By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA – On an evening when Lower Cape May Regional High School perfectly honored the military, veterans, Gold Star families and first responders, its football team played a less-than-perfect game at home for the second straight week.
The good news, however, was that the Caper Tigers played well enough to get a victory for the second straight week.
Overcoming a slow start that saw the Tigers lead by just 12-6 at the half against a program that entered the contest on a 29-game losing streak, Lower pulled away with a dominant third quarter and early fourth quarter to post a 34-18 win over Lindenwold on Friday.
“I expected us to come out slow with everything going on pregame,” said Lower coach Lance Bailey. “But I didn’t expect it to last as long as it did. But we stuck to the game plan and we started to play the way we can play. But we still have a lot to work on.”
Lower (2-1) used one of the best efforts in the career of senior running back Marcus Hebron to pull away from the Lions. He ran 23 times for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
“Anytime you’re able to get 200 yards from your running back, it’s obviously a huge plus,” Bailey said. “He really finished his runs and our offensive line played better. You can’t argue with those results.”
Quarterback Hunter Ray also ran for a touchdown and threw for another. Mike Castellano caught the touchdown pass and also recovered a fumble on defense. Castellano and Braswell Thomas each caught two passes. Dennis Sera added an interception.
The Caper Tigers scored 34 straight points after trailing 6-0. Lindenwold made the score more respectable with a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. The game ended with Lower Cape May taking a knee at the Lindenwold 1-yard line.
Lower Cape May two-way standout Archie Lawler did not play in the second half after reaggravating a hip injury. Bailey said he is day-to-day.
Lower Cape May held Military Appreciation ceremonies prior to the game. Active members of the military, veterans, Gold Star families and first responders were honored. Military members, veterans and first responders mingled with fans prior to the game and military and first responder vehicles lined parts of Lower Cape May’s campus.
Commemorative jerseys and hats were sold prior to the game. Four jerseys signed by Christian McCaffrey and Colin Thompson of the Carolina Panthers were put up for auction. All proceeds were given to the New Jersey Run For The Fallen.
Just before kickoff, military members, veterans and first responders lined the field for a short ceremony. As part of the ceremony, members of Lower Cape May’s football team carried 13 American flags onto the field to honor the 13 members of the U.S. military who were killed in Afghanistan in late August.
A stirring rendition of the National Anthem was sung by Jen Camillo, a music teacher at Lower Township’s Mitnick School.
A Black Hawk helicopter was scheduled to land on the school’s campus. The flight was forced to cancel, however, due to inclement weather in the Sea Girt area, from where the helicopter was to depart.
Lower Cape May is next in action Friday at Clayton, which was a 32-16 winner over Wildwood last weekend after trailing 16-12 at the half.