MILLVILLE - Matt Clayton loves tough yards.
Forget the pretty stuff outside the tackles.
The Egg Harbor Township High School fullback would rather go up the middle doing his best impression of a battering ram.
"That's the way I like to run the ball," Clayton said. "I like to run into people and carry people."
Clayton's late fourth-quarter touchdown capped off a season- and career-best offensive day for the senior as the Eagles overcame an early 16-point deficit to beat Millville 27-23 in a Cape-American League American Conference football game Friday night.
Clayton punished would-be Millville tacklers all game long, but his biggest run of the game turned out to be one of his easiest.
Millville quarterback Rashon Sorrell scored a touchdown on a 4-yard sneak up the middle to give the Thunderbolts, the No. 11 team in The Press Elite 11, a 23-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
EHT marched down the field after Sorrell's score and found itself with a fourth down and a long yard with time winding down after Clayton got stopped for no gain on third-and-1.
Everyone on both sides of the field knew it would be Clayton. They were right.
The senior back bounced left and saw daylight.
"I just wanted to get the first down so we could win this game," said Clayton. "I saw the open field and just went."
Clayton scored his second touchdown of the quarter on an 11-yard run with just 1 minute, 14 seconds left in the game.
EHT's defense stopped Millville's last-gasp effort in just four plays.
The comeback wasn't the first this season for Egg Harbor Township.
The Eagles came back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Hammonton on Sept. 21.
"When we're down, we know to never give up," Clayton said. "Everyone on the team sticks together and we pull through. I know I can always count on the guy next to me."
EHT coach Tony DeRosa stressed the little things in the post-game huddle.
The Eagles committed only two penalties for 10 yards and had one turnover.
"You took care of the little things and the big thing happened," DeRosa told his team.
Clayton finished with 191 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Kicker Tim Mason connected on two field goals, a 22-yarder in the second quarter and a 26-yarder in the fourth.
The Thunderbolts led 16-0 after one quarter thanks to a pair of big plays.
Sorrell threw a 75-yard touchdown to Alskee Downing on third-and-11 midway through the first and then saw a shovel pass to DeQuan Bowman go for a 49-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in the quarter.
Millville coach Jason Durham stacked the box at times Friday but still couldn't find an answer for Clayton.
"I think once he got rolling it was really difficult to stop him," Durham said. "We missed some critical tackles on a couple second- and third-and-long situations that hurt us, and they just played better than us in the second half."
Sorrell finished with 122 yards passing and two touchdowns and added the rushing touchdown in the fourth. Sophomore running back Rob Ennis ran for 129 yards on 19 carries.
Contact John O'Kane:
Egg Harbor Township 0 3 7 17-27
Millville 16 0 0 7-23
M-VanDemark 25 field goal
M-Downing 75 pass by Sorrell (VanDemark kick)
M-Bowman 49 pass by Sorrell (kick failed)
EHT-Mason 22 field goal
EHT-Doughty 19 run (Mason kick)
EHT-Mason 26 field goal EHT-Clayton 2 run (Mason kick)
M-Sorrell 4 run (VanDemark kick)
EHT-Clayton 11 run (Mason kick)
Team stats EHT M
Rushing 255 135
Passing 65 122
First downs 15 11
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties 2-10 2-18
Rushing-EHT, Clayton 26-191, Doughty 10-30, Moore 10-24, Rice 4-10. Millville, Ennis 19-129, Bowman 2-5, McShan 1-4, Rivera 1-1, Sorrell 4-(-4).
Passing-EHT, Doughty 5-8-65-0; Millville, Sorrell 3-9-122-0, Ennis 0-1-0-0.
Receiving-EHT, Rice 1-27, Nagbe 1-15, Moore 2-13, Smith 1-10. Millville, Downing 1-75, Bowman 1-49, Ennis 1-(-2).
Records-EHT 3-3. Millville 3-3.