Ishmail Naji helps Vikings stay perfect - High School Football

Ishmail Naji helps Vikings stay perfect - High School Football

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The Boys Basketball Elite 11

A ranking of teams in the Cape-Atlantic League; Colonial Conference; Burlington County League; Olympic Conference and Tri-County Conference. Also ranked are Shore Conference teams that compete for South Jersey titles. Rankings selected by The Press high school sports staff based on staff observation, research and interviews with players and coaches.

1. Paul VI (1) 4-0

2. Holy Spirit (3) 4-1

3. Atlantic City (5) 2-1

4. Haddonfield (6) 5-0

5. CBA (7) 2-2

6. Bishop Eustace (8) 5-1

7. Trenton Catholic (4) 2-3

8. Pitman (2) 3-1

9. Eastern (UR) 4-0

10. St. Augustine Prep (10) 4-0

11. Wildwood Catholic (11) 4-2

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Ishmail Naji helps Vikings stay perfect

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Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2010 12:01 am | Updated: 7:12 pm, Sat Sep 25, 2010.

ATLANTIC CITY - As the seconds on the scoreboard counted down the last minute on Friday night, Atlantic City High School junior wide receiver Ishmail Naji couldn't keep the smile off his face.

"There's no doubt about it - Atlantic City football is back," Naji said after the Vikings defeated Absegami 20-6 in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division matchup. Atlantic City improved to 3-0 under first-year coach Thomas Kelly. Absegami, which is No. 11 in The Press Elite 11, dropped to 1-2.

There's good cause for Naji's optimism.

The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder caught five passes for 128 yards and one touchdown against the Braves, and his teammates played better as the game went on. In the fourth quarter - during which Atlantic City outscored the visitors 14-0 - Absegami sophomore quarterback Rashad Kinlaw had little or no time to find his receivers. Naji, also a defensive end, even contributed a fourth-down sack in the game.

"That young man had a great week of practice," Kelly said. "You don't just win the game on Friday night, under the lights. You win games like this on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He practiced very well, and that carried over into the game."

Naji's pure athleticism on consecutive plays helped the Vikings tie the game at 6-6 before halftime.

Absegami had jumped out to a 6-0 lead on the first drive of the game, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Kinlaw to sophomore wideout Taylor Bing. But with 7 minutes, 27 seconds left in the second quarter, Atlantic City senior quarterback Jamal Anderson floated a ball up high that Naji pulled down for a 37-yard gain. On the next snap, Anderson hit him again with a quick out pass to the left, and Naji broke several tackles on his way to an 18-yard touchdown.

The Braves' offense looked strong on its first drive, with senior running back Ben Martin accumulating 24 yards rushing on that possession. But the Absegami star picked up an ankle injury and only played sporadically after that.

"We didn't play well on either side of the ball," Braves coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "Losing Martin's effectiveness was a big factor in the game, but Atlantic City just played much better than we did."

Absegami senior running back Trevon Chance was more to the point about the Braves' performance.

"We just folded tonight," he said.

Both teams played a sloppy third quarter that was marred by some bad shotgun snaps and penalties, but a late-arriving crowd got the sense that the Vikings could pull an upset.

The fourth quarter was all Atlantic City.

The Vikings took a 12-6 lead when Anderson threw a perfect pass into the back, left side of the end zone, where junior wideout Xavier Jackson caught the ball for a 17-yard score while falling on his back.

The Vikings extended their lead to 20-6 when Anderson ran into the middle of the line on a quarterback keeper and shed two tacklers before breaking the the outside for a 35-yard touchdown. He then hit Naji with a University of Florida-style jump pass for a two-point conversion.

Atlantic City senior defensive back Malik Wellman sealed the game by intercepting a long Kinlaw pass. It was fitting that Wellman would come up big again - in the third quarter, he had made a touchdown-saving tackle at the goal line that caused a fumble that the Vikings recovered for a touchback, keeping the game tied.

"A lot of people counted us out," Wellman said. "We came out here with a point to prove tonight."

Naji talked about the understanding he has with his quarterback, Anderson, who often throws the ball on timing patterns before the receiver even turns around.

"He just throws the ball up and I go and get it - that's sort of what we do," Naji said. "It worked well for us tonight."

With an open week coming up, the Vikings, who will host Buena Regional on Oct. 8, are in a good position. But Kelly wants his players to keep it all in perspective.

"We've created a bit of a buzz here in the community," he said. "But I told the players, we can't act like this was the Super Bowl and then throw away everything we're working for. Our staff won't let that happen."

Contact James Clark:


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Cape-Atlantic League National Conference

School Conference Overall
St. Augustine Prep 7-0 8-2
Bridgeton 7-1 8-3
Cedar Creek 6-1 7-2
Buena Regional 5-3 5-5
Ocean City 3-4 4-5
Middle Township 2-5 3-6
Vineland 2-6 2-7
Pleasantville 1-6 2-7
Lower Cape May Regional 0-7 0-8

Cape-Atlantic League American Conference

School Conference Overall
Holy Spirit 7-0 10-0
St. Joseph 6-1 9-1
Millville 6-2 7-3
Hammonton 5-2 6-3
Atlantic City 3-4 4-5
Absegami 2-5 4-5
Oakcrest 1-6 2-7
Mainland Regional 1-6 3-6
Egg Harbor Township 1-6 2-7

Shore Conference A South

School Conference Overall
Jackson Memorial 6-1 7-3
Brick Township 5-2 8-3
Toms River South 5-2 7-3
Brick Memorial 4-3 6-4
Lacey Township 3-4 5-5
Southern Regional 3-4 4-5
Toms River East 1-5 3-6
Toms River North 0-6 1-8

Shore Conference B South

School Conference Overall
Barnegat 5-1 9-1
Central Regional 5-2 5-4
Monsignor Donovan 4-2 4-5
Lakewood 4-3 6-3
Jackson Liberty 3-4 4-5
Manchester Township 3-3 3-6
Pinelands Regional 1-5 1-8
Pt. Pleasant Boro 1-6 1-9

West Jersey Football League Royal Division

School Conference Overall
Camden 4-0 9-1
Delsea Regional 4-1 9-2
Woodrow Wilson 3-1 4-5
Bishop Eustace 1-4 5-4
Cumberland Regional 1-4 1-8
Deptford 1-4 1-8

West Jersey Football League Classic Division

School Conference Overall
Pennsville 5-0 8-2
Salem 4-1 5-5
Gloucester 3-2 3-6
Clayton 1-3 3-6
Pitman 1-3 2-7
Wildwood 0-5 2-5

Scoring leaders

Name School Total points
Lamont Harris St. Augustine Prep 126
Stefon Bowman Bridgeton 110
David Hood Absegami 108
Christian Tutela Lacey Township 100
Taalib Gerald Holy Spirit 96
Cappadonna Miller Bridgeton 92
Ryquell Armstead Millville 90
Rob Ennis Millville 90
Cody Sampson St. Joseph 84

Rushing touchdowns

Name School TDs
Lamont Harris St. Augustine Prep 21
Stefon Bowman Bridgeton 16
David Hood Absegami 15
Taalib Gerald Holy Spirit 14
Ryquell Armstead Millville 13

Passing touchdowns

Name School TDs
Tom Kelly Lacey Township 19
Jose Tabora St. Augustine Prep 19
Jamir Prevard Atlantic City 16
Ty Mindish Mainland Regional 13

Receiving touchdowns

Name School TDs
Christian Tutela Lacey Township 14
Austin Francisco St. Augustine Prep 12
Alex Padovani Hammonton 7
Isiah Graves Atlantic City 7
Jim Brennan Mainland Regional 7
LaDarrell Dixon Oakcrest 7

Field goal leaders

Name School Number Longest in yards
Jon Kubricki Pinelands Regional 5 36
Ryan Ulrich Barnegat 4 37
Joe Stadnicki Ocean City 4 38
Franco Rifici Holy Spirit 4 27
Alex Padovani Hammonton 3 30
Ryan Davis Cumberland Regional 3 47
Kyle Snow St. Augustine Prep 3 32
Mike McGarry
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James Clark
  • James Clark
  • Assistant Soccer Coach at St. Augustine Prep
  • James Clark has been writing about soccer for various media outlets, including The Press of Atlantic City, for 15 years. The Northfield resident coached travel teams in the South Jersey Soccer League for a decade and is currently an assistant soccer coach at St. Augustine Prep. Clark's blog will appear three times a week and daily during this summer's World Cup.