LINWOOD — Middle Township High School running back David Hayes isn’t accustomed to giving post-game interviews.
“This is my first time ever,” the junior said with a smile Friday night.
But based on his performance at Mainland Regional, Hayes might have to get used to it.
Hayes scored on second-half runs of 12 and 49 yards around the left side as the Panthers defeated the Mustangs 19-7.
“We’ve been working on our ‘buck’ sweep, and David’s learning to read it,” Middle coach Frank Riggitano said. “A lot of times young running backs are too impatient and are out of control, but David’s learning.”
With the score tied 7-7, Mainland’s Colin Cooke intercepted a tipped ball in the third quarter, but the Mustangs eventually turned it over on downs.
The Panthers (2-1) drove to the Mustangs’ 12 yard-line powered by the running game of quarterback Cameron Hamer. Hayes then ran for a touchdown with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
The PAT was blocked, and Middle led 13-7. Hayes sealed the game with his long score with less than two minutes left in the game.
“On the second (touchdown), I was just going for the first down, but I saw it open and I took it,” Hayes said.
Tyquan Campbell returned the opening kickoff 25 yards for the Mustangs (0-2), but the Panthers’ defense forced a three-and-out.
Middle muffed the punt return but recovered the fumble at its own 7-yard line.
The Panthers gained some breathing room when Hamer hit running back Seth Loeffler for a 24-yard gain on a screen pass, but they were eventually forced to punt.
On the next possession, Mainland quarterback Kobe Roberts gained 17 yards in a keeper to drive the Mustangs deep into Panthers territory.
Roberts eventually punched it in for the Mustangs by running it around the right side from two yards out. The PAT made it 7-0 Mainland with just more than three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
But the Panthers struck right back. Hayes reeled off a 30-yard run, then Hamer hit Loeffler in stride for a 54-yard touchdown catch. The PAT made it 7-7 with 1 minute, 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Middle’s Karl Giulian intercepted a pass to give the Panthers the ball in Mainland territory.
But three plays later, Campbell returned the favor and picked the ball off for the Mustangs.
Middle’s Drew Harris recovered a fumble on the Mainland 36-yard line on the next drive, but the Mustangs defense held for a three-and-out.
Roberts ran for 23 yards to take Mainland to the Middle 44, but the Panthers forced a punt.
After Hayes’ run put Middle up 13-7, Campbell returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, then two plays later he broke off a 17-yard run.
But three false-start penalties stalled the drive, and the Mustangs were forced to punt. Mainland coach Chuck Smith was unhappy with the penalties.
“We kept hurting ourselves there,” he said. “We had the ball on their 20-yard line, then all of a sudden we’re back near midfield.”
The Panthers took over at their own 4-yard line, but Hayes rushed for 12 yards and an unnecessary-roughness penalty by Mainland tacked on 15 more.
After a Middle holding penalty, Hamer reeled off a 14-yard run and the Panthers kept possession. Mainland eventually got the ball back on its own 27-yard line with 4 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game.
Roberts hit Shane Cogossi for 16 yards on a slant pattern, but the drive stalled and the Mustangs chose to punt with 1:54 left. That’s when the Panthers iced the game with Hayes’ second touchdown.
Contact: 609-272-7210 JLClark@pressofac.com
Middle Township 7 0 6 6
Mainland Regional 7 0 0 0
MR — Kobe Roberts 2-yard run. PAT good.
MT — Hamer 54-yard pass to Loeffler. PAT good.
MT — Hayes 12-yard run. PAT failed.
MT — Hayes 49-yard run. PAT failed.
Records: MT 2-1, MR 0-2