CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Middle Township High School football fullback Zack Vogelei pounded the middle of the line the old-fashioned way against Ocean City on Saturday.
It was a good day for old-school football, since the Panthers were wearing vintage purple-and-gold throwback uniforms.
Middle took an early 20-point lead and withstood two Ocean City comebacks to win it 41-21
The Panthers have won three straight games and improved to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference. Ocean City dropped to 0-5 overall and in the conference.
Vogelei, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, scored five touchdowns on runs of 4, 15, 2, 5 and 3 yards and has nine on the year. He totaled 210 yards on 17 carries and caught one pass for 24 yards. He also made some big defensive stops at linebacker.
Vogelei scored the first three touchdowns of the game. Ocean City was geared up to stop the outside running of Middle's Nigel Case, who entered the game with five touchdowns on the year.
"It definitely helped me that they were watching our other runners," said Vogelei, 17, of Cape May Court House. "The line was opening holes for me. It was a great experience. It all started with the line. I didn't think about scoring five touchdowns. As long as we stay as a team and keep winning games, that's what matters."
Down 20-0, Ocean City shocked the Panthers before halftime by scoring two touchdowns in 24 seconds.
Red Raiders running back Owen Dierolf made a diving catch in the left side of the end zone on a 26-yard pass by quarterback Joey Keyes. When Middle decided not to run out the clock out with one second left in the first half, Ocean City cornerback Jon Toro picked off a pass and romped down the right sideline for a score. Keyes' extra point cut the lead to 20-14.
Middle Township coach Frank Riggitano admitted that the pass was his idea.
"It was my fault, and I apologized to the kids at halftime," Riggitano said. "It made me sick to my stomach, but they bailed me out."
The Panthers took the momentum right back after the second-half kickoff. Return man Terrance Toney returned the kick 30 yards to the Middle 41. Vogelei's 48-yard run, a 2-yard run by Case and a O.C. late hit penalty put the ball on the Red Raiders' five. Vogelei powered off right tackle for a score on the next play. Darrell Shelton's kick made it 27-14.
"Ocean City tried to stop our outside game, and they did that effectively, but Zack had a big day," Riggitano said. "As bad as we appeared at times, we still put up 41 points."
Early in the fourth quarter, Ocean City clicked on a fourth and 11 at the Middle 19. Wide receiver Matt Shuler (6 catches for 60 yards) caught a touchdown pass as he beat a defender for the ball on the right sde.
But with 5:40 left, Middle's Toney ran 2 yards up the middle to score for the Panthers and it was 34-21.
Ocean City rarely threw the ball in its first four games, but Keyes attempted 22 passes Saturday, completing 11 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
"We had no choice but to throw (a lot), but it's not what we wanted to do," Ocean City coach Kevin Smith said. "We did OK with it. I think the big play was when it was 20-14 and they had a second and 17, and (Vogelei) got about 50 yards. That gave them the momentum. We didn't tackle well. A lot of what we have to do is on the defensive side of the ball. (Vogelei) was 'the man' on both sides of the ball."
Middle travels to unbeaten Cedar Creek next Saturday for a 1 p.m. game.
"We're excited about the game, and we know they're excited about being undefeated," Riggitano said. "We're looking forward to next Saturday."
Note: The throwback uniforms were Riggitano's idea. Middle Township opened in 1907 and its first colors were purple and gold, the colors of Cape May County. A new high school was built in 1916 and the school changed its colors to orange and black.
Contact Guy Gargan:
Ocean City 0 14 0 7-21
Middle Township 6 14 7 14-41
MT-Vogelei 4 run (pass failed)
MT-Vogelei 15 run (Shelton kick)
MT-Vogelei 2 run (Shelton kick)
OC-Dierolf 26 pass from Keyes (Keyes kick)
OC-Toro 70 interception return (Keyes kick)
MT-Vogelei 5 run (Shelton kick)
OC-Schuler 19 pass from Keyes (Keyes kick)
MT-Toney 2 run (Shelton kick)
MT-Vogelei 3 run (Shelton kick)
TEAM STATS OC MT
First downs 11 13
Rushing 69 324
Passing 141 24
Turnovers 2 2
Rushing-OC-Woolley 19-66, Dierolf 4--4, Chavarria 6-17, Keyes 3--10. MT-Case 11-61, Vogelei 17-210, Durso 2--4, McNeill 5-7, Toney 9-50.
Passiing-OC-Keyes 11-22-141-1. MT-Durso 1-3-24-1.
Receiving-OC-Schuler 6-60, Birch 2-32, Dierolf 3-49. MT-Vogelei 1-24.
Records-Middle 3-2; O.C. 0-5.