GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Nick Della Vecchia's first varsity field goal was a big one.
Della Vecchia sent a 32-yarder just over the crossbar late in the first half that turned out to be the only points in Absegami High School's 3-0 win against Mainland Regional on Friday night.
"It was about as memorable as I could make it," Della Vecchia said with a smile.
Not many people expected a 3-0 game from teams with playmakers on both sides of the ball. And if a kicker was going to win Friday's game, Mainland's Jim Cooper would have been the more likely choice. Cooper is one of the top kickers in the state. He was crushing 40-yarders with room to spare before the game.
But it was Della Vecchia who made the clutch field goal.
The sophomore, who is also a receiver, missed a 27-yard attempt early in the first quarter.
"I just knew after the first one was missed that another opportunity would come so I had to just stay focused," Della Vecchia said. "It was 0-0. I just I couldn't let the first one get to me on the next one. I just knew the second one had to go through."
Absegami (4-3) played without its top player, quarterback Rashad Kinlaw, and still managed to keep its playoff hopes alive. Kinlaw is likely out for the season with a broken fibula, suffered on the team's first drive in last week's 27-7 win against St. Augustine Prep.
The Braves, particularly the defense, rallied around sophomore quarterback Mike Dolan. Dolan officially started the team's season opener but played just one drive. He came in last week and led the team's win over the Prep.
"This team very easily could have folded last week when Rashad goes out on the second play of the game, but they rallied and found a way to win two games and I'm proud of them," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said. "They pick each other up.
"The kids just kept playing and believing in each other. Our seniors wanted to keep their season alive and they played like that today."
Absegami held Mainland to just 89 yards of offense. Mainland didn't pick up a first down in the opening half and finished with only four in the game.
"The defense really rallied around (Kinlaw) being out," Dolan said. "They tried to pick me up, which they did, and I'm thankful for that. Our whole team just played like we were going to win."
Dolan set up Della Vecchia's kick with a big pass to Tyler Bing, who is now the team's top playmaker with Kinlaw out. On third-and-4 at midfield, Dolan took a snap and rolled right. He looked upfield and stepped into a thrown. Dolan nearly lost his footing but got the throw off before getting tackled.
"I felt pressure from behind so I took a side step up," Dolan said. "I didn't get my leg around and I lost my footing. Luckily I had enough on it."
Bing caught the ball over two defenders in stride at the 12-yard line and carried a host of Mustangs with him inside the 5. A facemask penalty made it first-and-goal at the 2.
"I didn't know really what happened," Dolan said. "I didn't know if it was an interception or what. I got tackled so I didn't know what was going on. I got up and saw Tyler Bing carrying four guys, almost into the end zone, I knew we did something good."
Absegami's David Hood finished with 18 carries for 120 yards. Defensive end Kevin Duncan made two key sacks in the fourth quarter.
Mainland Regional 0 0 0 0 0-0
Absegami 0 3 0 0--3
A-Della Vecchia 32 field goal
TEAM STATS MR A
First downs 4 6
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties 4-17 7-50
Rushing 62 123
Passing 27 76
Rushing: Mainland, Waller 8-25, Kaczmarski 5-21, Storr 6-16, DeSalle 3-6; Bradway 9-(-6); Absegami, Hood 18-120, Bing 14-21, Dolan 8-(-18).
Passing: Mainland, Bradway 3-8-0-27; Absegami, Dolan 5-9-0-76.
Receiving: Mainland, Storr 1-17, Wilcox 1-5, Kaczmarski 1-5; Absegami, Bing 1-47, Miller 2-17, Gilbert 2-12.
Records-Mainland 3-4; Absegami 4-3.