LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The Barnegat High School football team thought its rivalry game against Pinelands Regional would end up just as it had the past two years.
The Bengals, who had lost to Pinelands by one point in overtime both times, were down by one point again with less than a minute to play after their two-point conversion play failed in Thursday's game.
But a costly fumble on the kick return by Pinelands put the ball back in Barnegat's hands. It was not clear which Barnegat player emerged from the scrum with the fumble recovery.
Three plays later, Bengals sophomore Pat Moran kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8 seconds left for a 30-28 victory.
The win gave Barnegat a 3-2 lead in the series, which was played on Thanksgiving Day for the first time.
Barnegat finished the season 6-5, Pinelands 5-5.
Pinelands senior running back Matt McLain rushed 39 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
"With a minute left we looked at the score, 28-27, and were thinking, 'Not again,' " Barnegat senior wide receiver Mike DeTroia said. "But everything was going our way today and when we made the field goal it was the happiest moment of my life."
DeTroia and Barnegat quarterback Nick SanGiacomo have been a great combination since they started playing together. On Thursday, DeTroia made 10 catches for 148 yards, including a 19-yarder with 28 seconds to go to get the Bengals into field goal position. Senior running back Lou Buscio got the ball to the 10-yard line to set up Moran, who kicked his first game-winning field goal of the season.
"I was nervous at first, but everyone reminded me that we do these plays in practice every day," Moran said. "So I said to myself, 'I can do this.' I don't know how to describe the feeling. It hasn't really soaked in yet."
Pinelands head coach Sean DeRosa said the game was scheduled for Thanksgiving so that it would mean more to both teams.
"The last game of the season is always hard to get up for, especially when it doesn't have much meaning behind it as far as playoffs go," DeRosa said. "This is our rivalry. When you play a team you want to beat at the end of the year on Thanksgiving, it's always a great game."
Pinelands' running game generated most of their offense. McLain scored all four of the Wildcats' touchdowns.
An interception by senior Jared Abrams with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left led to McLain's biggest carry of the day. Pinelands got the ball back on its own 10-yard line and McLain ran the ball up the left side of the field, broke a few tackles and reversed it to the right for an 87-yard gain. He finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown to put Pinelands up 28-21.
"(My performance) was good, but it wasn't good enough," McLain said. "I needed to score more. I feel awful. I wanted to go big in my last game. I wanted to go out so I could be remembered. But it just didn't happen the way I wanted it to."
Barnegat rallied several times behind SanGiacomo, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two. He finished the season with 22 touchdown passes.
With 56.6 seconds left in the game, SanGiacomo, who is headed to Tulane University, pulled the Bengals to within one point with a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Barnegat went for the two-point conversion and the win, but the pass failed.
SanGiacomo said playing the game on Thanksgiving made it all the more special.
"I have a bunch of family here and so do the other guys. It was a great win to show our families what we can do (one last time) because they don't always get to see us a lot," SanGiacomo said.
Barnegat coach Rob Davis said was proud of his team and happy to take the lead in the emerging rivalry. He said the Bengals had lost some players toward the end of the season and that he was excited that younger ones stepped up to the challenge.
"Every year we scrap, scrap, scrap and never give up," Davis said. "Before the game I told the kids I'd be proud of them no matter what happened. I'm a lot prouder now. We really showed some adversity."
Contact Kelly Ashe:
Barnegat 0 14 0 16-30
Pinelands 0 14 0 14-28
B-DeTroia 14 pass from SanGiacomo (Moran kick)
P-McLain 5 run (Munson kick)
P-McLain 40 run (Munson kick)
B-DeTroia 4 pass from SanGiacomo (Moran kick)
P-McLain 14 run (Munson kick)
B-SanGiacomo 1 run (Moran kick)
P-McLain 3 run (Munson kick)
B-SanGiacomo 1 run (pass failed)
B-Moran 27 FG
Records-Barnegat 6-5, Pinelands 5-5.
TEAM STATS B P
Score 30 28
First Downs 25 10
Rushing 32-46 39-309
Passing 22-37-2 1-2-0
Passing Yds 343 40 Yds
Total Yds 485 339 Yds
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-40 6-52 Yds
Punts-yards 2-76 4-166
Rushing-Barnegat, SanGiacomo 17- 92, Pinto 5- 29, Buscio 8- 25. Pinelands, McLain 39- 309, Schwarzenberger 2- 14, Keller 4- 1.
Passing-Barnegat, SanGiacomo 22-37-2-343. Pinelands, Keller 1-2-0-40.
Receiving-Barnegat, DeTroia 10-148, Morris 6-114, Moran 4-53, Buscio 2-28. Pinelands, McCormack 1-40.
RECORDS-Barnegat 6-5, Pinelands 5-5.