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High School Football:
Strength in the Face of Loss - Lenape Indians 52, Pemberton Hornets 12

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

By Phil Ingling & Joanne Costantino
SJSports Staff Writer

Dominique Johnson died September 16, 2002 after an apparent asthma attack during football practice. He was a 15-year-old sophomore who played tailback/linebacker on the varsity football team at Pemberton High School. He is remembered as an energetic and happy youth. Quick with a smile and quick on the field, he was a young man with a lot of promise and is sorely missed by his family, friends and teammates.

The unspeakable loss of a child is so hard. Parents should not have to bury their children. Dominique leaves behind his parents, Tyrone and Stephanie, an older sister and younger brother. Somehow the family found the strength to attend the very game, Lenape-Pemberton, which was rescheduled because of Dominique's sudden death.

The game was played at Lenape and opened with a moment of silence just before playing the national anthem. As the team entered the field teammate Lester Goffney wore Dominique's #26 jersey, in memory of his fallen teammate. Later the jersey and helmet were presented to Dominique's dad. The essence of Dominique was one of the sources of the team's emotional strength to get back out on to the field and play football.

Lenape crushed Pemberton 52-12 in this Burlington/Olympic Division match up. It was a one sided affair from early in the game as Pemberton quarterback Ian McCleaf fumbled the opening snap, resulting in a 4 yard touchdown run by Lenape's Zeb Davis. Later in the first quarter Lenape's Sumiala Crowther intercepted a McCleaf pass and ran it in for a touchdown and an early 14-0 lead for the Indians.

Pemberton answered back with a touchdown catch by Antoine Ketler narrowing the lead to 14-6. The second quarter was virtually all Lenape, with the scoring fuelled by Rob Williams, who tallied 2 touchdown runs, 3 and 6 yards respectively. Mike Vidal added in another interception return for a touchdown as McCleaf was under tremendous pressure all evening.

The second half proved to be much of the same as Lenape continued to pour it on. Right back Jerry Jones broke off a 57-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Give credit to the Pemberton team for they didn't give up the fight. McCleaf connected with Charlie Patterson for a touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter, narrowing the Lenape lead to 39-12. Rob Williams wasn't done yet. With about ten minutes left in the game he broke free for an 85yard touchdown run, breaking all hopes of a Pemberton comeback.

The Pemberton Hornets played with the heart and soul of their fallen teammate and are to be commended for their courage to get back on the gridiron.

Photos by Mark Fletcher

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