BRIDGETON - Wide receivers Dylan Mento and Alex Padovani of the Hammonton High School football team figured to be tough for Bridgeton to cover Friday night.
But it was the passes the duo caught on defense that left Bridgeton shaking its head in regret.
Mento intercepted three passes and Padovani one as the Blue Devils beat Bridgeton 24-6 in a Cape-Atlantic League interconference game. Three of the four interceptions came inside the Hammonton 5-yard line.
"I'm having a lot of fun on defense," Mento said. "I feel like I can fly around, make some plays and help the team out."
Padovani also caught two touchdown passes and kicked a 20-yard field goal as the Blue Devils (3-1) won their third straight. In addition to the four interceptions, Bridgeton (3-1) also fumbled at its own 28-yard line. Meanwhile, Hammonton committed no turnovers.
"We didn't create any turnovers," Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen said. "We didn't make as many big plays as we used to, and they did."
The Bulldogs created a buzz in their school and community with their undefeated start. Friday's game served as a credibility test for both teams. Two of Bridgeton's win came against teams with 0-3 records. Hammonton had won two straight but against teams with a combined record of 1-7. Fans filled the home and visiting bleachers on the warm fall night.
"This one was huge," Padovani said. "This was a good test for Hammonton football. We know where we stand, but we can always get better."
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Padovani and the 6-4, 190-pound Mento are two of the Cape-Atlantic League's top wide receivers. Their size and speed makes them tough to defend.
The Bulldogs took a 6-0 lead with a touchdown that indicated luck might be with Bridgeton. Bulldogs quarterback Ronald Williams heaved a fourth-down, 15-yard pass toward the end zone. The ball deflected off a Hammonton defender right into the hands of Bridgeton wide receiver Cappadonna Miller for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We did everything we didn't want to do," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "We gave them momentum. They already enough momentum going in."
But Hammonton took advantage of the Bridgeton turnovers and controlled the first half from there.
Blue Devils quarterback Jonathan Triboletti (5-of-13 for 112 yards) completed just one of his first six passes, but he threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Padovani to give the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead with 11:43 left in the first half. The taller Padovani simply reached over the shorter Bridgeton defender to make the catch.
Hammonton made it 14-6 with 5:36 left in the half when Triboletti threw an 81-yard touchdown pass to Padovani, who caught the ball at the 50-yard line and outran two Bridgeton defenders to the end zone.
The touchdown came on an out-an-up pattern. Both Bridgeton defenders on Padovani went for the fake on the out.
"All that's going through your head is don't drop it," Padovani said.
Mento and Padovani also frustrated the Bridgeton offense in the first half.
Mento intercepted two passes, including one at the Hammonton goal line. Padovani picked off a pass at the Hammonton 3-yard line.
Bridgeton had a chance to tie the score in the third quarter. The Bulldogs drove to the Hammonton 7. A run for no yards and two incompletions left them with a fourth down. Bridgeton threw into the end zone. Mento stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it.
"The (Bridgeton) quarterback took a three-step drop," Mento said. "The play was a slant. I just came underneath it and did my thing."
Hammonton then used its size on the offensive line to methodically move the ball, wear down the smaller Bulldogs and score 10 points.
The Blue Devils relied on the running of Justin Fucetola (nine carries for 63 yards and touchdown) and Brian Siligato in the second half.
"We threw when we had to early in the game, and we were able to pound it at the end," Lancetta said.
Despite the defeat, Bridgeton can take some positives from the game. The Bulldogs lost 41-0 at Hammonton last year. Bridgeton is still tied for the CAL National Conference lead with St. Augustine Prep.
"We're not mad at anything the kids did," Ellen said. "We played hard. We were flying around hitting. We just made mistakes."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Hammonton 0 14 0 10-24
Bridgeton 6 0 0 0- 6
BR - Miller 15 pass from Williams (Kick missed)
HAM - Padovani 7 pass from Triboletti (Padovani kick)
HAM - Padovani 81 pass from Triboletti (Padovani kick)
HAM - Padovani 20 field goal
HAM - Fucetola 7 run (Padovani kick)