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  • Writer's pictureMohammed Fuad

Hammonton edges Eastern

HAMMONTON—Hammonton High School defeated Eastern Regional High School by a score of 17-14 at Robert A. Capoferri Field at Hammonton on September 12. The Blue Devils improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the West Jersey Football League (WJFL) while the Vikings drop to 1-3 overall and 1-3 in the WJFL.

Hammonton’s junior running back Kenny Smith was the star of the show on both sides of the ball, rushing for 208 yards and scoring his lone touchdown on an interception return for a touchdown before the end of the first quarter.

Smith’s dominance in the run game was notable as he outrushed the entire Eastern offense as Eastern had a combined 74 yards on the ground.

“He’s a special player, we’ve been saying that for a long time. Kenny did a great job tonight for us and showed what he can do,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.

Junior quarterback Drew Craig scored the other touchdown for Hammonton on an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put the Blue Devils up 14-0. Craig began the drive with a 21-yard pass to senior running back Josh Camargo and then completed an 11-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jayden Smith to put them into Eastern territory. The Blue Devils were aided by a facemask penalty by Eastern to put them inside the red zone, which then helped set up Craig’s run scoring scamper.

Hammonton’s defense came up strong for the first three quarters, holding Eastern scoreless. Things got interesting, however, in the fourth quarter as Eastern gained momentum on the offensive side of the ball. Getting the ball back with 10:37 remaining in the game, Eastern’s junior quarterback Logan Dawson threw a 28-yard pass to junior wide receiver Brian Thiel to set them up inside Hammonton territory.

Eastern’s running game then picked up steam with back-to-back big runs by senior running back Terrance Howard Jr. Dawson then threw a nine yard pass to senior running back Izzy Hernandez, setting up a 4th down and 1. Eastern then committed a false start penalty, setting up 4th and 6 on Hammonton’s 23 yard line. Dawson then found Hernandez again for a 22 yard pass, setting up a first and goal at the 1-yard line, with junior running back Jordon Masino punching it in for Eastern’s first points and touchdown of the game, cutting Hammonton’s lead to 14-7 with 5:26 left to go.

Getting the ball back, Hammonton turned their attention to eating up as much clock at their own 25 yard line by feeding Smith the ball. Smith took all of the carries as he began the drive with back-to-back 25 yard runs, followed by a 15-yard run. After getting stopped for a one-yard gain, Smith broke out for a 25-yard run to set Hammonton up for a goal line situation. Eastern’s defense came through and stopped Smith on a crucial third down run to limit Hammonton to a field goal to make it 17-7 with 1:09 remaining.

Eastern then made things more interesting a play later as senior wide receiver Sean Fitzpatrick took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown to cut Hammonton’s lead to 17-14 with 52 seconds remaining. Hammonton then recovered the onside kick and ran the clock out to seal a close victory.

“We’ve had some breakdowns on special teams and we have to clean that up because we’ve been inconsistent,” Raso said.

Despite the victory, the team was frustrated with the way they drove down the field but couldn’t finish drives, especially in the beginning of the second half where they failed to score on a 6-minute drive that turned it over on downs inside the Eastern 30-yard line.

“That was a little concerning there at the end [of the game]. We should have been able to punch that in there. We had three chances and didn’t get it done,” Raso said.

Hammonton’s (3-1) next game is at home against Mainland Regional High School (4-0) on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.

“We have to go back and see what’s working and what’s not for us and clean some things up. When we get down by the goal line, we have to score,” Raso said.


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