GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Quarterback Jarren McBryde often can't see what happens when he throws the ball downfield.
"My linemen stand up, and I'm looking (but I can't see)," the Atlantic City High School senior said. "I just listen for the crowd."
Nearly every time McBryde throws the ball in direction of wide receiver Dayshawn Reynolds, the crowd roars.
Reynolds made a leaping 44-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to propel Atlantic City to a 33-25 win over Absegami in a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game Friday night. Atlantic City clinched a South Jersey Group V playoff spot with the win. The Vikings (6-2) likely will host Absegami (5-3) in a quarterfinal game next Friday night.
The win came at the end of a hectic two weeks for Atlantic City. Hurricane Sandy damaged the homes of several Vikings.
"After the hurricane, people got depressed," Reynolds said. "This is a great win to boost everybody up and get ready for the playoffs."
Reynolds' touchdown catch gave the Vikings a 20-10 lead with 7 minutes, 3 seconds left in the third quarter.
McBryde threw the ball high down the right sideline. Reynolds jumped over an Absegami defender to make the catch.
"It was just hands and eyes," Reynolds said of the catch. "He threw a perfect pass. It was one of the better balls I've ever seen."
The catch gave the momentum back to Atlantic City. The Vikings led 13-0 in the second quarter but Absegami scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the first half. Absegami running back David Hood stunned the Vikings when he returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown with 2:52 left in the first half.
But the Reynolds catch put the Vikings back in control.
"That kid makes a play that maybe 1 percent of New Jersey can make," Braves coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "He went up and snatched the ball. You have to give them credit."
Friday's game was one of the most anticipated of the weekend. Atlantic City is ranked No. 8 in The Press Elite 11, while Absegami is No. 7. The Vikings needed a win to assure themselves of a playoff spot. The contest was supposed to be played last week, but Hurricane Sandy postponed it.
Vikings tight end and defensive lineman Ga-Briel Chandler, whose house was flooded by the storm, caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter. Linebacker Jamil Whitted missed nearly every practice this week because his home flooded. He played and made several jarring hits Friday.
Atlantic City methodically wore down Absegami in the second half. McBryde (11-of-17 for 231 yards) scrambled away from Absegami defenders and either completed passes or ran for critical first downs.
Vikings running back Domaneek Brown-Hurd gained tough yards between the tackles and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
On defense, Atlantic City slowed one of the region's top offenses. Linebacker Rob Glanville had a sack, while Whitted and defensive lineman Eric Sims both seemed to be a constant presence in the Absegami backfield.
Still, the Braves nearly rallied for a win.
Braves quarterback Mike Dolan (12-of-20 for 208 yards) threw a pass over the middle to Tyler Bing, who sprinted 54 yards for a touchdown to cut Atlantic City's lead to eight points with 1:35 left.
Absegami got the ball back with 21.2 seconds left at its own 28-yard line. Dolan threw a short pass to Hood, who weaved his way through the Atlantic City defense for 49-yard gain. Hood nearly burst into the clear. Reynolds watched the play from the bench. He left with a minor ankle injury in the fourth quarter.
'That was nerve-wracking," Reynolds said. "I knew my ankle was messed up, but I wanted to jump up and get a part of that action."
But on the game's final play, the Vikings knocked down a desperation pass to the end zone.
The win gave the Vikings a chance to exhale after a busy two weeks. They had to deal with recovering from the storm, while preparing for the biggest game of the season.
"I've been saying all along how tough these guys are," Kelly said of his players. "We throw the word 'resilient' around. You see us come out and get a win against a good team. That says a lot about our kids."
Contact Michael McGarry:
© 2016 pressofAtlanticCity.com