HAMMONTON - Hammonton High School football coach Pete Lancetta was curious how his young team would respond to its first loss of the season.
The Blue Devils bounced back in a big way Friday night, overpowering Absegami for a 33-7 victory in a Cape-Atlantic League interdivisional game.
"Anytime you get beat after going undefeated, you're not really sure how kids are going to react," Lancetta said. "I'm proud of the way they responded (after losing to Atlantic City 13-9 last week). They really did a nice job tonight."
Hammonton (7-1), the No. 9 team in The Press Elite 11, had nothing at stake against Absegami except its pride. The Blue Devils clinched the CAL National Division championship earlier in the season and were already assured of being the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group III playoffs when the official pairings are announced Monday.
Still, they wanted to prove that last week's loss to Atlantic City was not going to affect their quest for more success this season. Besides at least one playoff game, the Blue Devils also will take on unbeaten St. Joseph of Hammonton, the No. 1 team in the Elite 11, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
"Last week wasn't the Hammonton football team we know," Blue Devils senior linebacker Jordan Brown said. "We were ready for this game. We knew we had to step up."
Hammonton wasted little time in taking control against Absegami (4-4), which needed a win to have a shot at qualifying for the S.J. Group IV playoffs.
The Blue Devils scored on their first four possessions to take a 26-0 halftime lead. Junior running back David Williams ran for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns on the first two series and then junior quarterback Christian Mortellite fired a pair of TD passes to senior wide receiver Robert Barbieri. Williams added his third TD of the game in the third quarter with a 3-yard run.
Mortellite was perfect in the first half, completing all eight of his passes for 105 yards and the TDs despite a strong wind that swirled around the field. He finished 10-for-11 for 171 yards with two TDs and an interception. Barbieri was his top receiver, catching five passes for 68 yards.
"I came out a couple of hours before the game to get used to the wind and it didn't bother me at all during the game," said Mortellite, a 6-foot-5, 185-pounder. "We had a little bump in the road last week and we took it pretty hard. I threw two interceptions and I worked hard to come back from that tonight."
Brown led a solid Hammonton defense with four tackles for losses and a sack. Running back Tyler Bing was Absegami's offensive standout, rushing for a game-high 151 yards on 16 carries.
The Braves avoided a shutout on sophomore quarterback Mike Dolan's 12-yard TD run with 6 minutes, 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
"I'm at a loss for words," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "We have an opportunity (to possibly qualify for the playoffs) and we didn't play. It's very frustrating. At the end of the day we have to find a way to play better in big games."
Contact David Weinberg:
Absegami 0 0 7 0- 7
Hammonton 12 14 7 0- 33
H-Da. Williams 1 run (kick failed)
H-Da. Wiliams 1 run (run failed)
H-Barbieri 13 pass from Mortellite (Padovani kick)
H-Barbieri 1 pass from Mortellite (Padovani kick)
A-Dolan 12 run (Della Vecchia kick)
H-Da. Williams 3 run (Padovani kick)
TEAM STATS A H
First Downs 10 21
Rushing Yards 191 174
Passing Yards 6 146
Turnovers 1 1
RUSHING: Absegami, Bing16-151, Hood 16-41, Hubbard 3-13, Jenkins 2-6, Dolan 6-(-8), Vecchia 1-(-12); Hammonton, Da. Williams 14-73, Forchion 6-43, Do. Williams 2-19, Brennan 4-12, Rosu 1-10, Brown 2-9, Siligato 2-6, Fucetola 1-3, Whitney 1-1, Bevan 1-(-2).
PASSING: AbsegamiDolan 5-7-6-1; Hammonton, Mortellite 10-11-146-1.
RECEIVING: Absegami, Gilbert 1-7, Jenkins 1-3, Hood 2-2, Miller 1-1; Hammonton, Barbieri 5-68, Da. Williams 2-30, Capretti 1-19, Brown 1-15, Forchion 1-14.
Records-Absegami 4-4; Hammonton 7-1.