|High School Football:
Mainland's Balanced Attack Enough to Win Group 3 Championship
Sunday, December 8, 2002
By Art Redd
SJSports Staff Writer
There was a state of disbelief on the Delsea sideline late in the final quarter of this championship game. With the clock winding down and the Crusaders down two touchdowns, the Mustangs were in the final moments of upsetting the number one-seeded Crusaders. Visiting Mainland demonstrated that they could not only stop the powerful running attack, but also pass the ball with success. Mike Bradway was at the receiving end of those passes as he caught four passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. Mainland's defense would come up big as they walked away with the 21-7 South Jersey Group 3 championship victory.
Delsea never really felt they were out of this game after trailing 21-0 at the half. Even with Mainland scoring on their first possession of the game, the Crusaders were convinced that no deficit was too large to overcome. But the Mustangs' coaching staff believed in their players, especially the defense, abilities of holding on to their lead for the second half. "This has been a great year...4 and 6 last year, 11 and 1 this year. You guys have been fantastic, you maybe the best team I ever had." Those were the words from Mainland's head coach Bob Coffey.
Mainland's junior signal caller Daniel Cappelluti started right off with a pass to set the tone for the offense early in this game. Starting from their own 33-yard line, the Mustangs quickly moved into their opponents side of the field. The drive seemed to have staled after Greg Wynne and Jeff Tyler sacked Cappelluti back at their own 46-yard line, but Mainland would convert on their only third down play of their scoring drive. Bradway got loose down the sideline and completed a 37-yard reception to the 17-yard line. Four plays later, Drew Smith scored the game first touchdown and Mainland jumped ahead early in the quarter.
"To our junior wide receiver who played a tremendous game," proudly announced coach Coffey at the end of the game. Those words spoken by the coach meant a lot to Bradway and the rest of the squad and he proved it on the field. After both teams were unable to pick up a down for the remainder of the quarter, Bradway put Mainland up by two touchdowns to start the second quarter. On a quick 20-yard slant route, Cappelluti's pass hit Bradway in stride and then scored on the 80-yard pass play. One more big play by the junior receiver help set up the next score. On their next possession with the ball, halfback Brandon Hargrose received the toss and completed a 52-yard reception to Bradway who was tackled at the 4-yard line. Hargrose was then rewarded with scoring on the next play putting seven more points onto their lead.
Starting the second half, Delsea finally found their running game. Darnell Elie found some room to run just inside the left tackle and broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run. He almost repeated that run the next time the Crusaders got the ball. Breaking through the interior defensive front line, Elie found daylight and looked to close the deficit to just one touchdown. But a shoestring tackle by Michael Thomas stopped Elie from scoring and the defense kept Delsea from taking advantage of an excellent chance to score.
Delsea had their chances in the second half moving the ball close to or even in the red zone. Mainland would respond to the challenge and come up with key turnovers and big time defensive plays.