HAMMONTON - Hammonton High School football coach Pete Lancetta told his defense this week that every time it came off the field without Winslow Township scoring, it would get a standing ovation.
Lancetta and his coaches spent a lot of time clapping.
Top-seeded Hammonton shut out No. 8 Winslow Township 30-0 in a South Jersey Group III quarterfinal game on a soggy, windy Friday night. Hammonton (8-1) is No. 7 in The Press' Elite 11.
"To shut a team out like that, our defense did a great job," Lancetta said. "We couldn't have written a better script."
Next week, Hammonton will face the winner of today's 1 p.m. game between No. 5 Seneca and No. 4 Burlington Township.
On Friday, however, the Blue Devils' defense didn't set the tone initially.
On the first play from scrimmage, Hammonton senior quarterback Nick Crescenzo bounced to his left and scored on an 81-yard touchdown run. Crescenzo finished with 157 yards on eight carries, all of which came in the first half. Fullback Josh Baez had 144 yards on 18 carries.
"When you run a play like that for the first touchdown, that gets (Winslow) thinking outside," Lancetta said. "Once they began thinking outside, we ran it inside. Our line did a great job and our halfbacks did great job blocking."
Hammonton didn't wait long after Crescenzo's 81-yarder to score again.
On their third drive, Crescenzo and Baez shared the running duties, with Crescenzo going outside and Baez up the middle.
Crescenzo's second touchdown, a 3-yard run, made it 16-0 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter. Hammonton went for a 2-point conversion on all four of its touchdowns, making three of them.
The second quarter began similarly to the first.
This time it took two plays for Hammonton to score. Baez broke free for a 54-yard touchdown to put the Blue Devils up 22-0 with 11:40 left in the first half.
Baez's second touchdown came with 3:55 to go in the third quarter after he ripped five straight runs that averaged just under 10 yards a carry.
"It's big to jump on a team early," Crescenzo said. "You get them thinking that they don't know what they're in for. The line did a great job. With the conditions the way they were, the game plan was to run the ball."
Many observers had thought Winslow Township had a chance to upset Hammonton. The Eagles were widely regarded as the best No. 8 seed in the South Jersey playoffs because of junior Bill Belton, a dual-threat quarterback. He's able to throw with precision and has the speed and athleticism to evade tacklers. However, Hammonton's pass defense was too much.
"We thought we would be careful with the rush and stay in our lanes," Lancetta said. "Bend and not break."
The Blue Devils pressured Belton, who completed 9-of-19 passes for 64 yards, but the secondary was even better. Winslow's offensive line gave Belton time to throw, but he couldn't find anyone open.
The Eagles didn't have any long-range options in the passing game. Most of Belton's throws were less than 10 yards.
"They did a very good job covering the receivers," Winslow coach Mike McBride said. "There were still holes open, but we didn't do a good job finding them. The pass rush starting coming in the second half."
Winslow wasn't able to efficiently move the ball until midway through the second quarter. The Eagles ripped off three straight first downs and moved the ball 49 yards, but they had started on the 1-yard line.
On the next drive, Winslow picked up where it left off and finally got into Hammonton's red zone with under a minute left in the first half.
Back-to-back penalties and a stiff Blue Devils defense allowed for nothing more.
"Nothing that happened had to do with the weather," McBride said. "They did a very nice job running the football. They're good."
Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:
Winslow Township 0 0 0 0-0
Hammonton 16 6 8 0-30
H-N. Crescenzo 79 run (Baez run)
H-N. Crescenzo 3 run (Evans pass from Crescenzo)
H-Josh Baez 54 run (run failed)
H-Baez 9 run (Evans pass from Crescenzo)
First downs 11 7
Rushing 363 97
Passing 0 64
Turnovers 0 0
Rushing-Belton 7-40, Walton 12-46, Hart-Mills 1-12, Goree 1- (-1) WT; N. Crescenzo 8-157, Baez 18-144, D. Crescenzo 5-13, Sanchez 1-15, Rodriguez 1-9, Blake 3-12, Morano 1-2, Mason 1-4, Hadulias 1-7 H.
Receiving-McBride 1-3, Pollitt 1-4, Walton 3-25, Waugh 3-25, Daniels 1-7 WT;
Passing-Belton 9-19-0-64, Goree 0-3-0-0 WT; N. Crescenzo 0-1-0-0 H.
Records-Hammonton 8-1, Winslow 4-5