By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – For the second straight game, the Middle Township High School football team faced a halftime deficit.
For the second straight game, the Panthers dominated the second half and emerged victorious.
Trailing 12-6 at the break, Middle scored 22 straight points and eventually posted a 28-20 victory over Buena in a West Jersey Football League Patriot Division game.
Middle, which won its fourth straight, improved to 4-2 overall, 2-1 in division games.
Tyree Moore’s electrifying 88-yard touchdown run with two minutes to play sealed the victory for Middle, Moore running over and through numerous tackle attempts by Buena defenders along the way. The scoring run gave Middle a 28-12 lead. Buena (2-4, 0-3) scored a touchdown on its next possession with 23 seconds to go but the Chiefs’ onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds, allowing Middle’s offense to run out the clock.
“We only had 40 yards of offense on 12 plays and we had 30 yards in penalties in the first half and you just can’t do that and expect to win games,” Middle coach Frank Riggitano said. “We straightened it out and we did a nice job in the second half. I’m proud of the kids.”
Moore and Remi Rodriguez proved to be a dynamic tandem for the Panthers. Moore, who also ran for a 22-yard score that gave Middle a 20-12 lead with 8:32 remaining, rushed 10 times for 149 yards. Rodriguez added another 95 yards on 16 carries and also threw an 18-yard touchdown to Michael Zarfati on a halfback pass in the first half, Zarfati basically stealing the ball from a Buena defender in the back of the end zone. Rodriguez also posted a three-yard scoring run.
“We really did a nice job up front in the second half,” Riggitano said. “I thought in the second half we did a really nice job pushing them around a little bit.”
Moore added a two-point conversion pass from Mark Oliver and also recovered a key fumble at his team’s 11-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
The victory keeps Middle squarely inside the field of 16 for South Jersey Group II playoff qualifying.
“This was a big game,” Riggitano said. “We had to have this one.”
With his 102nd career coaching victory, Riggitano surpassed Ocean City’s Gary Degenhardt as the winningest high school football coach in Cape May County history.