STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — The Southern Regional High School football defense gave Jaiden Brown the opportunities he needed Friday night.
The sophomore running back carried 32 times for 161 yards as the Rams beat Middletown North 21-14. Southern (5-1) clinched the Shore Conference Constitution Division title with the victory. It is just the third division title Southern has won or shared in the program's history.
"This is phenomenal, "Southern defensive lineman Colby Saxton said of the division championship. "It's the greatest feeling in the world. We worked the entire offseason just for this moment right here."
STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — Jaiden Brown’s football career began with a simple suggestion from his m…
The Rams scored the winning points with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left when quarterback Cole Robinson rolled right and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kieran Lang.
But it was the Southern defense that turned the game in the Rams’ favor.
With the score tied at 14, Southern made two critical defensive stops.
The first came after Middletown North (3-3) recovered a Southern fumble at the North 40-yard line.
The fumble recovery gave North momentum.
"We knew had to shut them down," Saxton said. "We wanted it - bend don't break."
The Rams defense did more than that.
Southern linebacker Nate Committee and Hank Gallacher had back-to-back sacks. Rams defensive back Will Devane ended the possession with an interception.
"That was the turning point of the game," Southern coach Chuck Donohue said. "I don't think there's any doubt about it."
A few minutes later, North had one more possession with the scored tied. But the Southern defense forced a punt as Saxton made a tackle for loss.
The Rams offense took advantage of this stop. They fielded the punt and began the winning drive on their own 43.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Brown touched the ball on seven of the drive’s 10 plays.
He had consecutive runs of 10, 9 and 7 yards to give the Rams a first-and-goal at the North 6-yard line.
Two plays later on a third-and-goal from the 6, Robinson threw the winning touchdown pass.
Southern benefited all game from Robinson’s timely passing. The senior completed 11 of 17 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Devane caught four passes for 40 yards.
"When we needed a throw, he made a throw," Donohue said of Robinson. "I can't say enough about him. He's gotten better every week. He's gotten tougher every week."
Robinson also made a key defensive play. He intercepted a pass off a deflection with less two minutes to play to preserve the win.
Southern's other Shore Conference titles came in 1972 when it shared the C Division title with Asbury Park and Wall Township and in 2011 when it won the A South championship.
In addition to giving Southern the division title, the win boosted its Group V playoff hopes.
"These kids are very close," Donohue said. "Their effort is always outstanding."
The game also enhanced Brown’s quickly developing reputation as one of the Shore Conference’s top players.
His yards were not easy to come by Friday. It seemed the entire North defense was focused on him.
The Rams haven’t had a winning season since they reached the South Jersey Group V final in 2012.
Brown is exactly what they’ve been missing since then.
Middletown North 0 7 7 0 — 14
Southern 0 7 7 7 — 21