CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Middle Township High School football coach Frank Riggitano abruptly left his team mid-speech following Friday's 27-7 win against Buena Regional.
Riggitano crawled underneath a railing before darting up the stairwell and into the announcer's box. Once there he scaled a ladder before re-emerging atop the booth.
He then led his team and the remaining fans in what could only be described as a cross between an old sea shanty and a fraternity house pledge.
"He said if we won he'd make a fool of himself," Middle senior Nigel Case said with a smile.
The win ensured the Panthers (5-3) of their first trip to the sectional tournament since 2004 and only the third in school history. Middle may even host a South Jersey Group II game, which Riggitano said would be a first at the school.
"We do some crazy things to motivate the kids," Riggitano joked. "These kids worked hard. I told them in August that I believed they could make the playoffs.
"They just had to believe in themselves and they do."
Case and fellow senior linebacker Zach Vogelei each scored two touchdowns.
Case is the team's starting running back but scored each of his touchdowns on the defensive side of the ball.
He put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter with an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown with a minute left.
Case broke free for a 54-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter that was called back on a holding penalty.
Middle would punt on the drive.
But Buena fumbled on its second play and Case came out of nowhere to pick up the ball and score from 30 yards out to give his team a 7-0 lead.
Case made defensive coordinator Matt Wolf's night.
"(Wolf) always wants us to score on defense," Case said. "When the ball is on the ground, we always say, 'scoop and score.' "
Vogelei was equally impressive.
The senior fullback/linebacker scored on two separate 1-yard touchdown runs and also had four tackles for a loss.
Vogelei, listed at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, was met by a host of tacklers on his second score early in the fourth quarter but never actually went to the ground.
The goal line run (that put Middle up 20-0 with 10:54 left in the game) was impressive, but not quite as impressive as his blocking two plays earlier to set up the score.
Vogelei took out two would-be tacklers as Terrance Toney went off tackle and broke free.
Vogelei followed Toney down the sideline and would eventually set a third block on the 40-yard run.
"Whatever helps the team out," Vogelei said simply.
Vogelei is excited to reach the playoffs for the first time.
"It's great that everybody came together and we got it done," he said. "This is unbelievable. We're going into the playoffs with some steam."
Vogelei finished with 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. Toney had 12 carries for 85 yards and Case 14 for 39. James Versage had an acrobatic interception in the third quarter and recovered an onside kick in the fourth.
Robert Bunton had Buena's only touchdown, a 2-yard run in the fourth. Bunton had six catches for 85 yards. Quadir Albright had 11 carries for 75 yards.
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