By Jim Hintelmann |
It was the coldest Thanksgiving Day in years, with temperatures in the mid-twenties and a wind chill in the low teens, but football rivals Middle- town South and Middletown North still put on a good show in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game before a standing-room only crowd at Arnie Truex Stadium.
However, it was South (8-3) that had the most reason to celebrate as it outlasted North, 10-7, in a well-played defensive battle to take a 31-12-1 lead in the series.
“This was a typical Middletown South-North game,” said South coach Steve Antonucci, who won his 190th career game at South. “It was a game of emotions for both teams because they know each other so well. This was a challenge for us and we accepted it. Except for a big play here and there, we kept them out of the end zone. Overall we did a good job today.”
Kicker Chris Kaldrovics provided the game-winning points with a 26-yard field goal with 10:34 left, but it was the defenses on both sides that kept the game close.
North (2-8) almost tied the game minutes later when it reached the South 16, but a 33- yard field goal attempt went wide with 4:15 to go and South, with senior Vince Condito picking up 47 yards in seven carries, kept possession of the ball until time ran out. Condito rushed for 112 yards in 19 attempts.
“Our guys were ready for this game,” said Antonucci. “We really wanted to get that victory.”
North threatened early when quarter-back Sean Glenn, on the second play from scrimmage following the opening kickoff, passed to wide receiver Rob Higgins, who made a leaping catch against a South de- fender at midfield and raced the South 5 to complete a 72-yard pass-run play.
Higgins, a basketball standout who was playing high school football for the first time this year, caught four passes for 115 yards.
South, however, held for downs and a 26-yard field goal attempt by North’s Joey Cavanaugh was no good.
South broke the scoreless deadlock late in the first half on a 12-yard run by Condito. Kaldrovics converted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
North tied the game after Max Spencer recovered a South fumble at the Eagles 28 early in the third quarter. Several plays later, Connor Robbins scored from six yards out and Cavanaugh kicked the point-after to tie the game.
One of South’s three losses was to unbeaten (15-0) Pennsylvania state power Coatesville. Its other losses were to Central Jersey Group 4 champion Long Branch and Saint John Vianney. Its big win was a 14-7 decision over Central Jersey Group 3 champion Rumson-Fair Haven Regional. South also won the Shore Conference American Division title.
Although he has coached stronger teams in his 21 years at South, Antonucci was happy with this year’s team, which exceeded his expectations.
“If you had told me that we would finish 8-3, I would have accepted it considering our schedule,” he said. “This team maximized their potential and I probably had one of the finest senior groups ever. This was great for our program. We’ll also have a strong team next year, so our future is bright.”
North, which went into the season with a hopeful outlook, closed out this year at 2-9.
“We played good defense but stopped ourselves on offense with a couple of turn- overs,” said North coach Steve Bush. “We just made too many mistakes.
We had a good group of seniors and I’m proud of their effort and character,” he said.
“We also had a problem with injuries and played in a tough division, but we have some good junior players coming back and should be better next year,” Bush said.
Condito received the Nick Trezza Most Valuable Offensive Player award while defensive back Matt Cruz earned the Nick Trezza Most Valuable Defensive Player Award.
This article was first published in the Nov. 29-Dec.5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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