• Dan Russoman

Hammonton takes down Vineland


Kenny Smith (3) looks for some running room against Vineland last week. (Photo courtesy Angel Ryker.)

HAMMONTON—Freshman Kenny Smith ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and Hammonton High School’s football team overcame a sluggish start to defeat Vineland 13-6 in a West Jersey Football League interdivision matchup last week.


The Blue Devils’ victory came a week after the team had blown a 13-0 fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Mainland Regional and kept Hammonton in contention for a South Jersey Group 4 playoff berth.


Neither team moved the ball well at the start of the game last week. Vineland’s opening drive ended quickly when Hammonton’s Jaron Hill intercepted a Dan Russo pass on the third play from scrimmage.


The Devils failed to capitalize on the turnover, and the teams traded punts and field position for most of the first half. Hammonton managed just three first downs in the half, and those all came on a late scoring drive.


Vineland couldn’t manage much offense either, as Hammonton pressured Russo into several incompletions and also held the Fighting Clan’s run game in check.


“Our defense played very well. We didn’t let them [Vineland] move the ball,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.


Smith led the way for Hammonton in the first half, as his 33-yard punt return late in the second quarter set up the first score of the game.


Taking over at the 50-yard line, Hammonton marched downfield in eight plays. Justin Doughty had a key carry on the second play of the drive, breaking several tackles and carrying defenders downfield for a 13-yard gain.


The drive ended when Smith bolted around the left side for a 14-yard touchdown run. The freshman carried the ball five times on the drive, gaining 31 yards.


“He [Smith] has played well for us. Kenny has a lot of talent and he’s showing what he can do,” Raso said.


Smith and Doughty, along with fullback Lucas Goehringer, carried the load for Hammonton last week in the absence of senior running back A.J. Ryker, who is out with a leg injury.


Having broken through just before halftime, Hammonton carried the momentum into the third quarter, scoring on its opening drive.


This time, the Blue Devils drove 65 yards, taking nearly six minutes off the clock in 10 plays. Faced with a second-and-11 at the Vineland 40 yard line, Hammonton gave the ball to Goehringer who broke through the middle and raced 40-yards untouched into the end zone for a 13-0 lead.


Hammonton forced a turnover on Vineland’s next drive, as Hill hit receiver Daeshaun Winchester hard before Austin Hudak stripped the ball and it was recovered by Dylan Testa at the Hammonton 12-yard line, thwarting Vineland’s deepest drive of the game.


In the fourth quarter, Vineland finally broke through as Winchester’s punt return set up a 19-play drive that covered 70 yards and ended in Russo’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Blakely.


Vineland attempted an onside kick with just 1:09 left in the game but it was fielded by Hudak and Hammonton ran out the clock to secure the win.


The victory evened Hammonton’s record at 2-2. This week, the Blue Devils play at Clearview on September 24 at 7 p.m.