CINNAMINSON - The field was a sloppy, muddy mess and the air was chilled, wet and windy. In other words, the conditions were perfect for a strong running attack.
And yet, Cinnaminson High School was forced out of its heralded ground game by the stout Rashaun Smith-led Bridgeton defense in the fifth-seeded Bulldogs' surprisingly easy 28-18 victory over fourth-seeded Cinnaminson in a South Jersey Group II quarterfinal game Friday night.
Southern New Jersey's top rusher had another excellent game, as Bridgeton's Mike Cisrow mucked and grinded his way to 162 yards on 29 carries.
Bridgeton (7-3) advances to play top-seeded Delsea Regional or eighth-seeded Woodrow Wilson in next week's semifinals. That game is Sunday at 6 p.m.
"It feels great," Smith, a linebacker, said of the win. "We knew it was going to be a battle and we played hard."
Smith and the Bulldogs clogged the middle in the first half, taking away Cinnaminson's potent rushing game. The Pirates' Eric Riley, who entered with 719 rushing yards this year, managed just 10 yards on four carries in the first half and didn't touch the ball after halftime. All totaled, the Pirates (6-3) rushed for 24 yards in the opening 24 minutes before finishing with a measly 42 yard for the game.
"Fundamentals were the key," Smith said. "Just stop at the point of attack and luckily it worked in our favor."
While the Bridgeton defense was clicking on all cylinders, the Bulldogs' offense relied on two big plays - both on fourth down - to build a 14-6 lead entering halftime. No play was more pivotal than Cisrow's 20-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 32 seconds left in the first half.
"That was a big play for us, especially going into the half," Cisrow said of the draw play that saw him scamper down the left sideline. "It changed the momentum."
Bridgeton opened the scoring earlier in the half when Kyheem Simpson took a reverse 26 yards to the end zone on fourth down with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Simpson injured his right shoulder after being tackled at the pylon and was lost for the game.
"That was a huge loss," Bulldogs coach Dave Ellen said. "We're thin as it is, but it's been like that all year and we've had kids step in and take over."
It was Cisrow who stepped up and took over in the second half against the Pirates. After the Bulldogs fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, Cisrow intercepted Cinnaminson quarterback Michael Gallo on the ensuing play.
"That was key," Ellen said, "that was really key."
The big play set the tone for Cisrow's second half. The shifty, 5-foot-7 senior rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries after halftime. The Bulldogs also got a big boost from quarterback Tamar Jackson, who ran for 41 of his 51 yards, including a pair of touchdowns, after the break. Jackson's 12-yard run with 10:19 left in the fourth quarter gave the Bulldogs a 28-6 advantage and put the game well out of reach.
Cinnaminson continued to pass, but the Pirates' final two scores did little, other than making the game seem closer than it really was. Gallo attempted 22 passes, completing 11, after halftime, as the Pirates ran for just five times after the break in sloppy, cold conditions that begged for a ground game.
"It was fun, real fun," Smith said of the conditions. "You got to slip and slide a little bit. It might not have been fun for other people, but it was fun for me."
The fun will continue for another week for the Bulldogs.
"I'm very pleased," Ellen said. "And the guys get to play another week, which is even better."
Bridgeton 8 6 8 6-28
Cinnaminson 6 0 0 12-18
B-Simpson 26 run (Cisrow run)
C-Clayton 15 pass from Gallo (pass failed)
B-Cisrow 20 run (run failed)
B-Jackson 1 run (Jackson run)
B-Jackson 12 run (run failed)
C-Gallo 1 run (pass failed)
C-Chesney 18 pass from Gallo (pass failed)
First Downs 14 13
Rushing 262 42
Passing 40 237
Turnovers 1 4
Rushing-Cisrow 29-162, Jackson 15-51, Simpson 2-43, Scurry 2-6 B; Gallo 7-27, Riley 4-10, McDevitt 4-5 C.
Passing-Jackson 3-4-0 40 B; Gallo 16-29-2 237 C.
Receiving-Marquan 2-27, Scurry 1-13 B; Chesney 6-92, Clayton 5-61, Pottieger 2-44, Blasingame 3-40 C.
Records-Bridgeton 7-3; Cinnaminson 6-3.