GLASSBORO - The Southern Regional High School football team executed its game plan in the first half Friday night,
Rams running back Abe Gonzalez rushed for more than 100 yards. Quarterback Dan Higgins mixed in timely passes to wide receivers Mike Gesicki and Nick Hem.
There was one problem, however.
Southern trailed at halftime.
Undefeated Williamstown overwhelmed Southern with the big play and beat the Rams 43-20 to win the South Jersey Group V championship at Rowan University. Among Williamstown's touchdowns were Marquis Little's 88-yard run and Kali Boyce's 90-yard interception return.
The Southern offense just couldn't match Williamstown's ability to score from anywhere on the field.
"Williamstown makes you have to score points," Southern coach Chuck Donohue said. "It's a time bomb. They're fast. They have athletes. They're a good football team. I'm not disappointed. I thought we fought the whole game."
Fans packed the bleachers at Rowan to watch Southern and Williamstown try to win a first-ever South Jersey football title. Williamstown (12-0), which is ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and the top seed, had never even been to a S.J. final before Friday. Sixth-seeded Southern (9-3) lost to Mainland Regional 21-14 in the 2008 S.J. Group IV final.
Southern, which is ranked eighth in The Elite 11, controlled much of the first half, driving 94 and 93 yards for touchdowns. Gonzalez's 4-yard touchdown run gave Southern a 12-6 lead with 7 minutes, 15 seconds left in the half.
"I was on the sideline," Gesicki said, "and I said to coach 'We can do this.' "
The Rams then hurt themselves with four turnovers and Williamstown took advantage of every mistake.
"There's always going to be that turn of momentum play and they got it," said Gesicki, who caught seven passes for 120 yards. "We did whatever we wanted on offense in the first half. We felt good. Then the ball didn't go our way and they made the plays."
The momentum turned in the Braves' favor when Little intercepted a pass off a deflection at the Williamstown 10-yard line. The Braves then drove for a touchdown. Little scored on a 7-yard sweep with 15 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Braves a 21-12 lead.
Southern couldn't stop the Williamstown running game once it got going. Little (13 carries for 152 yards) used his speed to get to the outside. John Chamberlin (18 carries for 109 yards) ran hard between the tackles.
"We threw everything that we had in our defense at them," Donohue said. "Everything we had - slants, stunts. They still hit some home runs."
Williamstown took control in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
Chamberlin scored on a 2-yard run on the Braves' first possession of the third quarter to make the score 29-12 Williamstown.
The Williamstown defense then contributed the first of its two touchdowns.
Braves defensive end Julian Taylor pressured Higgins and stripped the quarterback of the ball. Williamstown defensive end Pete Halloran picked the ball up and ran 3 yards for a touchdown to put the Braves up 36-12 with 8:26 left in the third quarter.
The Williamstown fans rushed the field when the game was over. A constant and sometimes heavy rain fell in the second half. Few, if any, Braves fans left Rowan early.
"I give all the credit to the town," Little said. "They've been waiting for something like this."
Meanwhile, Southern seemed resigned to the defeat. Despite Friday's loss, Southern still had one of the best seasons in school history.
"I believe we're a good solid football team," Donohue said. "We worked our game plan. We didn't tackle well. There were a couple of things we didn't do well in the ballgame, but I wish I could coach our kids again on Monday."
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