HAMMONTON — The last thing a visiting team wants to do when it comes into Hammonton High School on a Friday night is fall behind the Blue Devils in the first half and have to play catch-up against that relentless rushing attack that just drains minutes off the clock like gutters whisk away the rain during a spring storm.

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Vineland got behind by three scores by halftime on Friday night, and Hammonton did what it does best — it grinded out a nearly 9-minute drive that ate up much of the third quarter and was capped like two other drives during the night, with a Jaiden Abrams touchdown run from four yards out. Abrams also scored on runs of 24 and 15 yards in the first half as Hammonton improved to 2-0 with a 27-6 victory over the Fighting Clan. Vineland dropped to 0-1, as their season opener scheduled for last week was postponed when St. Augustine Prep couldn’t play due to positive Covid-19 tests in its school.


“They take a lot of pride in that, and that’s not just coming from the offensive line — obviously they take a lot of pride in it — but the backs do, as well, blocking for each other. Jaiden will be the first guy to step up and praise the line, but you also had some other guys step up and make some key carries. It’s not just a one-man show, we try to spread it around,” said Hammonton coach Jim Raso. “But he is a workhorse and he’s going to get the ball. He’s proven he can handle the load. He’s been the main ball carrier since he was a sophomore, and he’s been growing up with the offensive line. Those guys, for the most part, have all been playing together since they were sophomores, and they take a lot of pride in what they do. They play for one another. It’s a close-knit group and it’s not just seniors, we have some key juniors in there with Andrew Ryker and Luis Rodriguez contributing.”

“We had to get right into it because they came after us pretty hard,” Abrams said. “It was hard blocking their big boys up front, but we still got the job done at the end of the day. As soon as I got the ball a couple times, I felt how they were hitting me and kept on going straight to them. We saw what we had to do. The line did a wonderful job today, I always have to thank the big boys up front, and my fullback (Brock Weissman).”

Vineland came out of the gates strong and drove the length of the field before linebacker Brock Weissman picked off a Caleb Gandy pass. But then after Hammonton drove the length of the field back the other way, the Blue Devils turned the ball over with a fumble. Hammonton, however, got things going early in the second half as quarterback Kyle Vandever connected with Abrams on am 18-yard passing play that set the Devils up at Vineland’s 1-yard line. Weissman scored on the next play to make it 6-0, and Abrams scored the first of his three touchdowns on Hammonton’s next possession to stretch the lead to 13-0. It reached 20-0 with 5:49 left before halftime as the Blue Devils scored on three straight possessions, with Abrams racing in from 15 yards.

Vineland’s only scored came when the Fighting Clan capitalized on a Devils miscue on the opening kickoff of the second half. Nazhi Tatem recovered the fumble and after a false start, Gandy connected with Jonathan Toney on a fade in the left corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 20-6. But that nine-minute, fourth-quarter drive by Hammonton quelled any hopes of Vineland making a comeback attempt.

A good portion of that clock-killing drive featured Abrams, who also had a 53-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty in the third quarter.

“He does his thing. He finds a hole, hits it hard and he goes, there’s no stopping him. He’s a good running back,” Scibilia said of Abrams. “He finds holes, and even when they are not there he makes something happen. He’s a good back.”

“Vineland is always big up front and they have a lot of speed. I thought for the most part our defense did an outstanding job. We gave them some extra possessions, and you can’t do that. You can’t be turning the ball over, especially right after halftime,” Raso said. “We basically gave them the ball in our own territory, and we can’t do that. That’s something we have to clean up this week. Every day in practice we talk about the little things adding up. You can’t just play offense and defense, special teams are just as important.”

Despite some mistakes and turnovers, Hammonton is now 2-0 after beating a couple of tough teams in Millville (which beat St. Augustine Prep, the No. 9-ranked team in the state, tonight) and Vineland. They’ll take it in a coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

“We’re just trying to make the best out of it every day, we’re trying to win every day, no slacking in practice all week. If we practice well, we play well on Friday nights,” Scibilia said.

Added Abrams, “We’re looking to go undefeated this season and hopefully have a playoff run. We’ll just see how everything goes. We just have to be careful because of the coronavirus, so we have to take precautions and just have fun out here.”

What’s next: Hammonton at St. Augustine Prep, Oct. 16, time TBA. Vineland at Holy Spirit, Oct. 16, time TBA.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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