EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Senior Kevin Marquez was all smiles after the final whistle blew on Friday night, and with good reason.
Marquez, a wide receiver, linebacker and punter, had just helped host Egg Harbor Township High School (5-2) post a 24-6 win over Vineland (3-4) in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division matchup. But his contributions won't necessarily show up on the stats sheet.
With the Eagles holding a 14-6 lead, coach Tony DeRosa decided to go for fourth-and-2 with the ball on Vineland's 12-yard line midway through the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Jon Kopistecki rolled slightly to his left, then lofted a short pass to the right side of the field toward Marquez.
The 6-foot-1 wideout snared the ball at its highest point and bulled his way forward for a 4-yard gain.
On the next play, senior running back Stephan Thomas ran 8 yards for a touchdown with 5 minutes, 6 seconds left in the third quarter. Tim Mason's extra point made it 21-6 to all but decide the game.
Marquez made sure of that on the Fighting Clan's next possession, chasing down Vineland senior quarterback Darius Flowers for a 15-yard sack. In the span of a few minutes, Marquez put his stamp on the game.
"I enjoy being a leader on our defense," Marquez said. "We're a very spirited group. There's not another defense in the league that I would rather be a part of."
But it's Marquez's offensive contributions that also had DeRosa grinning after the game.
"We wanted to get the ball in Kevin's hands (on the fourth-down play) because he's a guy that can make things happen," DeRosa said. "In that situation, we're looking to score some points, so I decided not to go for the field goal. When we were able to punch it in, and that really kept the momentum going in our favor."
Marquez's role in the Eagles' win didn't stop with those two plays. In the fourth quarter, his line-drive punt bounced just in front of Vineland senior Brian Winchester.
Winchester tried to field the ball after a low bounce, but it bounced off his hands and was recovered by Eagles senior Markendy Smith. Mason's 20-yard field goal with 7:20 left in the game made it 24-6.
The Eagles' defense shut down Winchester all night. Vineland's main offensive weapon had just 41 yards on 15 carries. Fighting Clan coach Josh Hedgeman admitted that his offense was out of sync.
"I told my players that we did some things well," Hedgeman said. "But I also told them that we allowed Egg Harbor Township to do most of the things they wanted to do in their base offense. They took us out of our base offense, for the most part. Then, you end up doing things that don't have the highest percentage of success."
Egg Harbor Township took a 7-0 lead with 5:59 left in the first quarter. Thomas, who finished with 74 yards rushing on 18 carries, capped off a drive that began on the Vineland 37-yard line with a 2-yard touchdown run. Mason converted the extra point.
The Fighting Clan cut the deficit to 7-6 in the second quarter. The key play of their scoring drive was a 69-yard pass from Flowers to senior wideout Bob Romano. Flowers eventually ran for a 1-yard touchdown, but the extra-point failed.
Egg Harbor Township made it 14-6 on the next drive when Kopistecki hit a wide-open Thomas with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Mason nailed the extra point to give the Eagles the edge before halftime.
Contact James Clark:
Vineland 0 6 0 0- 6
Egg Harbor 7 7 7 3- 24
EHT- Thomas 2 run (Mason kick)
V- D. Flowers 1 run (kick failed)
EHT- Thomas 36 pass from Kopistecki (Mason kick)
EHT- Thomas 8 run (Mason kick)
EHT- Mason 20 field goal
First downs 14 27
Rushing yards 39 129
Passing yards 95 89
Turnovers 2 1
Rushing-Vineland, Winchester 15-41, Nelson 7-9, D. Flowers 5 (-12), Clark 1-1. Egg Harbor, Thomas 18-74, Kopistecki 7-40, Newmones 5-25, Moody, 4-0, Garris 3-9, Dixon 2-0, Smith 1-4, Mays 1-3, Nagbe 1-3, Wong 1(-29).
Passing-Vineland, D. Flowers 4-14-1-95. Egg Harbor, Kopistecki 6-12-1-89.
Receiving-Vineland, Ribot 3-26, Romano 1-69. Egg Harbor, Bolden 2-28, Marquez 2-13, Thomas 1-36, Moody 1-12.
Records- Vineland 3-4; Egg Harbor 5-2.