MAYS LANDING — The Egg Harbor Township High School football team needed just one more stop Friday night, but Oakcrest had all the momentum.
After pinning the Eagles and forcing an intentional safety, and then driving to the 8-yard line in the final seconds, the host Falcons had one last shot at the end zone with six-tenths of a second left.
Oakcrest quarterback Quaashie Jetter rolled to the left and looked for a receiver, but before he could get the pass off, Austin Gray grabbed him by the legs and brought him down.
Gray’s sack ended the game, giving Egg Harbor Township a 14-9 victory in its season opener.
“The quarterback, Quaashie, was all over the place,” Gray said. “I was thinking it might be a quarterback draw. I just had to trust my team. I had faith in my secondary to back me up.”
Egg Harbor Township had led nearly the entire game before getting pinned at its own 8-yard line with 1 minute, 26 seconds to go, leading 14-7.
Rather than punt, the Eagles elected to have quarterback Ken Doughty run out of the end zone for a safety — conceding two points but giving themselves the opportunity to kick off and let their defense win it.
Two penalties got Oakcrest to the EHT 32-yard line with 27 seconds left. Jetter then threw a 24-yard pass to Brandon Bell, who was tackled at the 8-yard line.
But the Falcons had no timeouts, and they fumbled the snap in their first attempt at a spike. After finally stopping the clock on the second try, Oakcrest had one last shot.
“We just needed to make a play,” EHT coach Tony DeRosa said. “Someone needed to make a play.”
Gray, a junior defensive tackle, came through.
“It definitely was the biggest play of the game,” said Doughty, who was playing safety. “He really put away the game for us.”
For Oakcrest, it was a difficult ending after coming so close.
“It was like a roller coaster — great game, evenly matched teams,” Falcons coach Chuck Smith said. “It just came down to those little mistakes.”
The game didn’t look as if it would be so close early.
Egg Harbor Township started the game with 12 straight running plays on a 65-yard touchdown drive, capped by Curtis Fitzpatrick’s 5-yard scoring run.
The Eagles’ defense then held Oakcrest to 3 yards on its first three drives combined.
But early in the second quarter, the Falcons drove 89 yards on 10 plays to tie the game on Jetter’s 1-yard TD run.
EHT reclaimed the lead in the third quarter on Matt Clayton’s 3-yard TD run. The latter part of the drive came with Bell, Oakcrest’s star linebacker who has committed verbally to Penn State, on the sideline with cramps.
“Not having Brandon on offense or defense hurts you,” Smith said. “But there are other guys who have got to play and have got to step up. Brandon Bell can’t put us on his shoulders every week.”
Bell came back shortly afterward and was 8 yards away from scoring the winning touchdown.
But the Egg Harbor Township defense came up with the big play it needed.
“It came down close to it, but it just came down at the end, we made one more play than they did,” DeRosa said.
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