EGG HARBOR CITY - The offense of the Cedar Creek High School football team, with quarterback Damon Mitchell, poses plenty of problems for defenses.
The undefeated Pirates become even more potent when running back Gary Melton plays the way he did Saturday afternoon.
Melton ran for 139 yards and scored three touchdowns as Cedar Creek beat Middle Township 48-14 in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference game. Cedar Creek (6-0) and St. Augustine (6-0) remain the conference's only undefeated teams.
The two teams will face each other on Thanksgiving.
Mitchell, who has verbally committed to Georgia Tech University, ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 132 yards and another score.
"It instantly takes us to a home-run- type team anytime we can get (Melton) in space or on the edge," Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson said. "With the way Melton played today, it makes us dynamic and explosive on offense."
Saturday was easily Melton's best and most consistent game of the season. The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds.
He showed that speed with a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. In addition to his speed, Melton also ran effectively between the tackles.
Melton said he re-thought his running style after talking with father, also named Gary. The elder Melton starred at running back for Absegami in the late 1980s and later played at Rutgers University.
"I wasn't taking advantage of my speed," the younger Melton said. "I haven't been disappointed (in the season), but I knew I needed to tweak some stuff. I believe I can keep this up."
Mitchell, like the rest of the Pirates, struggled early and excelled late in Saturday's game.
Middle Township (3-3) entered the contest on a three-game winning streak. Saturday's score was 14-14 at halftime, but Cedar Creek overwhelmed the undermanned Panthers in the second half.
Middle faded once two starters left with injuries in the second quarter and did not return. Linebacker and fullback Zack Vogelei re-aggravated a neck stinger. Terrance Toney, who returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to give Middle a 7-0 lead, hurt a hamstring.
"We thought we had a good game plan, and it was working until (the injuries)," Middle coach Frank Riggitano said. "People don't understand how important those guys are. When you factor in (what they do), it's like playing without five starters.
"That being said, injuries are part of the game. They happen to everybody. I don't like the way we finished."
The Pirates scored on five straight possession in the second half. Cedar Creek played a much crisper and more efficient game in the third and fourth quarters.
"In the first half, we were beating ourselves," Watson said. "I told our players, 'Let's not be concerned with who's in or who's out (for Middle). We have to control what we can control.' "
Mitchell was at his best in the third and fourth quarters. He ran six times for 66 yards and scored on a 35-yard run. Mitchell also completed 7-of-12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. It's no coincidence that the touchdown pass was a 14-yarder to Melton.
"People are like we're going to pay attention to Damon and that opens up me," Melton said. "They pay attention to me and that opens up Damon. And then you have our receivers. How are you going to pay attention to them? Everything ends up open."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Middle Township 14 0 0 0 -14
Cedar Creek 6 8 7 27 -48
MT- T. Toney 80 punt return (Shelton kick)
CC- Mitchell 1 run (kick missed)
MT- Case 1 run (Shelton kick)
CC- Mitchell 1 run (Melton run)
CC- Melton 20 run (Kruger kick)
CC- Melton 14 pass from Mitchell (kick blocked)
CC- Mitchell 35 run (Kruger kick)
CC- Melton 63 run (Kruger kick)
CC- Riek 25 run (Kruger kick)
Rushing- MT. T. Toney 4-21; CC. Melton 15-139, Mitchell 19-90 CC.
Passing- MT. Durson 1-3-0-3; CC. Mitchell 10-18-0-132 Receiving - MT. Case 1-3; CC. Graves 5-77
Records- Middle Township 3-0; Cedar Creek 6-0