MAYS LANDING - The wetter and muddier it got at Oakcrest High School on Friday night, the better Hammonton's football team performed.
The Blue Devils (3-0), ranked No. 7 in The Press Elite 11, overcame torrential rains, ankle-deep mud and a talented Oakcrest team to remain undefeated with a 30-0 victory in a Cape-Atlantic League National Division game.
"I heard before the game that we were going to try to play this no matter what the weather was and I'm glad we did," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "There's nothing wrong with playing in rain and stuff. That's the way football is."
Hammonton's offense and defense both excelled in the adverse conditions.
Once the rain began to let up early in the second quarter, Blue Devils quarterback Christian Mortellite proved that they are not a one-dimensional, power-running offense by combining with wide receiver Jordan Brown on a 43-yard touchdown that gave Hammonton a 7-0 lead.
Mortellite, a 6-foot-5 senior, also hit Brown with a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. He completed 7-of-9 passes for 91 yards with no interceptions.
"Hammonton's always been known for its running game and we have a good one this year, too, but we're able to do some things passing the football," Mortellite said. "I was a little worried when I saw how hard the rain was coming down early in the game, but once it slowed down, I knew we'd be able to throw downfield a little bit."
The Blue Devils relied on that trademark running game to control the clock in the second half.
Fullback David Williams bulled through Oakcrest's tiring defense for 75 of his game-high 93 rushing yards in the last two quarters.
But Hammonton's defense provided the turning point in the game.
Trailing 14-0 late in the second quarter, Oakcrest (1-2) used a 17-yard completion from quarterback Quaashie Jetter to slotback Stephen Adkisson and a 13-yard run by running back Brandon Bell to set up a second-and-goal at the Blue Devils' 2-yard line. A touchdown there would have given the Falcons a much-needed boost going into halftime.
Jetter tried a pair of runs up the middle but was slammed into the mud by a host of Blue Devils defenders.
On fourth down, he took a snap from the shotgun and charged into the right side of the line. He was met by Hammonton linebacker Anthony Scibilia, defensive end Christopher Brennen and five or six other Blue Devil defenders, who combined to keep him out of the end zone.
The Blue Devils, who have allowed just seven points this season, later recorded a safety when defensive tackle Pat Fiorentino and Brennen sacked Jetter in the end zone in the third quarter.
"Once we saw the rain, we knew we'd have an advantage," Scibilia said. "Oakcrest likes to use their speed and make cuts and they couldn't do that. But our defense is pretty good, anyway. As long as we keep our heads up, we can compete against anyone."
With the win, Hammonton took control of the National Division race and also improved its chances of earning a high seed in the South Jersey Group III playoffs.
Oakcrest (1-2), which reached the South Jersey Group IV final last season, must turn its season around in a hurry if it wants to get back to the postseason. The Falcons are also competing in Group III this year.
"The weather was no excuse for us," Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said. "Hammonton came out with more desire and they just outplayed us. But there's a lot of season left and we can still turn things around. We were 1-2 at this time last year and we made the playoffs, so we know it can be done."
Contact David Weinberg:
Hammonton 0 14 9 7 - 30
Oakcrest 0 0 0 0 - 0
H - Brown 43 pass from Mortellite (Padovani kick)
H - Forchion 3 run. (Padovani kick)
H - Brown 15 pass from Mortellite (Padovani kick)
H - Safety (Oakcrest quarterback sacked in end zone)
H - Da. Williams 3 run.
Rushing: Da. Williams 16-93, Brown 5-27, Do. Williams 4-23, Forchion 6-13, Siligato 3-10, Fucetola 2-7, Mortellite 3-(-2), Maimone 1-(-3) H; Bell 7-16, Santiago 4-11, Jetter 14-10 O.
Passing: Mortellite 6-8-91, DelVecchio 0-1-0 H; Jetter 2-3-19 O.
Receiving: Brown 2-58, Barbieri 2-11, Da. Williams 1-11, Forchion 1-6, Do. Williams 1-5 H; Adkisson 2-19 O.
RECORDS: Hammonton 3-0; Oakcrest 1-2.