NJSIAA Football Playoffs

Southern Regional Football Squad Bounced From State Playoffs By Vineland

By David Biggy | Nov 13, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern’s Will DeVane runs through an opening on the way to a 55-yard touchdown run during the Rams’ 24-21 loss to Vineland in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V playoffs on Nov. 8.

Stafford Township — All season long, Southern Regional head coach Chuck Donohue Sr. preaches the importance of fundamentals to his football team. During the state playoffs, it’s doubly important.

“You have to block and tackle,” said Donohue after his Rams watched a 21-point lead disappear within 20 minutes as they lost to Vineland, 24-21, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V quarterfinals on Nov. 8. “The game comes down to those two things, and that’s our emphasis all the time. Sometimes the message becomes same-old, same-old, but it’s vital at this point of the season.”

The Rams struggled with their blocking for much of the game, particularly on offense during the first half, then had a difficult time stopping the running attack of the Fighting Clan once they fell behind 21-0 with 9:07 left in the third quarter.

“Give (Vineland) credit, that they stayed with the run and didn’t panic rather than start throwing the ball all over the place,” Donohue said. “They executed on their run, stayed with it and won the game.”

After an uneventful first quarter, Southern (7-3) took a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter when sophomore running back Jaiden Brown ran around the left side of the line and into the end zone from 10 yards out. Hank Gallacher converted the point-after kick to give the Rams the seven-point lead at halftime.

Southern committed a holding penalty on its first play of the second half, but on the next play senior quarterback Cole Robinson hit senior wide receiver Will DeVane on a wheel route along the right sideline, and DeVane raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Gallacher’s PAT just 41 seconds into the half made it 14-0.

On the Rams’ next possession, again on second down, DeVane took a handoff from Robinson, trailed several blockers into the secondary, then broke free for a 55-yard TD. Gallacher made it 21-0 with his third PAT and 9:07 left in the quarter.

Vineland (5-4) answered on its next possession when running back Nahzir Broome busted through the line, got to the outside and zipped down the right sideline for a 57-yard TD run to make it 21-6. On Vineland’s next possession – the first play of the fourth quarter – quarterback Tyreem Powell plunged through the line on a keeper for a 1-yard TD to make it a nine-point game, 21-12.

“I wasn’t happy with our tackling on either of those scoring drives,” Donohue said. “But even down 21-12, they had to score two more times, so I was OK with that situation. At that point, we just needed to get a few first downs and it would have been a different game.”

Southern moved the ball very little on its next possession, before Vineland started on its 43 with just under 10 minutes to go. About four minutes later, the Fighting Clan finished off another scoring drive, culminated by Broome’s 5-yard run to make it 21-18.

On their next possession, the Rams moved the ball to Vineland’s 36 after Robinson connected with Xavier Hendricks on a 29-yard pass play on second down and 4:53 to go, but Southern didn’t go much farther and was faced with a fourth-and-3 from Vineland’s 31-yard line. Rather than attempt a short punt out of bounds a bit farther downfield, Donohue chose to go for the first down.

Southern was stopped, and the Fighting Clan took over possession at their own 34 with 2:37 on the clock. Facing third down at its 46-yard line, Powell tossed a pass down the left sideline for Levi Manson, who managed to outjump the Rams’ cornerback, snatch the pass and go out of bounds at the Southern 20. A few plays later, Powell ran into the end zone from 8 yards away.

Vineland’s Barry Turner ended the Rams’ season when he picked off a Robinson pass with 24 seconds left. Robinson completed six passes for 145 yards. DeVane caught three passes for 86 of those yards.

“We struggled with them on the line of scrimmage in the box all night long,” Donohue said. “And if you can’t control the line, you can’t stop the run. That’s just the bottom line. I’m proud of the way our seniors played hard all season, and I hope the underclassmen can learn from these experiences and understand how important the fundamentals are to the game.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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