• Dan Russoman

Hammonton cruises past Absegami


Hammonton’s A.J. Ryker (10) breaks up a pass intended for Absegami’s Ihsan Moore (32) during last week’s game. (THG/Dan Russoman)

GALLOWAY—Four players scored touchdowns as Hammonton High School’s football team won its season-opener last week, rolling past host Absegami 32-13.


A muffed punt allowed the Blue Devils to take control early in the contest, as they scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game.


“Getting the turnover early on definitely helped. We wanted to get out to a fast start with these guys,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.


The early turnover, which occurred after Hammonton’s opening drive stalled, gave the Blue Devils early momentum that carried through the first half.


Taking over at the Absegami 23, the Blue Devils needed just three plays to score, putting points on the board when Lucas Goehringer ran in from 9-yards out for a 6-0 lead.


Goehringer, a sophomore making his first varsity start, would finish with 96 yards rushing in the game and added a second-half touchdown. He also made three tackles in the Absegami backfield.


“It was amazing,” Goehringer said.


“It felt great just coming out here and running the ball as hard as I could with all my teammates. I like the challenge. I just try to do my job and help my team out,” he said.


On its next possession, Hammonton quickly added to its lead as senior A.J. Ryker broke loose for a 60-yard touchdown run and Drew Fields’ extra point gave the Blue Devils a 13-0 lead midway through the first quarter.


Ryker led a balanced run game for Hammonton, as the Blue Devils used several running backs throughout the game. Goehringer, C.J. Rossiter and Kenny Smith also carried the ball for Hammonton.


“We did what we wanted to and I thought we mixed it up for the most part and were balanced as far as spreading the ball around to the backs. It’s a group that’s not just one guy; Ryker’s leading the way because of his experience, but C.J. [Rossiter] stepped up, Lucas Goehringer stepped up, we even had the freshman [Kenny Smith] get some tough carries tonight, and that will continue to happen,” Raso said.


Ryker is one of a few varsity veterans on this year’s team, and the senior finished the day with 173 yards rushing on just 10 carries.


“We had the inexperienced guys, I’m not going to call them young anymore, step into varsity action and they rose to the occasion,” Raso said.


While Hammonton’s offense was putting points on the board, its defense was frustrating Absegami quarterback Ray Weed, one of the more versatile players in the region.


The Devils chased Weed around the backfield all night, and the senior was only able to produce a few big plays for the Braves.


“The defensive line and linebackers played well. We were trying to account for him at all times and we knew he was going to make plays. He’s too good of a player, a four-year starter. To play against that quarterback [Weed] and the other skilled guys they have, and you know they’re well-coached. To get a win was great for us,” Raso said.


Leading 13-0, Hammonton added another score late in the first quarter, marching 42 yards in five plays, capped by Andrew Wehner’s 7-yard touchdown run.


Wehner, a sophomore, made his first start under center a memorable one.


“Andy [Wehner] played well, and he’s going to get better. He’s still learning the position as it’s going and he’s going to get better and better in practice, first real varsity action at quarterback and we’re happy with what he did,” Raso said.


Trailing 19-0, Absegami rallied, as Weed was able to connect with Nyjere Robinson on a 76-yard touchdown pass.


In the third quarter, Hammonton drove 90 yards to add a touchdown, this one a 20-yard run from Rossiter that put the Devils ahead 25-7.


Absegami’s next drive stalled at its own 43-yard line, and Goehringer put the finishing touches on the win when he cut around the left side, sidestepped a pair of defenders and scored on a 25-yard run.


“I saw two defenders, I cut back and next thing I know I was in the end zone,” Goehringer said.


The sophomore, who enjoyed an outstanding game, gave credit to his teammates.

“The line did a fantastic job blocking. So did the backs. They were blocking for me left and right. It was amazing. It wasn’t just a me thing. It was an everyone thing,” Goehringer said.


Absegami added a late score when DeAndre Rooks ran for a 9-yard touchdown.


The win should provide some confidence for the Blue Devils as they head into this week’s game at Ocean City.


“This year more than any, it’s a big deal to get that first one,” Goehringer said.

Raso agreed.


“The goal was that we were going to get one shot to be 1-0 and we were able to do that,” Raso said.


“It wasn’t pretty, we definitely made mistakes, penalties, that stuff we have to get cleaned up. But we’re happy. For the most part, we’ll try to clean up the mistakes and get ready to go on a short week,” Raso said.


Hammonton travels to Ocean City September 2 for a 6 p.m. start.