MAYS LANDING - Oakcrest High School coach Chuck Smith thought his team played two-thirds of a game against Vineland, citing the Falcons' defense and special teams for outstanding performances.
That was enough to win.
With just a bit of offense mixed in too, Oakcrest scored three first-half touchdowns and breezed to a 21-0 win over the Fighting Clan in a Cape-Atlantic League interdivision game. Both teams are 2-3.
The Falcons blocked a Vineland punt and recovered on the visitors' 1-yard line, taking it in on the next play for an early score. The next TD occurred when Oakcrest linebacker Brandon Bell forced a fumble and picked it up for a 55-yard score.
The final Falcons touchdown came on the heels of a 20-yard punt return by Mark Clements in the waning moments of the first half. Oakcrest punter Stephen Adkisson kept the penalty-plagued Fighting Clan from getting good field position.
"I thought our defense was outstanding, and Brandon was like a man possessed at linebacker,," Smith said. "They had no answer for him. He's a special player. Steve's punting was outstanding and it kept us out of bad situations. The offense wasn't very good. I give credit to Vineland. They fought to the bitter end."
The blocked punt occurred in the first three minutes of the game, and defensive lineman Charles Braun recovered on the Vineland one. Oakcrest quarterback Quaashie Jetter went off right guard for a 1-yard touchdown on the next play, and kicker Brian Camey booted the first of three extra points to make it 7-0 Falcons.
Jetter didn't play the rest of the game due to a mild ankle sprain, and Oakcrest backup quarterback Danny Smith had modest numbers. He completed just 2-of-9 passes for 14 yards, but he threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Clements, who dove for the catch in the end zone near the left sideline.
"Danny did a nice job. He'd start on many other teams," Smith said. "Quaashie has a mild ankle sprain and with a good lead we could rest him. If things had gotten hairy, we might have done something else. He's walking on it, and he should be ready for next week."
On the first play of the second quarter, Bell forced a fumble as he grabbed Vineland quarterback Tory Clark in the backfield, and Bell picked it up for a 55-yard touchdown return. It was junior Bell's first defensive touchdown.
"The coaches called a great play and I hit the gap," Bell, 16, a Mays Landing resident, said. "It happened just like that, and it felt good to score."
Vineland showed plenty of life on offense but mistakes and penalties kept the Fighting Clan off the board. Three penalties kept the visitors from marching late in the half, and Oakcrest's Clements returned a punt 20-yards to the Vineland 14-yard line. Smith hit Akmed Muhammad with a pass to the one,
Smith spiked the ball to stop the clock, and then passed to Clements for the final score with 19 seconds left in the half.
Smith is also the Oakcrest starting free safety. "It was tough doing both," said Smith, a 16-year-old Mays Landing resident. "I was nervous at quarterback and my teammates in the huddle told me to calm down. Mark made a great catch on the touchdown. He really helped me a lot. I had a lot of guys helping me both on offense and defense."
Vineland had nine first downs to Oakcrest's two, and outgained the Falcons on the ground. The Fighting Clan drove to the Oakcrest 10 early in the fourth quarter, but two incomplete passes ended the drive.
"We outgained them, but the turnovers hurt us, plus poor field position," Vineland coach Josh Hedgeman said. "The touchdown right before the half hurt us. We have a young team. We had a good effort but we made mistakes. The penalties hurt us. There aren't many second-and-25 or second-and-15 plays."
Contact Guy Gargan:
Vineland 0 0 0 0-0
Oakcrest 7 14 0 0-21
O-Jetter 1 run (Camey kick)
O-Bell 55 fumble return (Camey kick)
O-Clements 1 pass from Smith (Camey kick)
TEAM STATS V O
First downs 9 2
Rushing 53 20
Passing 33 14
Turnovers 2 1
Rushing-V-Clark 10--10, Nelson 15-66, Spencer 6--3, Rankin 2-0, Morgan 7-0. O-Jetter 2-5, Smith 5-1, Bell 2-10, Adkisson 4-5, Santiago 2--3, Muhammad 1-4.
Passing-V-Clark 3-8-2-33. O-Jetter 0-1-0-0, Smith 2-9-1-14.
Receiving-V-Douglas 1-20, Morgan 2-13. O-Muhammad 1-13, Clements 1-1.
Records-Oakcrest 2-3; Vineland 2-3.