High School Football:
Saturday, September 18, 1999
By Art Redd
The beginning of the 1999 South Jersey Football season is filled with every team's anticipation of having a great start and winning every game. This afternoon at Camden Catholic High School, the Willingboro Chimeras were hoping for another easy game and start off the season on a winning note. Last year, the Chimeras had little problems defeating the fighting Irish. This time, Camden Catholic played a competitive game to put a scare into Willingboro's opener. The Chimeras held off the charging and determined Irish team 20-14 to hang on and start the season on the right foot.
Head coach Dennis Scuderi had high hopes in his second year at Camden Catholic and knew that his Irish team could compete against anyone. Willingboro's coach Ty Belford (17th season) wanted to continue his winning ways as National Division champs. But both teams started out slow and couldn't produce much positive yardage or offense. A surprised Camden Catholic team saw the first quarter end in a scoreless tie. A disappointed Willingboro team couldn't believe that they had no points on the scoreboard.
Camden Catholic had several chances to capitalize on their opponents' mistakes. The Irish had Willingboro pinned deep in their own territory on a 4th down play. A mishandled snap turned into a scrambling punter converting a first down play for the Chimeras. Camden Catholic did get the ball back and started the first scoring drive of the first half. Starting senior quarterback Brian Cassano completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to freshman Terrell Smith with 7:01 remaining in the second half. The extra point attempt failed and the Irish held a 6-0 lead.
Willingboro continued their running ways to little success. The inside traps and counter plays didn't fool Camden Catholic's defense at all. This highly talented team would put together one good play to even up the score. Dave Alston took the hand off for Willingboro for a 64-yard touchdown run with 2:17 remaining in the half to tie it up. The two-point conversion failed and both teams went into the half exhausted tied at six apiece.
The second half started out the same where both teams couldn't get the ball in the endzone. But late in the quarter, junior quarterback Matt Perry completed a third and eight pass to Alston for a 62-yard touchdown. After a sweep left by a hard fought and determined Alston again put Willingboro up 14-6 after the two-point conversion with 3:29 remaining in the third quarter. The visiting team's defense picked up and intercepted a pass at the Irish 40-yard line. That's when the Perry to Alston combination completed a one play, 40-yard touchdown reception to make the score 20-6 with 2:37 remaining in the quarter.
Things got interesting when Camden Catholic's Tony Gravinese caught a touchdown pass with 7:26 remaining in the final quarter. The same play worked again to the same player for a two-point conversion to bring the score to 20-14. The score energized the home team and their defense as they held their opponents to get the ball back late in the game. The Irish began threatening when they had success moving the ball. But a key fumble recovery with 2:46 remaining stopped the hopes of Camden Catholic pulling off an opening game upset.
Photos by Art Redd
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