CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – This was the kind of night it was for the Middle Township High School football team against Buena on Friday:
Drew Harris, Middle’s safety, made a solid play defending a pass in the end zone, deflecting the ball away from the intended receiver on a fourth-and-goal play from the 7-yard line.
The ball, however, fell directly into the hands of Buena running back Shawn Rice for a touchdown.
It was the signature play in a miserable game for Middle, which suffered a 40-14 loss to the Chiefs in a game many thought would be a toss-up prior to the contest.
Middle was missing two of its best defensive players. Lineman Austin Cominsky and linebacker Karl Giulian were both out with injuries. A couple of other contributors were also out injured.
On this night, however, those missing players might have made that much of a difference.
“It’s tough not to have those guys, but that’s no excuse for (Buena) guys to be running wide open in our secondary,” Middle coach Frank Riggitano said, referencing two long touchdown passes thrown by Buena quarterback Nick Kotova. “We had no pass rush whatsoever and we let guys get behind us too easy. The thing that’s surprising is that I thought we had our best practice of the year (one day before the game), so I don’t know why it didn’t translate.”
Buena (2-1) scored touchdowns on each of its first six possessions. Middle, meanwhile, didn’t muster a first down until less than five minutes remained in the second quarter.
“The frustrating thing is, they run basically the same plays we do, just not in as many formations as us, but we couldn’t stop them,” Riggitano said. “We got pushed around for sure.
“This is the first time I can say this with this group – I’m disappointed with the effort.”
Kotova threw three touchdown passes and Rice, Byron Spellman and Jaden Roberts each ran for scores for a Buena club that played its best game of the young season.
Middle (2-2) got its two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Cameron Hamer ran for a 15-yard score and freshman Kanius Brown scampered for a 21-yard touchdown run.
“We did some good things in some spots,” Riggitano said. “We changed some blocking schemes and made a couple adjustments. But there’s only so much we as coaches can do with a pencil. As a player, you have to line up and block and tackle and we didn’t do that.
“We have to fix it. We need to find 11 guys who will run to the ball on defense and we need to find 11 guys who will do what we need to do on offense.”
Middle hosts Gloucester Catholic on Friday.