LINWOOD — Cole Campbell had never started at quarterback.
But Campbell had to be the signal-caller Friday night for the Mainland Regional High School football team because starter Zack Graziotto, a senior, suffered a concussion during last week’s game and has yet to be cleared.
The sophomore rose to the occasion.
Campbell threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns to lead the undefeated Mustangs to a 30-19 victory over Cherry Hill West in a West Jersey Football League interdivisional game.
“I came in a little nervous, but I had all my senior leaders, and my (offensive) line was just there to protect all night,” said Campbell, 15, of Northfield. “My wide receivers made all the catches. It was my team. I had the easy job.”
The Mainland defense was strong throughout the game but allowed a big play late in the first quarter when the Lions’ Hakim Melvin caught a short slant pass from Nick Arcaroli and turned it into an 85-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Mustangs (3-0) quickly responded.
Campbell connected with Dan Misa for a 74-yard touchdown just 1 minute, 12 seconds later. But a missed extra point attempt made the score 7-6 after the first quarter..
“It’s all just a team effort,” Campbell said. “Running the ball, passing and just up front, we are a strong, solid team. I’m happy we got the win.”
Jake Cook hauled in a 42-yard pass from Campbell with 6:42 left in the second quarter. Campbell then hit Amir Vick, who had two interceptions in the game, for a two-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead.
“I’ve been watching this kid since he was 10 years old,” Mainland coach Chuck Smith said of Campbell. “He’s one heck of an athlete and has those intangibles you can’t teach. He had to come in and step up, and we knew he would make a few rookie mistakes, but he played well for a sophomore and had a big game for us.”
Freshman running back Ja’Briel Mace, who finished with 128 rushing yards on 24 carries, had 5-yard touchdown run with 3:49 left in the first half.
Brady Panas nailed a 30-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to give Mainland a 23-7 lead at halftime.
Ja’Quan Mace, Ja’Briel’s older brother, had a 29-yard TD run with 5:36 remaining. Ben Arena (fumble recovery, two sacks) was one of the many contributors on defense.
Cherry Hill West’s Johnny Ioannucci scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass to cap the scoring. Melvin had scored on Cherry Hill West’s previous drive, which was set up by an interception.
The Mustangs will play Independence Division rival Bridgeton at 6 p.m. Friday. But first Smith said there are some areas the team needs to address “if we want to take that next step.”
Smith did not know if Graziotto would be available next week. If he is unable to go, Campbell would get his second straight start.
“We’ll enjoy this victory tonight,” Smith said, “and hammer out the mistakes (Saturday) when we do film review. Then on Monday, we will get ready for Bridgeton.”
Cherry Hill West;7 0 0 12— 19
Mainland Reg.;6 17 0 7— 30
CW— Melvin 85 pass from Arcaroli (Ioannucci)
MR— Misa 74 pass from Campbell (kick failed)
MR— Cook 42 pass from Campbell (Vick pass)
MR— Ja’Briel Mace 5 run (kick failed)
MR— Panas 30 FG
CW— Melvin 5 pass from Arcaroli (two-point failed)
MR— Jaquan Mace 29 run (Panas kick)
CW— Ioannucci 23 pass from Arcaroli (two-point failed).
Records: Mainland 3-0; Cherry Hill West 1-2.