MEDFORD TOWNSHIP — The Absegami High School football team slipped into the playoffs with a dramatic win over Mainland Regional last week, its third straight after a 1-4 start. All the Braves got for their troubles was an anti-climactic date on a frigid night with powerhouse Shawnee.
The result was a 41-0 Absegami loss in the quarterfinal round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs.
“They’re a very good team, and we were not very good tonight,” said Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. “We just made too many mistakes early in the game, a blocked punt (resulting in a 50-yard return for a touchdown), a couple turnovers. It definitely wasn’t pretty.”
Ryan Parris and Colin Wetterau each scored a pair of touchdowns for Shawnee, the 2014 South Jersey champion, which next moves on to the semifinal round to play Moorestown, which defeated Pennsauken 16-13.
Absegami (4-5) will end its season on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the night before Thanksgiving, at home against intradistrict rival Oakcrest (2-7).
“That’s going to be a tough game for us, it always is,” Scuderi said. “We can’t take anybody for granted. We’ve got to find a way to win that game and be 5-5 at the end of this year.”
“We just hope to bounce back stronger,” said junior defensive back Trevor Brenner. “The Thanksgiving game is always one to look forward to.”
Absegami and Shawnee scrimmage each other every year in the preseason, but never with this much at stake and never under these conditions. Right from the outset, the Braves seemed to have trouble handling the ball on the first legitimately cold night of the football season.
A bad snap on third down and short punt into the wind gave the Renegades a short field for their first drive, and Parris slammed it in from three yards out for an early Shawnee lead.
Absegami moved the ball on its next drive, thanks to a pass interference penalty and Josh Coursey’s 24-yard catch of an Andrew Marcucci pass along the sideline. But the drive stalled, as Marcucci was sacked on third down by Shawnee defensive stalwart Dan Falzone.
The Braves lined up for what appeared to be a 48-yard field goal attempt by Zach Sterr into the wind, but a delay of game penalty changed their minds. Instead, Sterr’s punt was blocked by Parris, who scooped it up and ran it back for a 50-yard touchdown.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse when Marcucci was stripped of the ball and the fumble was recovered by Shawnee at the Absegami 19. But the Braves held, as Pratham Milu sacked Colin Wetterau on fourth down.
But it only delayed the inevitable. Another bad snap resulted in a fumble recovery by Shawnee, plus a personal foul call on Absegami that gave the Renegades the ball at the 15. Wetterau ran it in from the 3, and Joe Dalsey’s third extra point of the game gave Shawnee a 21-0 lead with 6:32 left in the half.
Shawnee had another chance to score before the half after an interception by Jake Schillinger. Absegami’s Trevor Brenner ended that threat, intercepting a Wetterau pass in the end zone on the last play of the half for his third turnover in the last two games.
The Renegades opened the second half with two efficient scoring drives, mixing the run and pass, capped by short touchdown runs by Wetterau and Daevon Robinson. Shawnee completed the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“I give our seniors credit,” said Scuderi. “They were 1-4 and they could have packed it in but they didn’t. They found a way to give themselves a playoff game, something to build on, and two straight years in the playoffs. We look forward to the future.”
Absegami 0 0 0 0 — 0
Shawnee 14 7 13 7 — 41
S – Parris 3 run (Dalsey kick)
S – Parris 50 return of blocked punt (Dalsey kick)
S – Wetterau 3 run (Dalsey kick)
S – Wetterau 1 run (Dalsey kick)
S – Robinson 1 run (PAT failed)
S – Law 3 run (Demko kick)
Records: Absegami 4-5; Shawnee 6-3.