GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Absegami High School's football team may have saved its season Friday night.
The Braves (2-2) rebounded from back-to-back losses with a solid performance that produced a 10-0 victory over Vineland in a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game.
"I'm so proud of the way our kids played tonight," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "The reality is we didn't play very well the past two weeks, but I thought they really stepped up."
More impressively, they earned the win without their best offensive player. Senior running back Ben Martin (50 carries, 204 yards), who is headed to Rutgers University, missed the game with an ankle injury.
Sophomore Tyler Bing and senior Trevon Chance helped fill the void by rushing for a combined 153 yards on 22 carries while also delivering two of the game's biggest plays. Bing set up Absegami's only touchdown, an 11-yard run by sophomore quarterback Rashad Kinlaw, with a 42-yard burst in the second quarter. Bing appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but bounced outside and sprinted up the sideline. Nine plays later, Kinlaw scored with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the first half.
"Without Ben, we knew it would be up to the rest of us to pick up the slack," Kinlaw said. "The coaches kind of challenged us and we did what we had to do."
Chance made the most of his opportunity early in the fourth quarter. He busted through the middle from the Braves' 14-yard line, then dashed up the left sideline for a 71-yard gain that led to Tom MacCauley's 22-yard field goal with 3:47 left in regulation that essentially clinched the victory.
Like Martin, Chance had also injured his ankle a week ago.
"Trevon basically played the game on one leg, so for him to do what he did was unbelievable," Scuderi said. "He wasn't cleared to play until this morning."
Those offensive exploits would not have matter if Absegami's defense hadn't played so well, however.
Led by sophomore linebacker Guy Higgins and senior defensive end Jason Sartorio, the Braves held Vineland's dangerous attack to just 77 total yards and five first downs. Fighting Clan senior running back Brian Winchester, who entered the game as the CAL's leading scorer with 50 points, never got close to the end zone and was held to just 37 yards on 14 carries. Winchester had rushed for 556 yards on 67 carries in Vineland's first three games.
"We knew we couldn't afford to drop to 1-3," Sartorio said. "Absegami football is back."
So is Vineland football.
Despite the loss, the Fighting Clan (3-1) continued to show that they are poised to contend for the division title this season just a year after finishing 2-8.
While Winchester and the offense struggled, Vineland's defense kept them in the game. Defensive end Edwin Cordova and linebacker Steve Ribot were among the standouts.
"It always hurts to lose, but we can take some positives out of this," Vineland first-year coach Josh Hedgeman said. "We weren't playing a team that was flat-out better than us. We showed that we can play with anybody. It would be different if we were manhandled out there, but that wasn't the case. Absegami just made plays when they had to and we didn't."
Contact David Weinberg:
Vineland 0 0 0 0-0
Absegami 0 7 0 3-10
A- Kinlaw 11 run. (McCauley kick)
A- McCauley 22 field goal.
First downs 5 11
Rushing 44 218
Passing 33 30
Turnovers 0 0
Rushing: Vineland, Winchester 14-37, Nelson 4-10, Lovett 2-3, Flyers 8-(-6). Absegami, Chance 9-77, Bing 13-76, Kinlaw 15-47, Pittman 4-18
Passing: Vineland, Flowers 3-13-33. Absegami, Kinlaw 4-7-30.
Receiving: Vineland, Lovett 1-13, Douglas 1-12, Savory 1-8. Absegami, Collazo 2-199, Ross 1-12, Bing 1-(-1).
Records-Vineland 3-1; Absegami 2-2.