Not even wild horses can pull the football team apart.
A week ago the Braves won even after star quarterback Rashad Kinlaw went down with a season-ending injury early in the first quarter.
This week it was the defense and kicker Nick Della Vecchia who took center stage, picking up a struggling offense. Absegami kept its playoff chances alive with a 3-0 win over the visiting Mainland Mustangs on Friday night in Galloway Township.
Both teams needed the win to stay in playoff contention, but it was Absegami that improved to 4-3 with a matchup against Hammonton next Friday. Next week is the last game for teams to compile power points. Mainland drops to 3-4.
“We had to come out and make a statement,” Absegami linebacker Darryl Loveland said. “We needed a zero on the scoreboard. We are playing together as one.”
“We just don’t want to lose again,” Absegami defensive lineman JoJo Brennan said.
Della Vecchia’s kick made the difference in the contest.
The Absegami junior made his first career field goal count, nailing a 32-yard field goal late in the first half. Della Vecchia missed an earlier field goal from 30 yards out, but didn’t think about that miss when he had another opportunity.
“He told me before the game he wanted this one,” Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi said.
“It felt good. I finally got one,” Della Vecchia said. “It was a really exciting moment for me.”
Della Vecchia’s field goal was enough points for Absegami to register a win because the defense may have had its best performance of the season.
The defense recorded one of its three fumble recoveries to set up the field goal. The Braves didn’t allow a Mainland first down in the first half, and held the Mustangs to 92 total yards.
Mainland had one final chance, gaining possession at its 21 with 4:18 left in the game. The Mustangs recorded a first down, their fourth and final one of the night, but the drive stalled after Absegami safety Nate Ross hit receiver Billy Wilcox as he was about to haul what would have been a catch for the first down.
Instead the ball went back to the Braves, who ran the clock out with four plays, including three by David Hood, who finished with120 yards.
“With Rashad being down, he is our heart and soul of our offense,’” said current quarterback Mike Dolan, who was 5-for-9 for 76 yards. “The defense rallied around us. The offense has to clean it up, but the defense played their hearts out.”