South Jersey Football: EHT Struggles in Loss to Kingsway
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Kingsway had a 30-yard field goal blocked by host Egg Harbor Township in the waning seconds of a scoreless first half on Saturday night and that ended a frustrating 24 minutes of football for the Dragons.
But one thing head coach Mark Clements said his team didn’t do in the locker room was start pointing fingers.
“One of the things that we didn’t do in the locker room was we didn’t lose our cool. We recognized the half for what it was. We didn’t get off to a great start, so we all were frustrated,” Clements said. “But we wanted to emphasize, let’s not point the finger, but instead let’s refocus on what our job is, and let’s go out and do our job.”
A heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Clearview in the season opener brought Kingsway together, and the Dragons unleashed a scoring barrage in the third quarter to run away with a 42-0 victory, putting a damper on the finale of EHT’s “Pride Day” festival activities. Kingsway drove down and scored on its opening possession of the third quarter, as senior captain Alex Odom capped off a long drive with a two-yard touchdown run, and then the Dragons ripped off three more touchdowns in the next six minutes to take a commanding 28-0 lead.
“We didn’t come out strong in the first half and our coach gave us a good pep talk (at halftime), telling us to come out and do what we had to do. We weren’t putting our foot in the ground and being aggressive, we were thinking it was going to be easy,” said Odom, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound running back and defensive back. “But they had their backs to the wall so they were ready to come out and fight. It was basically a dogfight and looked like a good game in the beginning, but we knew what we were capable of. It was like everything was opening up for me, I just saw daylight and took off.”
A flag on EHT on the point after by Nicholas Tanzola gave Kingsway great field position for the ensuing kickoff, so Clements called for the onsides kick, and Kingsway freshman Nate Maiers recovered. One play later, quarterback Ben Maiers, a junior, hooked up with Odom on a screen pass, and Odom did the rest, racing down the left sideline for a touchdown that put the Dragons up 14-0.
“Once we got that recovery, on the next play I scored again and that was it,” Odom said. “That (season-opening loss) set us off and we’ve been practicing hard. We have Millville next week and after that, Pennsauken, so we’re just going to practice hard all week long and do what we have to do.”
EHT (0-3) fumbled on its very next possession, and again Kingsway (2-1) took advantage. Odom took a handoff around the right side and scored from 23 yards out to push the lead to 21-0 with 7:17 left in the third, and after the teams traded punts, the Kingsway defense stuffed the Eagles again, and sophomore Elias Collins came up with a huge play, blocking a punt and catching it out of the air in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 28-0. He added an interception returned for a score later, and senior Jyire Jeter tacked on a rushing touchdown in the fourth to close out the scoring.
“Odom’s a good player, and we have a sophomore, Elias Collins, who is a player, too. He blocks a punt, catches it out of the air — you don’t see too many of those — then he gets a pick-6. He’s going to be a heck of a player. Those two guys, you don’t need to tell them to practice. They come out and work hard on their own,” Clements said. “We just needed to find the right combination. They were packing a lot of guys into the box, especially in the first half, and we felt we needed to come out in different combinations to run the ball in the second half. That’s what got us started, to finally be able to get a couple yards on the ground, and from there we were able to do what we can do.”
Egg Harbor Township, which let a 13-0 halftime lead slip away in a 21-13 season-opening loss to Atlantic City, and fell to Ocean City last week, will look to rebound on Friday night when it hosts Oakcrest, which is 1-2 after a loss to Highland on Friday night. For Kingsway, it’s a much different story, as the Dragons are on a roll and have outscored opponents 63-0 since that season-opening loss to Clearivew.
“I think that shows what we’re capable of doing. This is a good group of kids. When I came in here, they were freshmen, so they have been through the program for four years and I believe in these guys. It’s a good group, culture-wise, and they’ve made a lot of improvements,” Clements said. “My hat’s off to Cleaview, they prepare their kids, but we had our chances in that game and we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We were winning that game with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, but a couple big calls turned things around and going into double overtime, we had our chances. Looking at where we’ve come in the last two weeks, we’ve made a lot of strides and we continue to get better. Coming down here on a Saturday night and handling our business, that’s what we wanted to do. No matter how you get it done, as long as you’re handling your business, we felt like we did what we wanted to do.”
What’s next: EHT hosts Oakcrest on Friday at 7 p.m. Kingsway hosts Millville on Friday at 7 p.m.