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High School Football:
Strong Second Half Powers Sterling Past Gateway

Friday, October 6, 2000

By Ed Benkin
SJSports Staff Writer

The Silver Knights of Sterling entered Friday Night's Colonial Conference contest as clear favorites against Gateway. The Knights entered the game with a 2-1 mark, and a victory over the 1-2 Gators would keep Sterling in contention in both the Colonial and the Group 2 playoff race. Sterling needed two big plays in the first half to set the stage for a dominating second half, as they defeated Gateway, 34-19. The two teams were tied, 13-13, at the half, and Sterling coach Todd Green was grateful his squad wasn't trailing as they went to the locker room.

"We were very lucky to get out of there at 13-13," said Green. "They dominated the first half of the game. I don't think we were ready for that, and I give them credit."

Two huge plays from running back Jamal Watkins kept the Knights even in the first half. After Gateway recovered a fumble on Sterling's opening possession, Gateway took a 7-0 lead on a spectacular play by quarterback Scott Long. The senior ran left, then slammed on the brakes and swept to the right side and into the end zone. Sterling tied the game on their first play of the ensuing drive when Watkins ran 65 yards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, the Gators put together an impressive, time consuming drive which resulted in a one yard touchdown plunge by Long. The Gators seemed to be on their way to taking a 13-7 lead into the locker room when Watkins struck again in the final minute of the half. Sterling's top rusher went in from 25 yards out, and the missed conversion left the teams tied at 13-13.

The powerful Sterling offensive line began to take over in the second half, and senior running back Melvin Bryant took advantage. Bryant ran for a 55 and a 35 yard touchdown to give the Knights a 27-13 lead. However, the scrappy Gators fought back in the fourth quarter. Long went to the air and connected with his brother, Howard, from 35 yards out to cut the Sterling lead to 27-19 with 6:10 remaining. But Gateway's onside kick was recovered by the Knights, and running back Chop Hammond put the game away with a ten yard touchdown run.

"The adjustments were made at half-time," Green said. "We came out with a double tight end set, and I think that worked out well for us."

The Gators fell to 1-3 with the defeat, but Mark Wechter's squad continues to improve. The Gators finished at 1-9 a year ago, but have been in three of the first four games they have played. There are difficult games ahead for the Gators which include a matchup with defending conference champion West Deptford. But the Gators should get better in the second half of the season an improve on their win total from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Silver Knights have now won three in a row after their opening night loss to West Deptford. The road ahead won't be easy for Sterling, either. After hosting Haddon Township next weekend, the Knights will play Paulsboro and Woodbury. Sterling has four games remaining before the playoff cutoff, and wins in at least three could very well mean a trip to the Group 2 playoffs. But Green is making sure his players aren't looking too far ahead.

"We don't even look at it," said Green. "We win a game, then we look at the next opponent. We just take it one game at a time. To be honest, I don't even know where we stand in the rankings."

Green may start looking at the power points if the Knights play as well as they did in the second half at Gateway.

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