By BRIAN CUNNIFF
GLOUCESTER — The Middle Township High School football team made sure its first defeat of the season didn’t turn into a losing streak.
The Panthers, coming off a 32-0 loss to Buena, went on the road Saturday and recorded a rather dominating 28-0 victory over Gloucester Catholic to give them three wins through their first four games.
Middle did it with makeshift offensive and defensive lines, with three starters out due to injuries and family commitments.
“We were a little concerned coming in when we found out early in the week that we weren’t going to have a few kids,” Middle coach Frank Riggitano said. “We just went over and over the stuff we were going to do offensively and defensively and just repped it out. I thought we were pretty good offensively and the kids were really flying to the ball defensively. It was a really good effort.”
Quarterback Kenderson Cardaci led the way offensively for Middle. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, rushed eight times for 42 yards and also ran in a two-point conversion.
“He’s getting better and better each day,” Riggitano said of his quarterback. “He’s still a little hesitant with some of his reads but when he gets it his confidence is going to get so much better. And then his ability to pull the ball down and run when he needs to is so advantageous for us.”
Cardaci’s first two pass attempts went for touchdowns in the opening quarter. Both were short passes to Matt Marino, who used his speed to beat the defense down the sideline for touchdown receptions of 38 and 59 yards.
Middle took complete control of the game early in the third quarter. After stopping Gloucester Catholic’s opening possession after just three plays, Middle got a 30-yard touchdown run from Charlie McNeal on a sweep play to the left.
“That was huge for us,” Riggitano said. “We told the kids at halftime we wanted to make them go three and out and then for us to go down and score and fortunately that’s the way it played out for us.
“We haven’t run that play all year. We put it in at halftime based on some things we saw in the first half and Charlie and the rest of them did a great job on it.”
Middle’s final score came midway through the fourth quarter on a 23-yard catch and run by Karl Giulian.
In addition to his touchdown, Giulian ran 19 times for 77 yards and also rushed for a two-point conversion.
Marino caught four passes for 121 yards.
Middle (3-1) is scheduled to host Oakcrest (1-3) on Friday. The game will air on 98.7 The Coast radio.
Last year, Middle suffered a 3-0 loss at Oakcrest.
“It’s a huge game,” Riggitano said. “We just have to concentrate on continuing to get better. It was a tough game last year. We have to figure out a way. It should be a real good game.”