HAMMONTON - Hammonton High School senior place-kicker Alex Padovani swung his right leg and sent a 42-yard field-goal attempt soaring toward the goal posts late in the fourth quarter Friday night, bringing a roaring crowd to its feet.
Just as it approached the uprights, however, it faded wide right by about a foot, giving Shawnee a 10-7 victory in a South Jersey Group IV playoff game.
"I knew I had a chance because we were within my range," Padovani said. "But as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be wide."
Sixth-seeded Shawnee (6-3) advanced to the semifinals, where the Renegades will meet the winner of today's game between seventh-seeded Moorestown (4-5) and second-seeded Toms River South (6-2).
Hammonton (6-3), which is ranked No. 10 in the Press Elite 11, will end its season with its annual clash against crosstown rival St. Joseph on Thanksgiving weekend.
The defeat also extended a streak of frustration for Hammonton against Shawnee, which is located 18 away in Medford Township. The Blue Devils are 0-4 against the Renegades, including 0-3 in the playoffs.
"I knew it was going to be a close game," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "They are a very tough team defensively, and so are we. I was hoping to maybe go into overtime, but we just missed."
Starting from its own 33-yard line, Hammonton marched into Shawnee territory late in the fourth quarter. Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Renegades, the Blue Devils advanced to the 25 with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining in regulation.
Padovani, one of the Cape-Atlantic League's top kickers and wide receivers, had plenty of distance on his kick, and many Blue Devils fans thought it went through. The officials standing under the goal posts ruled otherwise, waving their arms to touch off a wild celebration on Shawnee's sideline.
"Alex hit it perfect," Lancetta said. "Distance wasn't an issue. That distance is no problem for him."
Shawnee prevailed in a tense, hard-hitting defensive battle.
The Blue Devils broke out of their first-half offensive funk in the third quarter and took a 7-3 lead on Benjamin Bevan's 14-yard touchdown dash with 3:38 left in the period. One play earlier, Padovani made a twisting, diving catch on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Jonathan Triboletti on a fourth-and-2 play from the Shawnee 26.
"We didn't do anything different offensively in the second half," Lancetta said. "We just finally got some room to breathe."
The Blue Devils' lead didn't last long, however.
Shawnee countered with a nine-play, 76-yard drive behind senior running back Anthony DiOrio and quarterback Michael Welsh. DiOrio bulled his way through Hammonton's defense for a 14-yard touchdown with 11:51 left in regulation to put the Renegades ahead 10-7.
"We knew this was going to be a pound-for-pound game, a game of inches," DiOrio said. "But we knew if we just kept at it, we'd eventually break one. My offensive line and wide receivers did a great job of creating a crease for me on that one."
Both defenses dominated the first half until Shawnee finally broke through just before halftime on Joe Lynn's 21-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining.
Welsh set up the kick by firing a 30-yard completion to wide receiver Brandon Bye on a third-and-14 play from Hammonton's 45.
Shawnee had an unexpected chance to add to its lead when Hammonton fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but Lynn's 47-yard field goal attempt fell about 5 yards short.
Hammonton spent the entire first half with its back pressed against its own end zone. The Blue Devils' first-half possessions began at their own 15-, 5-, 12-, 15- and 14-yard lines, respectively. The Blue Devils earned just one first down while compiling 44 yards.
Hammonton's defense kept the Blue Devils in the game, however. Led by hard-hitting senior linebacker Justin Fucetola, the Blue Devils used a gang-tackling approach to stifle DiOrio in the early going.
"That was our plan," Fucetola said. "We just wanted to keep him contained as much as we could."
Contact David Weinberg:
Shawnee 0 3 0 7-10
Hammonton 0 0 7 0-7
S- Lynn 21 field goal.
H-Bevan 14 run. (Padovani kick).
S-DiOrio 14 run. (Lynn kick).