MAYS LANDING - Absegami High School quarterback Mike Dolan marched his team down the field on a well executed two-minute drill Thursday.
Dolan's reward - the best view in the house for Nick Della Vecchia's game-winning 23-yard field goal with 7.3 seconds left.
Dolan is Della Vecchia's holder.
Dolan had nearly reached the sideline before the senior kicker's field goal touched the ground as the Braves edged district rival Oakcrest 28-25. Absegami leads the series 20-17.
"As soon as I saw the ball leave his foot, I didn't watch it. I ran right off the field with my hands up," said Dolan, who was the holder his freshman season when the Braves missed an extra-point in a 14-13 loss to Oakcrest on Thanksgiving.
"It was good. I knew as soon as he kicked it."
It was Della Vecchia's second-game-winning field goal of the season. He made a 31-yarder on Sept. 28 in a 24-21 win against Millville.
"I was thinking, 'Just get the ball through the uprights,' " Della Vecchia said. "I was having issues with my groin. It was really getting to me, but at that point I just had to block that out and get the ball through for my team.
"It's huge. These guys aren't even my teammates - they're my family. That ball went through the uprights for them, not for me."
Absegami stumbled through some sloppy play and three turnovers to trail the Falcons 3-0 after the first half.
But the Braves' offense broke through in a big way in the third quarter with three touchdowns.
David Hood (20 carries for 106 yards) capped off a nine-play drive to open the second half with a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Braves their first lead.
Tyler Bing scored three straight touchdowns - one receiving and two rushing - for the Braves following Hood's score.
Bing caught a 21-yard touchdown pass on a key third-and-20 midway through the third and added another in the quarter on a 12-yard run.
He made it a hat trick with a 5-yard run with six minutes and 40 seconds left in the game to give his team a 25-10 lead.
But Danny Smith and the Falcons weren't done.
Smith's fifth completion of the ensuing drive was a 20-yard touchdown to Ladarrell Dixon.
Smith ran the two-point conversion in himself, hurdling himself recklessly into a pair of tacklers but breaking the plane for the score.
After forcing Absegami into a three-and-out, Smith threw three incomplete passes to bring up fourth-and-10 at midfield.
Smith scrambled around, breaking a pair of tackles and going sideline-to-sideline before gunning the ball downfield to a wide-open Dixon for a 48-yard touchdown pass to tie the score 25-25.
"We battled till the end but didn't come through all the way," Smith said. "I'm proud of my teammates. We fought the fight. We just didn't finish."
Smith completed 17-of-33 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 40 yards and a touchdown and had an interception defensively.
"Absegami is a good team, I will give them that, but we hung right with them," Smith said. "We stayed with them and proved ourselves. I'm so proud of my teammates. I'll never forget this season no matter what."
Dolan completed nine of his first 10 passes Thursday and finished 20-for-24 for 209 yards and a touchdown for the Braves, who finished their season 6-4. He also ran for 58 yards.
"This was a great game," Dolan said. "It was a hard-fought game but that's what we play for on Thanksgiving. They won one game but they came in here with everything. It's a rivalry game. No team has the edge coming in."
Contact John O'Kane:
Absegami 0 0 19 9-28
Oakcrest 3 0 7 15-25
O-Hess 30 field goal
A-Hood 4 run (kick failed)
A-Bing 21 pass by Dolan (kick failed)
A-Bing 12 run (Della Vecchia kick)
A-Bing 5 run (conversion failed)
O-Dixon 20 pass by Smith (conversion good) O-Dixon 48 pass by Smith (Hess kick) A-Della Vecchia 23 field goal
TEAM STATS A O
Rushing 240 73
Passing 209 247
First downs 20 17
Penalties 5-41 4-35
Turnovers 3 1
Rushing-Absegami: Hood 20-106, Bing 9-66, Dolan 7-58, Hubbard 1-5, Kinlaw 1-5; Oakcrest: Smith 13-40, Smith 5-24, Hess 1-7, Roberson 1-1, Bell 3-1.
Passing-Absegami: Dolan 20-24-209-0; Oakcrest: Smith 17-33-247-1, Hess 0-1-0-0.
Receiving-Absegami: Miller 7-72, Bing 4-50, Gilbert 4-39, Robinson 4-28, Loveland 1-20; Oakcrest: Roberson 5-81, Dixon 2-68, Hess 4-51, Bell 2-33, Smith 2-9, Stokes 2-4.
Records-Absegami 6-4, Oakcrest 1-9.
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