BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - Millville High School's football team is good again.
The streak of disappointing seasons appears ready to end this year. The Thunderbolts improved to 3-2 - their most victories since they won six games in 2005 - with a 22-6 win over Cape-Atlantic League interconference rival Buena Regional on Friday night.
"Our goal since the beginning of the year was to bring that tradition back to Millville," Thunderbolts quarterback Tasker Robbins said. "That's been our mindset."
Millville is still not ready to challenge for the CAL American Conference title, but the Thunderbolts are no longer one of the doormats of the league. A balanced offense and swarming defense make them a threat to beat almost anyone.
That was evident against Buena (2-2). Senior running back Dominick Askins scored three touchdowns and rushed for 108 yards on just eight carries. Linebacker Daron Moore, safety Shaquille Lee and defensive lineman Dominic Townsend helped hold a dangerous Chiefs offense in check for most of the game.
Buena avoided the shutout with 20 seconds left when freshman quarterback Shannon Rice hit wide receiver Josh Nuneville for a 29-yard touchdown pass.
"I thought our defense played great," Millville coach Josh Durham said. "It seemed like whenever we needed a big stop, we got it."
Whenever the Thunderbolts needed a big play on special teams and offense, they got it, too.
Askins provided a spark for Millville on the very first play with a 90-yard kickoff return. Askins burst through a big hole on the right side, cut back at midfield and easily outran the Chiefs' coverage team to the end zone.
"That really set the tone for the whole game for us," Buena coach Paul Callahan said. "That hole was so big, you could have driven a bus through it."
That was just the first play of a terrific performance from Askins.
Millville was clinging to an 8-0 lead when he took a handoff from Buena's 31-yard line and burst up the left sideline. Just as a Buena defender closed in, Askins juked him to the ground, then raced to the end zone. On the next possession, Askins scored from 21 yards out.
He was part of a strong rushing attack for the Thunderbolts. Once Buena began to wear down, senior Rashad Johnson muscled through the Chiefs and finished with 89 yards on 17 carries. Moore added 58 yards on nine attempts.
"I've got the speed, Rashad has the power and Daron has a little bit of both," Askins said. "When we get that 'Three-Headed Monster' going, it's tough to stop us."
Millville's fans showed their appreciation throughout the game. Buena's cheering section was bigger, but the Thunderbolts' faithful made their presence felt.
After all, it's been a while since they've had a winner in town.
"The fans of Millville know football," Durham said. "When they see us play like this, I think they can tell that we're headed in the right direction. We're not where we want to be just yet, but we're getting there."
Note: Buena senior running back/linebacker Ty Norton was carted off the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital via ambulance. According to Callahan, Norton suffered a rib injury and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
E-mail David Weinberg:
Millville 8 0 14 0 - 22
Buena 0 0 0 6 - 6
M - Askins 90 kickoff return. (Hand pass from Robbins).
M - Askins 31 run. (Johnson run).
M - Askins 21 run. (Run failed).
B - Nuneville 29 pass from Rice. (Run failed).
TEAM STATS Millville Buena
First downs 16 8
Rushing yards 264 158
Passing yards 70 72
Turnovers 1 2
Rushing-Askins 8-102, Johnson 17-89, Moore 9-58, Wallace 3-11, Lindsey 2-6, Rogers 1-(-2) M; Brown 10-94, Haygood 13-36, Norton 3-27, Rice 5-8, Brown 1-(-7) B.
Passing-Robbins 8-13-70 M; Rice 2-2-74, Brown 1-5-(-2) B.
Receiving-Moore 3-28, Hart 3-20, Wallace 1-17, Hand 1-3 M; Hillgrube 1-45, Nuneville 1-29, Haygood 1-(-2) B.
Records-Millville 3-2; Buena 2-2.