Andy goes for 250+, 2TDs in Gami’s win
OCEAN CITY — Ifreke Andy is a senior at Absegami, but he doesn't have a ton of football experience. He's a converted soccer player. Ocean City defenders are probably wishing he stuck to soccer.
Andy ran roughshod on Friday night in Ocean City, to the tune of more than 250 yards and two touchdowns, to lead the Braves to a 27-14 victory over the Red Raiders. The win put Absegami at 3-2 overall, and probably kept the Braves' playoff hopes alive.
"He just started playing football a few years ago. He was a soccer player, but we saw his size and speed. He wanted to play football and tried it. It's kind of still new to him, but if you watch him this year, week by week, he's really getting it," said Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. "He's very physical. He's 190-pound back who can run. So we wanted to see if we could get him on track to see if we could open up some other stuff. We just fed him the ball tonight. He made some great plays. You can see his maturation process with the way he's running. He played unbelievably tonight, and (QB) Andrew (Marcucci) gets us in and out of the right plays."
Andy got things going early, taking a handoff to the house 58 yards on Absegami's second possession. Scuderi kept feeding him the ball, and Andy kept getting first downs behind and inspired effort by Absegami's offensive line. Early in the second quarter, Andy broke a tackle, bounced to the outside and scored from 26 yards out to put the Braves (3-2, 1-2 WJFL Independence) ahead 14-0.
"I had a lot of carries today, so that was good. My offensive line was doing well (from the start), so I knew it was going to be a good night. Once I know my offensive line is doing well, I have that confidence in me. It's all about the offensive line. I might have to buy all of them some food later," Andy said. "The whole season, I've just been telling my coach that if I have a chance to show how good of a running back I am, I'm going to show it. This was a game where I just had to show it. It doesn't matter how many carries I get, I'm just trying to get yards with whatever carries I get."
"It's important, because our offensive line struggled a little bit (early in the season), but this week we stayed on our blocks and were able to have a nice game for our running backs. He gets all the credit, but we know he appreciates us. It's a team win, and it's one we needed," said senior offensive lineman Matt Bird, who along with guys such as Alex Walk, R.J. Rodriguez, Antonio Rodriguez and Syhee Glover continued to dominate the line of scrimmage throughout much of the first three quarters. "We're gaining momentum. We're hoping to pile up some wins and get a playoff run going."
Scuderi said the Braves made it a point of emphasis to be strong up front and take control of the game early.
"We felt like, up front, we needed to establish ourselves. We really hadn't done that all season. We had a couple injuries early on, but we got back healthy," Scuderi said. "We know the talent Ifreke has, so we wanted to see if we could get him on track. We have a lot of skill kids, so our goal tonight was to see if we could get him moving and hopefully people will tighten the box and we can use the kids out on the perimeter."
Scuderi also said he tried to channel a little past magic from Ocean City's sideline prior to the game, introducing Andy to Red Raiders legend Kevin Sinclair, a current assistant coach with Ocean City and a punishing running back during his Red Raiders career in the 1990s. He's widely considered one of the best running backs in Cape-Atlantic League history.
"Before the game, I had him shake hands with Kevin Sinclair. I said (to Kevin), 'shake hands with him, maybe some of what you had will rub off on him.' Obviously, it did, because had had 253 yards tonight," Scuderi said.
Ocean City's defense came up with some stops inside the red zone in the second quarter, forcing Absegami to settle for field goal attempts. But, the Braves have one of the best kickers in South Jersey, and Zach Sterr drilled a pair of field goals to give Absegami a 20-0 halftime lead and become the school's all-time leader in made field goals (8) in the process.
Marcucci scored on a quarterback keeper in the fourth quarter, making a great ball fake to draw the linebackers to Andy. That pushed Absegami's lead to 27-0. Ocean City (1-3, 0-3) fought back when Isaac Robertson scored from two yards out following a fumble recovery by Anthony Kenny. That cut the lead to 27-7, and with 2:01 remaining quarterback Andrew Donoghue rolled right and found Dan Walsh wide open in the end zone to make it 27-14. That score was set up by a long pass down the right sideline from Donoghue to Bobby Shallcross.
But Absegami recovered the ensuing onsides kick, and Ocean City ran out of chances.
"We knew Eastern last weekend, Ocean City this weekend and Triton next weekend was going to be a crucial part of our schedule. We played Cedar Creek and St. Joseph to start — two defending state champions — in the first two weeks. So, we knew the critical stretch that we were going to go through here. We really have to focus on Triton this week, and, hopefully, if we can find a way to win that one we can head into the bye week and get our legs back. It's a grind six days a week. But we can't worry about (the bye) yet. We have Triton next week and that's a big game for us," Scuderi said. "We felt like we didn't play the way we were capable of playing against St. Joe, and that left a bitter taste in our mouths. They are a really good football team, but we felt like we didn't play the way we were capable of. So we just told the kids, let's just play our football the rest of the year and see what happens."
Andy said he had a feeling he was going to have a good night.
"We were talking about 300 yards before the game, so I guess 250 is good," he said. "We're trying to get on a winning streak because we feel like we can make the playoffs this year. We just have to keep playing strong."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays