ATLANTIC CITY — The Holy Spirit High School football team took care of business in the first half and then rested its starters Thursday in its annual Thanksgiving Day game with Atlantic City.
Running back E’lijah Gray had three rushing touchdowns to lead Holy Spirit to a 27-0 win over Atlantic City. All the scoring was in the first half.
The Spartans improved to 7-4. The Vikings, who haven’t played since Nov. 1, ended at 2-8. Atlantic City still leads the series 52-35-4 after the 91st annual game.
The John Boyd-Stan Marczyk Memorial Trophy, named after the late coaches Boyd of Atlantic City and Marczyk of Holy Spirit, was presented to Spartans coach AJ Russo and his team.
“We wanted to be able to run the ball a little bit,” Russo said. “The offensive line did a great job today, they opened up some big holes for E’lijah and for Patrick (Smith), and we were able to run the clock a little bit, which helps. We wanted to make sure we play the game hard, get a victory, get out healthy and get prepared for St. Joe’s for next week.”
Holy Spirit meets St. Joseph at 4 p.m. Dec. 8 in the state Non-Public II championship game at Rutgers University.
“When I played in this game, it was over at Bader Field,” Russo said. “We told our kids that the records don’t mean anything in this game. I know my senior year (1980) Atlantic City didn’t have a very good football team and we were undefeated in the regular season, and they held us to a 6-0 game. We ended up winning, but all the teams show up and play hard on Thanksgiving Day. So we wanted to come out and do everything we could right off the bat.”
Atlantic City tried to punt midway through the first half but fumbled on its own 1 yard line. Gray went off the left guard for a touchdown on the next play. The senior ran 63 yards around left end for a score on the first play of the second quarter. Spartans quarterback Trevor Cohen fumbled the snap on the 2-point conversion but got the ball back and ran for the score to make it 14-0.
Cohen, a left-handed quarterback, threw a 22-yard TD pass to Elijah Steward with exactly five minutes left in the half. Gray scored the final touchdown off the right tackle with 47 seconds left in the half.
“We wanted to get through this game and get ready for next week in the state championship,” said Gray, an 18-year-old senior from Somers Point. “The scores were all (thanks to) the offensive line. They opened the holes. All I had to do was just hit it. I just want to thank them so much. This whole week we focused up that we had to come out here and execute like how we always do every game.”
Atlantic City coach Leo Hamlett saw progress in the season after going winless in 2018.
“We were obviously better this year,” Hamlett said. “We need to be more consistent. We have guys coming back next year like Corey Yeoman, Shawn McGraw and Jaheem Frederick.”
But it was the final high school game for senior Viking two-way lineman DeWayne Johnson.
“I played the whole game. I didn’t come off the field,” said Johnson, a 17-year-old Atlantic City resident. “I put my heart out there because it was my last high school game.”
Holy Spirit; 6 21 0 0 — 27
Atlantic City 0 0 0 0 — 0
HS—Gray 1 run (pass failed)
HS—Gray 63 run (Cohen run)
HS—Steward 22 from Cohen (Newman kick)
HS—Gray 3 run (kick failed)
Records—Holy Spirit 7-4, A.C. 2-8.