EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – A high school football team hungry for wins enjoyed a second-half Thanksgiving Day feast at the expense of its top rival.
Senior Maurice Sherrod ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns as Egg Harbor Township High School pounded Mainland Regional, 41-0, in the traditional Thanksgiving Day rivalry, capturing the Kiwanis Trophy for the first time in three years.
“It means everything,” Sherrod said. “We worked really hard and executed in all phases of the game in the second half. It’s a great feeling for everybody. I’m just glad we got to finish off strong. Our seniors feel pretty good about this, and we’re just happy to bring the trophy back to EHT.”
EHT (2-8) finished a tough season with back-to-back home wins and avoided back-to-back one-win seasons. The Eagles also exacted some revenge on the Mustangs (1-9), who had won the last two Thanksgiving meetings between the teams.
“We’ve been working hard all season, but I feel like we just wanted it more today,” said senior Billy Germana, who recovered a fumble on a kickoff. “The rivalry definitely brought it out.”
The Eagles scored all of their points in the second half. Senior Nick King ran back a punt for a touchdown. Senior Matt Princz set up a touchdown with an interception.
Senior linemen Xavier Johnson and Jefferson Dejean plowed big holes for Sherrod and others to run through. Johnson also recovered a fumble in the first half.
“This senior class has had a rough two years,” said head coach Kevin Stetser, “and they were the guys who stepped up today, which was really awesome to see. Senior after senior after senior made a play for us, and I couldn’t be happier for them.”
“It feels pretty good to go out with a bang,” King said.
“I haven’t played in a game that we won my whole high school career,” said Princz, “so it was good to go out with a win.”
Several underclassmen also were involved in the win. Junior Steven Canela blocked a punt and caught a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Sal Paschall. Sophomore Trey McKenzie and junior Luis Rivera had touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. Junior kicker Chris Cannuli made 5 of 6 extra point attempts after missing a pair of field goals in the first half.
Senior defensive back Yvandy Rigby, who overcame hardships in his native country Turks and Caicos before coming to EHT four years ago, said the Eagles stuck together despite the many frustrations of the last two seasons.
“It’s easy to take the easy path, but it’s hard to stay and fight,” Rigby said. “And I feel like this senior group stayed and fought, and we conquered. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Mainland finished 1-9 for the second straight season in Chuck Smith’s first two years as head coach. But the Mustangs have some promising young players, including sophomore quarterback Jacob Cook, junior running back Joe Massari and sophomore receiver Dan Misa.
“A lot of young guys got to play this season, and the playing experience is invaluable,” Smith said. “We have 40-some kids coming back to the program next year. We only graduate nine seniors. We’ve got to take some big steps in the weight room this off-season, get a little bit bigger and more physical. We’re looking forward to the future. We’ve been building it the last couple years. We’ll just move forward with it and continue to strive to get better.”
Smith said he feels bad for Mainland seniors like Kobe Roberts, Zack Donovan and Dylan Dill who saw their high school football careers come to an end on Thursday.
“It was tough this year,” Smith said. “You hate to see seniors go out this way on a day like this. But hat’s off to EHT. They came to play in the second half.”
Mainland Regional- 0 0 0 0 - 0
Egg Harbor Township- 0 0 21 20 – 41
E – Sherrod 45 run (Cannuli kick)
E – King 68 punt return (Cannuli kick)
E – Sherrod 24 run (Cannuli kick)
E – Canela 35 pass from Paschall (Cannuli kick)
E – McKenzie 45 run (kick blocked)
E – Rivera 25 run (Cannuli kick)
RECORDS: Mainland 1-9; Egg Harbor Township 2-8