VOORHEES - The Millville High School football team chased Eastern quarterback Tom Flacco all over the field Friday night.
The pursuit left the Thunderbolts exhausted.
Millville wilted in the second half and lost to Eastern 35-18 in a South Jersey Group V semifinal.
Top-seeded Eastern scored 21 points in a row in the third and fourth quarters. Flacco completed 19 of 38 passes for 300 yards. The Millville defense was on the field for almost the entire second half, and a couple Millville players left the game with cramps.
"They're a very good offense," Millville coach Jason Durham said. "I don't know if it was mental or physical fatigue, but we had guys out (of the game) for plays, and that made it difficult."
The Vikings will play the Cherokee/Jackson Memorial winner for the South Jersey title on Dec. 6 at Rowan University. Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Millville (7-3) will finish the season against Vineland on Thanksgiving.
Fans filled the bleachers on an unseasonably warm Friday before Thanksgiving to watch a game that featured some of South Jersey's best offensive players. Flacco, the younger brother of Super Bowl MVP and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, has thrown for nearly 7,500 career yards. Millville countered with running backs Rob Ennis and Ryquell Armstead, who entered Friday with a combined 26 rushing touchdowns.
Eastern is ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, Millville No. 6.
Ennis and Armstead gave Millville hope for the upset with the big play. Each returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Armstead fielded the second-half kickoff and sprinted 89 yards up the middle to give the Thunderbolts an 18-14 lead.
But Flacco and Eastern dominated from that point.
In addition to his accurate throwing arm, Flacco is one of South Jersey's most mobile quarterbacks. Millville consistently blitzed him, but Flacco was able to move in the pocket and evade the rush.
"We made him get rid of the ball early," Millville linebacker Ed Shockley said. "But he's a good quarterback."
Eastern running back Kingsley Ayeni gave the Vikings the lead for good on a 10-yard touchdown run with 5 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter. Flacco set up the score with a 32-yard completion.
The game turned in Eastern's favor for good when Eric Sawyer blocked a Millville punt to give Eastern the ball at the Millville 6 yard line. On the next play, Sawyer ran up the middle untouched for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 28-18 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.
Millville played well in the first half. The Thunderbolts pressured Flacco on nearly every passing attempt. But Eastern led 14-12 at halftime.
Ennis scored both Millville touchdowns on a pair of big plays. On Millville's first snap from scrimmage, Ennis took a handoff up the middle, broke to the outside and sprinted down the visiting sideline for an 82-yard touchdown to give the Thunderbolts a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first quarter.
Ennis' second touchdown again brought the Millville fans to their feet. He fielded a kickoff at about the 30-yard line. Ennis reversed his field and then broke two tackles for a 71-yard kickoff return to give the Thunderbolts a 12-7 lead with 6:33 left before halftime.
But Millville could not slow Flacco. Even though he threw six incomplete passes in a row in the first half, the quarterback still threw for 141 yards in the first two quarters, and his 3-yard touchdown run with 4:24 left in the second quarter gave Eastern a 2-point halftime lead.
Millville 6 6 6 0-0
Eastern 0 14 14 0-0
M-Rob Ennis 82 run (kick failed
E-Segers 23 pass from Flacco (Spirt kick)
M-Ennis 71 kickoff return (pass failed)
E-Flacco 3 run (Spirt kick)
M-Armstead 89 kickoff return (kick blocked)
E-Ayeni 10 run (Spirt kick)
E-Sawyer 6 run (Spirt kick)
E-Hill 12 pass from Flacco (Spirt kick)
Records-Millville 7-3, Eastern 10-1.