South Jersey Sports Report: Pleasantville Advances in Group II with Big Second Half
PLEASANTVILLE — The only offense for top-seeded Pleasantville in the first half of the Greyhounds’ playoff opener against Collingswood came in the form of a 20-yard touchdown scamper around the left side by senior running back Josh Kotokpo. Fortunately for Pleasantville, Collingswood’s offensive production was much less than that.
The Greyhounds only held a 6-0 lead at the break despite some time-chewing drives, but Pleasantville exploded for four touchdowns in the second half — including a defensive score — to pull away from the eighth-seeded Panthers and win easily, 35-0. The victory puts Pleasantville into the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals, where the Greyhounds await the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 4 Camden and No. 5 Lincoln.
“Coach just said we had to fix the little things. We were coming out strong, it was just the little things we had to fix, and we did. We just had to run harder,” Kotokpo said. “We saw they were giving us some running lanes, so we just kept running the ball. I didn’t think it would be that kind of game, but I just wanted to show my team what I could do.”
Pleasantville (8-1), which has won seven straight since a loss to Haddonfield on Sept. 6, drove 63 yards on its second possession of the third quarter and capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run from big Ernest Howard, the Greyhounds’ H-back, and wide receiver Keon Henry ran in the two-point conversion on a jet sweep to make it 14-0. The backbreaker for Collingswood (5-5) came on the next possession when junior defensive back Kashawn Jamison scooped up a fumble and raced 35 yards untouched for a 21-0 Greyhounds lead on the final play of the third quarter.
“We only had three drives (in the first half) and on one we went 80 yards and ate up a lot of clock. On one of the other possessions we had a penalty that put us in first-and-20, and it’s hard to continuously overcome penalties. We felt good about what we were doing — four out of the five guys (on the line) would make a block, or five out of the six guys, but one guy would sneak through and get us for a loss. We just went in (at halftime) and reassured the guys of their blocking assignments and a couple other things. From a physical standpoint I thought the whole game we were doing well, we just had to come out (in the second half) and just piece it all together. Anytime the defense scores, that just jumpstarts everything,” said Pleasantville coach Chris Sacco. “It’s going to get tougher as we get further along. We’re going to go watch the two teams we have a chance to play tomorrow, and we know the task that lies ahead. The good thing is, this team is resilient and they keep fighting. They listen and make adjustments, we just have to clean some things up. But I’m proud of the way they played hard for 48 minutes, we just have to get off to a better start.”
Freshman quarterback Marlon Leslie only threw a handful of passes, but he didn’t need to go to the air all that often as the Greyhounds’ running game was pounding the Panthers all night long. With a little more than eight minutes remaining, another big run by Kotokpo set up Howard’s second touchdown of the game, and with 3:10 to go Jaquan Howard (no relation) got on the scoreboard with a two-yard touchdown run to make it 35-0.
Ernest Howard said despite being the top seed in the section, the Greyhounds have adopted an underdog mentality.
“(The playoffs) are a big jump and next week we’ll have either Camden or Lincoln, so we’re ready to just go out there and really play our hearts out. We have to clean things up as quickly as we can. We have to be ready,” he said. “We’re still keeping that underdog mentality because people are always doubting us. We’re just trying to shock everybody.
“We don’t care about seeds,” Sacco added. “We know at any point anybody can beat anybody in the playoffs. That’s the one thing I told them — I don’t really care that we’re the No. 1 seed. The only thing it’s good for is we play at home, and that’s great, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the game. So, you have to prepare all week and get ready, and we’ll have a tall task next week, but I know we’ll be up for it.”
What’s next: Pleasantville plays either No. 4 Camden or No. 5 Lincoln. Those two teams play Saturday in Camden at 2 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays