By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — Long after most of the players and coaches left Maxwell Field Sunday afternoon, the scoreboard in the northeast corner of the football field was still lit.
You can’t blame whoever is responsible for the operation of that scoreboard for waiting as long as possible to turn it off.
The Wildwood High School football team snapped the longest-running losing streak of any high school team in the state in any sport with a 30-6 victory over Lindenwold in a game that was postponed from its originally scheduled date on Friday due to unplayable field conditions caused by heavy rain.
The win ended a 47-game losing streak dating back to the final game of the 2014 season, when the Warriors posted a victory over Pleasantville.
Junior quarterback Ernie Troiano, who was in fifth grade when Wildwood last won a football game, tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the Warriors (1-2).
After failing to convert after twice moving inside the Lindenwold 15-yard line, Wildwood opened the scoring late in the first quarter when Troiano hit freshman Junior Hans for a five-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play late in the first quarter.
Later, on the first play of the second quarter, Troiano tossed 10 yards to Greg Mitchell to put the Warriors ahead at 12-0. A 22-yard reception by Johnny Nolan on a third-and-long play highlighted the scoring drive.
Wildwood failed to capitalize on good field position throughout the contest and allowed Lindenwold back in the game on Josh Salter’s long touchdown run in the third quarter, the Lions moving within a touchdown at 12-6.
But after the teams traded a couple of possessions apiece, Miguel Claudio essentially put the game away with a wonderful 52-yard touchdown run with 7:32 to play in the fourth quarter.
Troiano put the exclamation point on the victory with a 34-yard scoring run with less than a minute to play.
Claudio rushed 12 times for 124 yards and a touchdown and also had a two-point conversion run. And for good measure, he was named Homecoming King at halftime.
Troiano went 9 for 19 through the air for 82 yards.
Mitchell also caught a two-point conversion.
Aside from Salter’s long touchdown run, the Wildwood defense was terrific throughout. In addition to recording a safety, the Warriors made 16 tackles for losses, including six sacks, and forced two turnovers in the contest. Claudio, Omarian McNeal, Jose Matos and Dom Troiano each made multiple tackles for losses.
Wildwood (1-2) was far from perfect. The Warriors turned the ball over four times and probably should have put the game away in the first half, rather than in the last 7 ½ minutes.
But when you’ve lost 47 straight games, being perfect isn’t what matters. Being good enough to win is. And on this day, the Warriors were every bit good enough to earn that all-elusive victory.
Emotionally spent, Wildwood head coach Ken Loomis fell face first onto the muddy turf when time expired as his players celebrated at midfield.