ATLANTIC CITY - With the game on the line in the fourth quarter and the situation not looking good, the players in the Atlantic City High School huddle, led by sophomore quarterback Robert Parker, decided it was time to have fun on Friday.
Soon they were really having fun, with the winning touchdown.
Parker, in his first varsity start, orchestrated a six-play, 69-yard drive that propelled Atlantic City to a 13-9 victory over St. Augustine Prep in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division game.
St. Augustine had just kicked a 30-yard field goal to break a 6-6 tie with under nine minutes left to play.
Following an incomplete pass from his own 31-yard line in A.C.'s next possession, Parker fired a 35-yard pass over the middle to senior wide receiver Radi Tolbert to the Prep 34.
Four plays later, Vikings sophomore running back Ahmaad Williams went seven yards off left guard for the winning score.
It was only Williams' second carry of the game, and the Hermits' defense was caught off guard.
"In the huddle everybody was saying 'play and have fun,' and we got the big play," said Parker, an Atlantic City resident, of the pass play.
"We did that and got everybody excited. I had the jitters in the first half, but then I calmed down."
The Atlantic City victory was reminiscent of the Vikings' 26-24 comeback win over St. Augustine in last year's season-opening game. The Vikings went on to a 7-4 season in coach Thomas Kelly's first year.
"I hope it gets us going to a season like last year, because we need that," Atlantic City coach Thomas Kelly said.
"It was our first game and we made many mistakes that we need to correct in practice. But there were some great things."
After the pass to Tolbert on the winning march, Parker took control.
He hit wide receiver Ishmail Naji for nine yards to the 26, got a first down with six yards on a keeper, and passed to the left to Naji for a first down at the seven. Williams' TD with 5:07 left was the next play.
"The team knew when things were not going good to keep fighting," Kelly said. "It only takes one play. That's the good thing about high school football. The offensive line did a good job. They got a great push (on the winning touchdown run)."
There were opening-day mistakes, but the game was well-played and close all the way.
St. Augustine workhorse running back John Barillo gained 71 yards on 21 carries, and the Hermits racked up 12 first downs to A.C.'s six.
Barillo powered off right guard for a 3-yard touchdown on the Prep's first possession with less than three minutes gone in the game.
But the extra point kick was blocked and it was 6-0 St. Augustine.
"We made a lot of mistakes," St. Augustine coach Dennis Scuderi said.
"We had 10 men on the field for the extra point, and it was blocked in the gap that it left. They were keying on (Barillo). We need to execute our offense better. Our defense played a great game, but our special teams weren't good. They made some plays on us in the fourth quarter. They have good skill players who can make plays."
The Vikings evened the score at 6-6 in the third quarter when Parker tossed seven yards to Tolbert, who made a diving catch in the end zone. A pass for two points failed.
"I shook off the defense by turning around on my route and making a move in the other direction," said Tolbert, an Atlantic City resident.
The Prep went up 9-6 with 8:43 left in the game when Taylor Hurff booted a 30-yard field goal.
Contact Guy Gargan:
St. Augustine 6 0 0 3-9
Atlantic City 0 0 6 7-13
SA-Barillo 3 run (kick blocked)
Tolbert 7 pass from Parker (pass failed)
SA-Hurff 30-yard field goal
AC-Williams 7 run (Williams kick)
TEAM STATS SA AC
First downs 12 6
Rushing 134 -15
Passing 36 107
Turnovers 0 1
Rushing-SA-Barillo 21-71, O'Connor 1-5, Gerald 9-24, Gatto 11-34, Calatozzo 1-0. AC-Tolbert 8-9, Hurd 4-3, Williams 2-3, Parker 9--3, Wright 1-8, McCoy 1--35.
Passing-SA-Gatto 2-9-0-36, Class 0-1-0-0. AC-Parker 8-14-0-107.
Receiving-SA-Colatozzo 1-23, Class 1-13. AC-Naji 5-61, Tolbert 3-39, Reynolds 1-5.
Records-A.C. 1-0; Prep 0-1.