By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD – When the Wildwood High School football team desperately needed a play to be made, a freshman came through.
Eric Jordan’s tackle for loss on a fourth-and-one play at the Warrior 7-yard line with less than a minute to go represented the signature moment for a stingy Wildwood defense as the team held on for a 6-2 victory over Bishop Eustace Friday at Maxwell Field.
“For a freshman to step up there, that’s just huge,” Wildwood coach Ken Loomis said. “He’s a big guy, and when we needed him he came up clutch. And that wasn’t his only time stuffing someone in the backfield. Just an amazing play by him.”
Jordan’s play allowed the lone touchdown of the game, Joey Mormile’s 29-yard scoring run in the second quarter, to stand up. Eustace got its only points when Wildwood quarterback Junior Hans was sacked in the end zone following an errant snap early in the fourth quarter.
Wildwood’s defense held firm despite Bishop Eustace moving inside the Warrior 45-yard line on seven different possessions in the game. Three times, the Crusaders made it inside Wildwood’s 25. Every one of those possessions was stopped on downs or ended with a turnover.
“(Assistant coach Casey) Dillon came up with a great game plan for us,” Loomis said. “They scored on a safety while we were on offense, so our defense pitched a shutout and that’s something I’m extremely proud of. We had some guys out and some others guys playing hurt but we kept battling and we never quit.”
Wildwood’s touchdown early in the second quarter came on the team’s longest drive of the game. Starting at its own 25, Wildwood marched 75 yards for the score. The drive was highlighted by pass completions by Hans to Anthony Freeman and Harley Buscham, as well as a 15-yard scramble by Hans. On the touchdown run, Mormile took the ball off left tackle before bouncing and weaving his way through the Eustace secondary before reaching the left corner of the end zone.
Eustace got on the board with its safety with 6:28 to go. After taking over at the Wildwood 42 following the free kick, Eustace used a series of runs by Mekhi Simmons and Michael DiRenzo to move deep into Warrior territory. But on the fateful fourth-and-short play, Jordan blitzed through the Eustace offensive line and hit Simmons for a three-yard loss with 54 seconds to play.
“This shows our progress,” Loomis said. “In years past we might’ve lost this game. We had lost momentum and the other team was driving. Full credit to the kids and the coaches that even when the momentum was going against us that we can make a big play and come out with the ‘W.’”
Wildwood (1-2) enjoyed the comforts of home for the first time this season. A large crowd filled the stands, with many other fans lined along the fence in the southwest corner of the facility.
“We love winning games, obviously, but especially here at home,” Loomis said. “We get such a great crowd with the fans, the faculty and the students supporting us and we love to try to put on a good show for them. It was an ugly one but we came out of here with a win and that’s what matters most.”
Wildwood is at Lower Cape May on Friday at 6 p.m. The game will air live on 98.7 The Coast radio, with live video available on the Coast Sports Today Facebook page.