GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Ben Martin and David Hood know each other back from their days in the Atlantic County Junior Football League.
Hood played for the Atlantic City Dolphins. Martin remembers that Hood was always bigger than everybody else.
Martin played for the Pleasantville Jokers and the Galloway Mustangs. Hood remembers that Martin was one of the league's fastest players.
Now, the two running backs are in the same backfield for Absegami. They have combined to run for more than 600 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
The duo will test themselves today against one of the league's toughest defenses.
The Braves (2-1) host Egg Harbor Township (3-0) in a key Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game today. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Absegami. Egg Harbor, No. 6 in The Press' Elite 11, has not allowed an offensive touchdown.
"You're lucky if you get a back like (Martin or Hood) every 10 years," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "We're lucky to have them both at once."
Martin, a junior, and Hood, a senior, both emerged last season.
Martin was on the bench at the start of 2008.
"I felt it was going to be a learning experience, learning from the sidelines," Martin said.
Meanwhile, Hood started the season at Atlantic City High School. He transferred to Absegami midway through the season.
Hood knew playing time would be tough to come by.
"I felt I was going to have to work hard if I was going to play," he said.
Both began to emerge in the second half of last season. Martin scored twice last Thanksgiving in a 35-7 win over Oakcrest.
Hood ran for more than 150 yards in a 32-7 loss to Toms River East in a consolation game.
Both have shined this season.
Martin ran for 205 yards in last week's 23-14 win over Millville. Hood gained 143 yards in a 31-12 defeat of Vineland two weeks ago.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Martin (51 carries for 327 yards) is more of a slasher. He uses his speed to elude would-be tacklers. Martin runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds.
The 5-10, 195-pound Hood (41 carries for 314 yards) runs over potential tacklers.
Defenses can't key on just one of them.
"They feed off each other," Scuderi Jr. said.
Sometimes there's such a thing as having too many talented running backs. Some backs have been known to get cranky if they don't get enough carries.
That's not the case with Martin or Hood.
"It's an unselfish situation," Scuderi Jr. said. "They're friends."
Hood has been the lead blocker on several of Martin's big runs.
"I just want to win," Hood said. "I don't care who has the ball. If Ben has it, I block for him. When I do get the ball, I want to get it to the end zone."
Both running backs are college prospects. Martin, 16, is already drawing attention from several recruiting Web sites. Hood is a young senior. He doesn't turn 17 until later this month and is an underrated prospect.
Martin and Hood will be among a host of talented players on the field tonight. Egg Harbor features one of New Jersey's most talented running backs in Tejay Johnson.
The game is a measuring stick for both teams.
Egg Harbor has yet to face a team with a winning record.
The game also will tell if Absegami is the team that beat Vineland and Millville impressively or the one that lost to Hammonton 41-12 in its season opener. Everything went wrong for the Braves in that contest, including Martin leaving in the second quarter with a bruised sternum and not returning.
"We're looking at it like a playoff game," Martin said.
To e-mail Michael McGarry at The Press:
Egg Harbor Township (3-0)
vs. Absegami (2-1)
When/Where: 7 p.m. today at Absegami
Why this game is important: This is a matchup of Cape-Atlantic League American Conference contenders. Egg Harbor Township is No. 6 in The Press' Elite 11. Absegami has won two straight. This is the start of a tough stretch for Absegami. The Braves play Delsea, No. 2 in the Elite 11, next week.
Key Players for Absegami: Ben Martin, RB, 51 carries for 327 yards; David Hood, RB, 41 carries for 314 yards; Craig Johnson, DL; Ian Capella, DL; Steve Schwartz, OL. Key Players for Egg Harbor Township: Scott Miller, QB, 138 rushing yards, 19-of-32 passing for 254 yards; Tejay Johnson, RB/DB, 31 carries for 253 yards; Joe Magosin, WR, five catches for 112 yards; Stephan Thomas, RB/LB; Zach Agostino, RB/LB.
Last Five Meetings:
2008: Egg Harbor Twp. 21, Absegami 14
2007: Absegami 21, Egg Harbor Twp. 9
2006: Absegami 28, Egg Harbor Twp. 7
2005: Absegami 33, Egg Harbor Twp. 0
2004: Egg Harbor Twp. 33, Absegami 28
Tonight's breakdown: This game is a measuring stick for both teams. EHT has yet to face an opponent with a winning record. Absegami has won two straight. But are the Braves the team that beat Millville and Vineland or lost to Hammonton 41-12 in its season opener? The winner will probably be the team that slows down the other's potent ground game.