ABSECON - Coach Charles Roman of the Holy Spirit High School football team greeted Sebastian Ljoka and the rest of the Spartans' defense as the players came to the sidelines in the second quarter Friday night.
"I was surprised," Ljoka said.
Roman normally calls the offensive and defensive plays from the press box but felt the need for some person-to-person communication because of the way Absegami quarterback Rashad Kinlaw was running through the Spirit defense.
"He came down to handle business," Ljoka said of Roman.
Whatever the coach said worked.
Spirit slowed Kinlaw, dominated on offense and scored 29 straight points to turn a one-point deficit into a 42-14 win. Spirit running back Donta Pollock rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while Nigel Jones rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
"They came out in big splits early and let Kinlaw find a spot to run," Roman said. "I knew we had to do something different, but I wasn't sure what it was. We settled down and changed the scheme."
Fans filled the bleachers at Holy Spirit on a cool night to watch this Cape-Atlantic league interdivision game. Spirit (1-1) is No. 1 in The Press Elite 11. The Spartans beat Oakcrest 41-16 in last week's opener but had to forfeit the game for using an academically ineligible player.
Friday's contest resembled a video game in the first half as the offenses drove up and down the field.
The 6-foot-2 Kinlaw weaved his way through the Spirit defense for gains of 22, 30, 34 and 14 yards to spark Absegami to a 14-13 second-quarter lead.
Spirit didn't panic.
"Looks like we're going to have to win in the fourth quarter," Pollock said on the sidelines in the second quarter.
The Spartans didn't need to wait that long. The game turned in Spirit's favor late in the first half.
Absegami (1-1) dropped what appeared to be a certain 41-yard touchdown pass that would have given the Braves at least a 20-13 lead.
"We got lucky," Roman said. "We blew a coverage."
Absegami then faced a fourth-and-7 from the Holy Spirit 41-yard line. The Braves went for it and threw an incomplete pass.
"They've been extremely successful blocking punts," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "Plus we thought we were moving the ball pretty well. We knew we needed to take chances to win the football game. I'd rather have us take our chances."
Spirit took over with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first half and needed just seven plays to score and take a 21-14 lead. Quarterback Tom Hehre threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dan Mastromatteo with nine seconds left.
Spirit dominated the second half. Roman never returned to the press box, also spending the third and fourth quarters on the sideline.
"I felt it was important I was down there with the kids," he said, "because if they went to something else we were going to have to make a quick change."
Kinlaw ran six times for 16 yards in the third and fourth quarters. Ljoka, a lineman, made three tackles for losses. Linebacker Ethan Gambale twice chased down Kinlaw in the backfield losses.
Spirit also wore Absegami down with its huge offensive line and the power running of Pollock and Jones.
Absegami appeared to have Pollock and Jones stopped on several runs. A few moments later, both backs would somehow burst into the clear.
"We got worn down," Scuderi said. "They outweigh us by 80 pounds a man upfront."
Spirit began the season with plenty of hype. Oakcrest and Absegami both challenged the Spartans early and faded late. The Spartans said that's no coincidence.
"We're built for the fourth quarter," Jones said. "We're built to just wear people down."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Absegami 7 7 0 0-14
Holy Spirit 6 15 14 7-42
HS-Jones 30 run (kick missed)
A-Bing 9 (Della Vecchia kick)
HS-Pollock 20 run (Worthington kick)
A-Kinlaw 9 run (Della Vecchia kick)
HS-Mastromatteo 2 pass from Hehre (Pollock run)
HS-Pollock 5 run (Worthington kick)
HS-Pollock 4 run (Worthington kick)
HS-Jones 4 run (Worthington kick)
Rushing-Kinlaw 16-119 AB. Pollock 32-235, Jones 25-179 HS.
Passing-Kinlaw 5-12-0-16 AB. Hehre 3-5-0-46 HS.
Receiving-Cottman 2-8 AB. Rubino 2-37 HS.
Records-Holy Spirit 1-1; Absegami 1-1