndre Clemons on a 68-yard touchdown pass that put Hammonton up 7-0 late in the first quarter.

Hammonton’s next drive came up short as Craig’s fourth-down pass from the Ocean City 20-yard line was incomplete, setting up the Red Raiders first touchdown of the game when Duke Guenther capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

The Raiders converted three third-down plays on the drive and were able to take advantage of a face mask penalty against Hammonton to set up the tying score.

In the third quarter, Ocean City took the lead with a five-play drive, this one ending with Guenther breaking free for a 51-yard touchdown run. Hay’s extra point was blocked and the Red Raiders led 13-7 with 5:50 remaining in the period.

Hammonton then put together one of its best drives of the night, as a 17-yard completion from Craig to Jayden Smith was a key third-down play and 38-yard run from Clemons helped the Blue Devils move to the Ocean City 6-yard line.

But with time running down in the third quarter, Clemons lost the ball at the Ocean City 2-yard line and Joey Berardis recovered it in the end zone for the Red Raiders.

Ocean City failed to capitalize on the turnover, but the Raiders had gained momentum and frustrated the Blue Devils.

Hammonton’s next possession paid off, as the Blue Devils used a 57-yard run from Josh Camargo to set up Kenny Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run and Gavin Kovac’s extra point to take a 14-13 lead.

Ocean City immediately responded, as John Moyer broke several tackles and raced for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a 19-14 lead. Guenther’s two-point conversion upped the lead to 21-14 with 5:39 left in the game.

Camargo then put Hammonton right back in it, fielding the ensuing kickoff at the Hammonton 11 and breaking down the right side for a 89-yard touchdown return that tied the game 21-21.

Hammonton stopped Ocean City’s next drive and taking over at their own 32-yard line with 1:36 remaining, it appeared the Devils were playing for overtime, running the ball three times.

The drive went nowhere, and on fourth down a low snap was fielded by Hammonton punter Craig, whose knee touched the ground at the 19-yard line, giving Ocean City possession with 38 seconds to go.

After a 6-yard Guenther run and an quick spike, the Red Raiders lined up and Hay converted a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give Ocean City the win.

The loss left Hammonton dejected and looking for answers as a playoff rematch with Ocean City looms this weekend.

“There’s no time to sit here and dwell on it. We have to get to work and find a way to win a game next week. We’re in the playoffs, it’s a matter of who we’re playing and finding out what we’re doing right and continue to do that. What we’re doing wrong, we have to try to get it cleaned up,” Raso said.


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