CARNEYS POINT TOWNSHIP — The Buena Regional High School football team had won 11 straight games dating to last season.
That streak ended Saturday as the fourth-seeded Chiefs lost 17-6 to top-seeded Penns Grove in the South Jersey Group I semifinals on a cold, windy afternoon at Jim Devonshire Field.
Buena (9-1) won eight of its first nine games this season by double digits. The Chiefs captured the West Jersey Football League United Division title.
“It was a special season,” Buena coach Jon Caputo said. “It’s about the kids and the group you have, and these guys are just everything we ask. They work so hard and, you don’t always have teams like that, so they are a group that ended in a way we didn’t want, but it is a group I’ll remember forever.”
The Chiefs’ Byron Spellman scored Buena’s lone touchdown on a 20-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 16 seconds remaining in the first half to cap a 10-play, 60-yard drive.
The 16-year-old from Buena Vista Township scored that TD after the Red Devils had scored one on the previous possession.
Tyreke Brown scored both touchdowns for Penns Grove (11-0), and Jared McNair kicked a 16-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter as the Red Devils won the battle of unbeatens.
Penns Grove, ranked No. 11 in The Press Elite 11, has won 18 of its last 19 games over two seasons.
“We always played as team (this season) and came out and did what we needed to do,” Buena’s Spellman said. “But (Saturday), we just came up short.”
T.J. Jacobs recovered a fumble in the Red Devils’ zone late in the third quarter when the Chiefs trailed 14-6. But the drive stalled when Penns Grove got a crucial red-zone stop.
“It just felt like a great momentum-changer for the game, and it gave us hope that we could come back,” said Jacobs, 17, of Buena Vista Township. “Anything like that could give us that little push or that urge to win.”
Jacobs, an outside linebacker and tight end, made a few tackles and helped lead a defense that kept the Red Devils out of end zone for most of the game.
Buena stopped Penns Grove six of eight times when the Red Devils were inside the Chiefs’ 30-yard line.
“Defense we take very seriously,” Jacobs said. “We push every practice, ‘Defense, defense, defense.’ To have them in our red zone and stop them felt great.”
Spellman and Jacobs will return next season, along with other key players. The two juniors each want to get back to the sectional semifinals and beyond.
“The feeling this gives us in our gut is terrible,” Jacobs said. “It gives us great drive to fight for next year.”
Spellman, who rushed for 46 yards, said the team will “work harder than we did this year” for next season.
The Chiefs’ Chris Doughty had 49 rushing yards. Jaden Roberts rushed for 42 yards.
Doughty, who had 1,227 rushing yards with 19 TDs this season, and Roberts, who ran 884 yards in the campaign, will be lost to graduation. But the Chiefs will return most of their core next season.
“We have a ton of kids returning next year,” Caputo said. “I love our senior class, but we have kids coming back and a good freshman class. We are excited for next year.”
Buena Regional 0 6 0 0 — 6
Penns Grove 0 7 7 3 — 17
PG — Brown 27 pass from Lewis (McNair kick)
BR — Spellman 20 run (2-point failed)
PG — Brown 2 run (McNair kick)
PG — NcNair 16 FG
Records: PG 11-0; BR 9-1.