• Dan Russoman

Hammonton falls at Clearview


Hammonton quarterback Paul Kalani (14) hands off to Lucas Goehringer (34) during last week’s loss at Clearview. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

MULLICA HILL—Facing critical midseason test, Hammonton High School’s football team came up short, dropping a 17-7 decision to host Clearview last week and seriously damaging their postseason hopes.


The loss dropped the Blue Devils to 2-3 this season with games looming against both Delsea and Millville, two of the top teams in the region.


“Our backs are against the wall now and we have no one to blame but ourselves,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.


With two offensive linemen sidelined for the game and playing without injured senior running back A.J. Ryker, Hammonton struggled to move the football against a stout Clearview defense.


The Blue Devils managed just two solid drives in the game, one that tied the score 7-7 early in the second quarter and the other in the final minutes when the outcome was already decided.


Clearview dominated at the line of scrimmage limiting Hammonton’s ability to gain yardage on the ground while gauging the Blue Devils defense when the Pioneers had the ball.


Hammonton was off its game offensively and defensively, missing blocks and tackles as Clearview controlled the pace of the game almost from start to finish.


“We did not execute on either side of the ball. A lot of mental mistakes which, that stuff catches up with you. You have to be able to execute and missing a block or missing a tackle. That’s all mental stuff. Lining up right, having to burn timeouts, that’s on us, the coaches. We have to do a better job, make them [the players] more comfortable with what we’re doing. We’re trying to piece things together, but no excuses, we have to do a better job,” Raso said.


Hammonton’s opening drive of the game stalled after three plays, setting up Clearview’s first score of the night.


Taking over at their own 40-yard line, the Pioneers drove 60 yards in 15 plays, taking almost eight minutes off the clock before scoring on Aiden McCullough’s 4-yard run.


All but one play on the drive was a run, as McCullough and Bobby Counsellor were able to combine for 48 rushing yards.


Hammonton was able to answer on its next possession. On third-and-10, Paul Kalani connected with Austin Hudak for a 33-yard pass play that set Hammonton up at the Clearview 22-yard line. After a tackle in the backfield, Kalani hit Lucas Goehringer out of the backfield for a 23-yard touchdown pass that tied the game 7-7 with 11:06 left in the half.


Clearview continued to run the ball effectively, and its next possession ended with a 30-yard Max Blewitt field goal.


Despite not playing well, Hammonton only trailed 10-7 at the half.


“Listen, we had a shot. To be down 10-7, we were trying to clean things up and get back in the game,” Raso said.


Instead of fighting its way back into the game, Hammonton continued to look confused on the field, allowing Clearview to open the third quarter with another touchdown drive. Keeping the ball on the ground for seven plays, the Pioneers scored on McCullough’s 7-yard run to take a 17-7 lead.


Hammonton’s next three drives ended in punts before the Blue Devils moved inside the Clearview 30-yard line on their last possession of the game. That drive ended at the Pioneers’ 28-yard line as time expired.


After the game, Hammonton was left wondering what might have happened if it played just a little bit better football.


“I can’t tell you how many calls we missed on defense tonight. It’s a shame, because at times, we start doing a lot of things right and then we shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t do that against a team like this,” Raso said.


The loss left Hammonton with a 2-3 mark and two difficult games next on the schedule. This week’s opponent, Delsea, is undefeated, while Millville, who Hammonton visits on October 8, is 4-1, having lost its first game last weekend to highly-ranked St. Augustine Prep.


“We’re going to see what we’re made of the next couple of weeks and it’s not going to be easy. If we clean up the mistakes, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. That’s the real shame tonight. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Raso said.


Hammonton hosts Delsea on October 1 at 6 p.m.