LINWOOD - On an emotional Friday night, the Hammonton High School football team looked impressive and left with a victory.
Meanwhile, Mainland Regional left with a feeling that better days are ahead.
Hammonton dominated the second half and beat Mainland 23-7 in the season opener for both Cape-Atlantic League National Division schools.
The game was Mainland's first since four Mustangs were killed in a car crash Aug. 20. A pregame ceremony remembered the accident victims.
"Mainland should be proud that they were able to get on the field after what they had to overcome," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "Mainland was very emotional. The crowd was behind them."
Hammonton never trailed. The Blue Devils showed outstanding depth in the backfield.
"This is as much depth as we've had since I've been here," said Lancetta, who is in his 23rd season.
Twins David and Dominic Williams both excelled for the Blue Devils. David carried 15 times for 78 yards and set up Hammonton's first touchdown with a 20-yard run to the 1-yard line in the second quarter. David broke free when he stiff-armed a Mainland defender out of his way.
Quarterback Christian Mortellite followed with a quarterback sneak to give the Blue Devils a 10-0 lead with 3 minutes, 58 seconds left in the second quarter.
Mainland used the big play to stay close in the first half. Running back Chris Kaczmarski sprinted 38 yards for a touchdown with 1:35 left in the first half to cut the lead to 10-7. Kaczmarski pointed to the sky after he crossed the goal line. Fireworks shot off behind the home bleachers.
But that was the lone Mainland score.
Hammonton controlled the second half and showed even more talented runners.
Jordan Brown scored on a 38-yard run on Hammonton's first possession of the third quarter.
Russell Forchion scored Hammonton's final touchdown in the fourth quarter when he broke a sweep and sprinted 82 yards for a score. Forchion, a transfer from Overbrook, showed speed rarely seen on past Hammonton teams.
"At one point, he told one of my coaches, 'Give me the rock. I'm going to break one,' " Lancetta said. "(The assistant) said, 'Run the sweep.' We did, and sure enough, he broke one. He made good on it."
The Blue Devils' defense harassed the Mainland offense. Chris Brennan and Anthony Scibilia made tackles for losses. Alessandro Padovani intercepted a pass.
"We came out emotional," Mainland quarterback Tom Bradway said. "We're not quite in game shape yet. No excuses. We're not disappointed in ourselves. They're a very good team."
Hammonton showed it should contend again for a South Jersey group III title. The Blue Devils won that title in 2009 and lost in the semifinals last year.
The accident caused the Mustangs to miss a few practices and a preseason scrimmage.
Mainland players and coaches were encouraged by their effort.
"They hit us with a couple of plays," Mainland coach Bob Coffey said. "As we get in better shape, we'll play a full 48 minutes. We'll be fine."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Hammonton 3 7 6 7-23
Mainland Regional 0 7 0 0-7
H-Padovani 23 field goal
H-Mortellite 1 run (Padovani kick)
MR-Kaczmarski 38 run (Cooper kick)
H-Brown 38 run (kick missed)
H-Forchion 82 run (Padovani kick)
Rushing-Hammonton, David Williams 15-78, Forchion 6-82. Mainland Regional, Kaczmarski 7-67.
Passing-Hammonton, Mortellite 6-10-0- 51. Mainland Regional, Bradway 4-11-1-39.
Receiving-Hammonton, Barbieri 2-30. Mainland Regional, Wilcox 2-20.
Records-Hammonton 1-0; Mainland 0-1