VINELAND - Everywhere the Millville High School football team looked this week, it found motivation for its Thanksgiving Day rivalry game with Vineland.
As part of the 12th-oldest high school football rivalry in the country, the Thunderbolts usually don't need extra motivation, but this time was different. They read and heard rumblings about how Vineland was going to beat them.
"Kids don't want to be disrespected. They want to prove themselves," Millville coach Jason Durham said. "Our kids did that today."
The Thunderbolts defeated Vineland 28-0 on Thursday in the 139th matchup in a rivalry that began in 1893. Millville (6-4) won its second straight Thanksgiving game against the Fighting Clan (5-5).Vineland leads the series 63-57-19.
The Thunderbolts capped their first winning season since 2005.
The game started in the wrong direction for Millville, with the Thunderbolts throwing interceptions in the end zone on their first two series.
"We told the defense they were going to have to step up after that," senior running back and defensive back Tyson Still said. "For us to put up zero points after they said how many they were going to score is a great accomplishment."
The defense did its job in making Vineland punt. The Fighting Clan gave the ball back in both of those series.
Millville then put the ball in the hands of junior Alquann Jones and Still.
The two of them pounded Vineland's offensive line and combined for 231yards on the ground. Still scored the game's first touchdown on a 38-yard run with 6 minutes, 13 second left in the second quarter.
The Thunderbolts got the score with help from a decoy. They faked a screen pass and handed it instead to Still, who ran in for the touchdown.
"We run a lot of screens and that fake gets a lot of attention," Durham said. "I think it was critically important because at that point it was anyone's game. We got to take back control."
Millville has relied on Jones and Still all season. Jones had 861 yards on the year with 12 touchdowns.
But he wouldn't have gotten the ball as often on Thursday if it weren't for the Thunderbolts' special teams.
Millville practiced more in the last week on punt returns than on any other facet of its game because Vineland lines up in a non-traditional, spread -punt formation, which features two gunners.
The plan was to be aggressive and go after the ball. The Thunderbolts executed the plan well and blocked two punts. They ended up with good field position for most of the game, too.
On the second blocked punt, Jones picked up the ball and scored on a 30-yard fumble recovery to make it 12-0 with 1:57 to go in the first half.
"We were motivated to make sure our special teams were the best on the field today," said Jones, finished with 150 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. "We really had to come together to make sure we got this win for the seniors. When they leave, it's like a big brother leaving."
Vineland couldn't move the ball well and finished with 150 yards of offense. In the second half, the Fighting Clan had just two first downs and got past midfield just once.
Vineland quarterback Darius Flowers found Bob Romano for a 44-yard pass that put the Fighting Clan on the 23-yard line. Junior Marcus Nelson (42 yards, eight carries) and senior Brian Winchester (33 yards, 11 carries)got Vineland to the 15 on two carries, but Millville stuffed the running game at the line of scrimmage on the next two plays to end the Fighting Clan's threat with 5:58 to go in the third quarter.
"It's not just another game," Jones said. "This is the biggest game in the state right here. We had to come here and play hard."
Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:
Millville 0 12 6 10-28
Vineland 0 0 0 0-0
M-Still 38 run (kick failed)
M-Jones 30 fumble recovery (run failed)
M-Slater 19 pass from Lee (pass failed)
M-Jones 18 run (Bell pass from Lee)
M-Safety-sack in end zone
Firsts downs 14 6
Rushing 268 80
Passing 19 70
Turnovers 2 2
Rushing--Millville, Moore 5-30, Jones 20-150, Johnson 1-1, Lee 3-6, McShan 2-3, Mulligan 1-5, Still 11-71, Bell 1-2. Vineland, Winchester 11-33, D. Flowers 3-5, Nelson 8-42.
Receiving-Millville, Slater 1-19. Vineland, Romano 2-53, Ribot 1-10, Toole 1-11, Winchester 1-(-4).
Passing-Millville, Lee 1-3-2-19. Vineland, Flowers 5-13-0-70.
Records-Millville 6-4, Vineland 5-5.