EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Mainland Regional High School senior defensive lineman Kenny Randall cradled the Kiwanis Trophy on Thursday like it was his most prized possession.
In some ways, it was.
Randall, who is headed to Temple University on a football scholarship next season, ended his high school career by helping the Mustangs retain possession of the trophy with a 21-6 victory over rival Egg Harbor Township.
"Keeping this for another year means a lot to me and the other seniors," Randall said. "To play our last high school game against our rival and to win is something we'll always cherish and think about for the rest of our lives."
The Mustangs (4-6) used a big-play offense and aggressive defense to send their seniors out with a victory.
Junior running back Justin Walsh burst through giant holes provided by his offensive line to score first-half touchdowns from 50 and 70 yards, respectively. Randall and senior lineman David Donovan sparked a defense that held Egg Harbor Township (2-8) to 182 total yards and gave up just one touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Eagles quarterback Adam Bynum to wide receiver Spencer LaSure in the third quarter.
"When we watched EHT on film, we saw that we had a chance to get some sacks and some tackles in the backfield," Randall said. "And that was reflected in the game."
EHT's defense also played well, snaring two interceptions and recovering an onsides kick, but its offense hurt itself with untimely penalties and just plain bad luck.
For instance, the Eagles recovered a muffed punt after their first possession, but the turnover was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty. After LaSure outleaped a Mainland defender for his touchdown near the end of the first half, EHT recovered the ensuing onsides kick, but failed to capitalize.
"We had some opportunities, but we didn't make the plays when we had to make them," EHT coach Tony DeRosa said. "I'm so proud of the guys for the way they kept battling, but when you're a young football team and struggling like us, the breaks never seem to go your way. It's the law of football."
Walsh, a 5-foot-9, 169-pounder, opened the scoring with two minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first half. Two plays after EHT botched a hook-and-ladder play with a fumbled lateral, Walsh burst through a hole on the left side of his offensive line and was untouched until his teammates mobbed him in the end zone at the end of his 50-yard touchdown.
Two series later, Walsh struck again, dashing into the Eagles' secondary and outrunning a defensive back during a 70-yard score that put the Mustangs ahead 14-0 with 7:04 left in the first half.
After the game, Mainland coach Bob Coffey presented game balls to Walsh and Donovan.
"That's the first one I've ever gotten," said Walsh, who rushed for 139 yards on 10 carries. "And it means even more to get it in our biggest game of the year. We really wanted to make sure the seniors went out with a win."
Leading 14-6 at halftime, Mainland took control when senior quarterback Ty Mindish scored on a 2-yard plunge with 10:25 left in regulation. Mindish helped keep the drive alive with a 12-yard pass to senior wide receiver Bryce Edmunds on a fourth-and-nine play.
The victory was Mainland's fourth straight in the series, which meant that Donovan, Mindish, Randall and the other seniors never lost to the Eagles.
The win also capped an impressive turnaround for the Mustangs, who won three of their final four games this season after a 1-5 start.
"We're notoriously slow starters for some reason," Mainland coach Bob Coffey said. "But this was a great way to end the year."
Contact David Weinberg:
Mainland 7 7 0 7 - 21
Egg Harbor Twp. 0 6 0 0 - 6
M- Walsh 50 run (Juliano kick).
M- Walsh 70 run (Juliano kick)
E- LaSure 15 pass from Bynum (Kick failed).
M- Mindish 2 run (Juliano kick).
Rushing- Walsh 10-139, Vitale 15-36, Mindish 3-2 M; Agostino 10-56, D. Moore 10-29, Bynum 6-27, Ellis 5-7, J. Moore 2-5, Houghton 3-(-8) E.
Passing- Mindish 8-17-84-2, Jackson 0-1 M; Bynum 4-14-43, Houghton 3-7-23 E.
Receiving- Edmunds 4-31, Deveney 1-28, Brennan 2-23, Droboniku 1-2 M; LaSure 2-21, Ellis 1-14, Vega 2-12, Bolden 1-11, Matos 1-8 E.
Records- Mainland 4-6; Egg Harbor Township 2-8.