WEST DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP - There is no replacement for experience. Talent and tradition certainly help, too.
Perennial South Jersey power and top-seeded West Deptford proved that with a 56-7 win over playoff newcomer Barnegat, the No. 5 seed, in the South Jersey Group II semifinals Friday night.
The undefeated Eagles (10-0), who will meet Haddonfield in two weeks in the S.J. Group II final, have a history of excellence, having won four of the last eight S.J. Group II titles, while producing several NCAA Division I players.
They played as if they had been here before.
Barnegat (5-5), meantime, was in unchartered waters, making its first-ever semifinal appearance a week after the five-year-old program earned its initial postseason victory.
"It wasn't one of our better days, but that's a real good team," Barnegat coach Rob Davis said. "It's a new experience for us. They're a better program than us, and we want to get to their level."
West Deptford, No. 5 in The Press Elite 11, showed its skill in multiple ways, beginning with the standout play of back Vaughn Scott. The talented senior, who entered with 1,377 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, broke off scoring runs of 78 and 23 yards in the Eagles' backbreaking 21-0 first quarter.
R.J. Falls' 47-yard interception return was sandwiched between Scott's two first-quarter scores, and was the first of five picks on the night for the Eagles, who had the answers for Bengals star quarterback Nick SanGiacomo.
SanGiacomo is headed to Tulane next season.
"We focused on keeping him in the pocket and limiting his ability to throw out on the edge," Eagles coach Clyde Folsom said.
It was the Eagles' second interception of the night, though, that might have turned the game for good.
Trailing 21-0, Barnegat put together a solid, eight-play drive and looked to be in good position to score from the West Deptford 17-yard line four minutes into the second quarter. But Todd Jarrell jumped in front of a pass and raced 89 yards the other way to the goal line for a four-touchdown advantage that left only the final score in doubt.
By the time the first half ended, it was 56-7 Eagles. None of the West Deptford starters played after halftime.
Scott finished with 140 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries, while West Deptford quarterback Jake Hannan was 5-for-5 for 84 yards and two scores.
For the Bengals, SanGiacomo passed for 168 yards, going 10-for-26. Casey Pinto rushed seven times for 134 yards and had the Bengals' lone score, a sensational 80-yard, second-quarter run.
In spite of the outcome, it was a good learning experience for Barnegat, which hopes eventually to progress to West Deptford's lofty status.
"Them traveling here and playing against a team on their home turf that's undefeated, that's been here before, it's a difficult task," Folsom said. "They've made a step getting to the second round of the playoffs. They have to keep working hard in the offseason and strive to take that next step next year."
Davis knows as much, a point he made even before the contest.
"Our kids took our program to the next level," he said. "I told the kids before the game, win or lose, I couldn't be any prouder of them."
Barnegat 0 7 0 0-7
West Deptford 21 35 0 0-56
W-V. Scott 78 run (B. Cornelius kick)
W-Falls 47 INT return (B. Cornelius kick)
W-V. Scott 23 run (B. Cornelius kick)
W-Jarrell 89 INT return (B. Cornelius kick)
B-Pinto 80 run (Moran kick)
W-Jakubowski 20 pass from Hannan (B. Cornelius kick)
W-Cooper block punt, recovery (B. Cornelius kick)
W-Jakubowski 33 pass from Hannan (B. Cornelius kick)
W-V. Scott 2 run (B. Cornelius kick)
TEAM STATISTICS B W
First downs 8 12
Rushing Yards 192 226
Passing Yards 168 84
Turnovers 5 0
Rushing-Barnegat, Pinto 7-134, Smithman 6-24, SanGiacomo 7-23, Ulrich 4-11. West Deptford, V. Scott 9-140, J. Cornelius 4-71, Fearon 4-13, Fisher 4-11, T. Scott 2-0, Hannan 1-(-1), Bundy 3-(-8).
Passing-Barnegat, SanGiacomo 10-26-5-168. West Deptford, Hannan 5-5-0-84.
Receiving-Barnegat, McCoy 2-77, Moran 3-41, Knierim 1-26, DeTroia 2-15, Buscio 1-8, Pinto 1-1. West Deptford, Jakubowski 3-63, Haines 1-14, Fox 1-7.
Records-Barnegat 5-5, West Deptford 10-0.