MAYS LANDING - The Oakcrest High School football team has the biggest game in school history to look forward to in next week's South Jersey Group IV final against Cherokee.
But the Falcons, No. 9 in The Press Elite 11, didn't have the luxury of an off week or an easy opponent on Thursday.
Absegami took the short drive to Mays Landing to try and send the Falcons to the sectional final on a sour note.
Instead, it was the Braves who were forced to head off to Thanksgiving dinner with a bad taste in their mouths.
A missed extra point in the game's final minute gave Oakcrest a 14-13 win in the Cape-Atlantic League's only intra-district rivalry.
With the win, Oakcrest tied the series record at 17 games a piece.
Oakcrest was down 7-6 in the fourth quarter as quarterback Quaashie Jetter dropped back to pass. The Absegami defense didn't recognize the screen quickly enough and Jetter found a wide-open Brandon Bell on the right side.
A huge block by Oakcrest receiver Akmed Muhammad sprung Bell for a 53-yard touchdown.
"It was a great feeling," Bell said of the go-ahead score. "It was a great block by Akmed right there and I just took the sideline."
The Falcons went for the two-point conversion in hopes of making it a seven-point lead.
Jetter handed off to Joe Sprigg, who bounced right. Sprigg stopped, looked back to the opposite side of the field and threw a strike back to Jetter, who had snuck out of the backfield and into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
But the Braves weren't done.
Absegami started its final drive with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left at its own 8-yard line. Two false-start penalties sent the Braves back to their own 2-yard line.
Quarterback Rashad Kinlaw completed 6-of-8 passes for 93 yards on the drive and capped it off with a 36-yard touchdown to Taylor Bing, who made an off-balance catch before outrunning the Oakcrest secondary.
But with 30 seconds left in the game, Absegami missed the extra point wide to the left.
Oakcrest recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock for the win.
The Falcons hadn't beaten the Braves since a 14-0 win in 2002.
"It happens," Absegami senior running back Ben Martin said. "You can't keep your head down. It's just tough to see it end like this.
"We thought we would send it to overtime and see who was going to win then, but the cards don't always fall your way. I was fortunate to play with these guys and we had a great season."
Kinlaw finished with 126 yards rushing and a touchdown and 101 yards passing and a touchdown.
Martin, who is headed to Rutgers University, was held to 12 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Bell and the Oakcrest defense were all over the field.
"We definitely fly to the ball," Bell said. "We started flying around in our home, 'The Nest.' "
Darrell Edmonds had friends on both sidelines Thursday.
Edmonds graduated from Absegami in 1997 before heading to Delaware, where he was a standout linebacker. Now he is the linebackers coach at Oakcrest and helps out with the defense.
"This is a tough rivalry," Edmonds said. "It always is. We knew coming in that no matter what the records were and no matter what we're playing for next week that it was going to be a tough game and our kids responded enough to get the 'W.' "
So just how much were Edmonds' allegiances divided on Thursday?
"Zero percent," he said with a smile. "There is definitely a tie there and it's good to see those guys, but as soon as that opening kickoff happens, there is no love for Absegami at all."
Contact John O'Kane:
Absegami 7 0 0 6-13
Oakcrest 0 6 0 8-14
A-Kinlaw 77 run (Macauley kick)
O-Adkisson 50 pas by Jetter (kick failed)
O-Bell 53 pass by Jetter (conversion good)
A-Bing 36 pass by Kinlaw (kick failed)
Rushing 152 64
Passing 101 119
First downs 11 6
Penalties 5-38 6-45
Turnovers 2 1
Rushing-Absegami: Kinlaw 17-126, Martin 13-12, Chance 2-12, Bing 2-2; Oakcrest: Jetter 9-37, Bell 5-13, Sprigg 9-7, Santiago 2-5, Adkisson 3-2.
Passing-Absegami: Kinlaw 9-16-101-1; Oakcrest: Jetter 5-15-119-1, Sprigg 0-1-0-0.
Receiving-Absegami: Bing 5-68, Martin 1-13, Collazzo 1-10, Bird 1-8, Blake 1-2; Oakcrest: Adkisson 2-60, Bell 1-53, Clements 1-11, Muhammad 1-(-1).
Records-Absegami 4-6, Oakcrest 9-2.