Middle looks to extend perfect start
By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Prior to the season, the players and coaches from the Middle Township High School football team wanted to compete for a division title and a state playoff berth.
Those dreams are very much alive.
Middle continued its perfect start to the season last Friday, thanks to a thorough 50-19 victory over Cumberland.
The Panthers are now 4-0 overall, 2-0 in the West Jersey Football League’s United Division.
Another WJFL United showdown looms this Friday, a home contest with Clayton, which is coming off a 7-0 loss to Lower Cape May.
“The kids know what’s at stake,” Middle coach Frank Riggitano said. “Not only is it against a team that some people picked to win our division but it’s a team that also beat us 40-13 last year. We know we have things to look forward to. We have to prepare and be ready to go.”
Also at stake is Middle’s standing in the Group II playoff race. The Panthers currently sit in 14th place in the power-point standings. The top 16 teams make the combined South-Central tournament.
Middle has won its first four games for the first time since 1992. A win Friday would give the Panthers their first 5-0 start since 1960.
Middle appears to be arriving as a contender ahead of schedule. There are only three seniors on the team — one of whom did not play Friday due to COVID1-9 quarantine restrictions — and just a few juniors as well. Many sophomores and even a few freshmen are playing prominent roles.
Middle’s success has come through its balance. The team has nine different players who’ve scored touchdowns. They’ve rushed for 719 yards and thrown for 417 yards.
One of the most impressive statistics through four games, however, is that Middle has yet to turn the ball over.
“There’s a lot to be said for being successful and not turning the ball over,” Riggitano said. “Hopefully we can continue with that. But this is also high school football and these are kids and mistakes are going to happen. Hopefully when that time comes they’re not back breakers.”
David Giulian continued his monster senior season with a tremendous game against Cumberland. He turned just eight offensive touches into touchdowns — two on the ground and two through the air. He finished with 66 rushing yards on only six carries and caught two passes for 41 yards. Both of the receptions went for scores.
Giulian caught both of his touchdown passes from Brett Nabb. Michael Zarfati also hit Adrien LaBoy for a 26-yard touchdown after taking a backward pass at his wide receiver position and tossing a strike into the end zone. Remi Rodriguez also ran for a one-yard score.
Giulian led the defense with 10 tackles, two of which were for losses. Zarfati added an interception.