Southern Regional Comes Up Empty in Second Half During Opening Loss to Central
For 24 minutes on Sept. 2, it appeared the Southern Regional High School football team was in control and on its way toward a season-opening victory. Then the second half happened.
“We came out flying in the first half,” said junior running back Joe Miele, who carried the ball 10 times for 61 yards and scored the Rams’ two touchdowns during a 21-14 loss to Central Regional. “We went up by 14 at halftime and knew they’d come out swinging. For whatever reason, we just didn’t get it done in the second half.”
The Golden Eagles scored 21 unanswered points, which included two touchdowns during the fourth quarter, to hand the Rams their first loss.
“Central’s running back is a first-class player,” said head coach Chuck Donohue Sr., whose defense gave up 117 yards rushing to Mike Bickford but also an additional 168 yards passing to Central quarterback Joe Fowler. “We controlled the line in the first half and were playing really well. We didn’t finish.”
Up against the Golden Eagles in what is known as the Emmert-Boyd Memorial Classic, the Rams did a nice job of moving the ball on offense throughout the first half and utilized some big plays on defense to set up the offense multiple times.
After a botched Central punt with 5:56 left in the first quarter gave Southern the ball on the Eagles’ 28-yard line, the Rams needed just three plays to reach the end zone. Junior running back John Dolphin ran for 3 yards to open the possession, before senior quarterback Sam Cammarata fired a 13-yard strike to Dolphin to put the Rams on the 12-yard line.
Miele then broke through the middle and dashed into the end zone for the team’s first TD, and junior Matt Barnett converted the extra-point kick to make it 7-0 with 4:41 left in the quarter.
With 5:21 left in the first half, Miele blocked a punt attempt and the Rams took over possession at the Central 36-yard line, eventually leading to Southern’s next score.
After senior running back Dane Walker and Barnett each carried the ball twice to bring Southern down to the 21-yard line, Miele ran the ball twice more to give the Rams first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Miele then busted into the end zone on second-and-goal after being stopped short of the goal line the first time. Barnett’s PAT with 1:09 left in the half made it 14-0.
However, Central wasted little time establishing a rhythm in the second half. After Bickford returned the opening kickoff to the Golden Eagles’ 46-yard line, they needed only six plays to get on the scoreboard, when senior fullback Denis Corbin ran the ball in from 3 yards out and junior kicker Shane Black converted on the PAT to make it 14-7 just 3:24 into the third quarter.
After Southern failed to score during its next two possessions, the Golden Eagles struck again, using only seven plays to move 80 yards and tie the game. Bickford culminated the drive with a relatively easy 23-yard TD run with 7:53 to go in the contest.
The Rams went three and out on their next possession, punting the ball away to the Eagles and setting up what turned out to be their game-winning drive with 6:34 left. Starting on their own 29, the Golden Eagles methodically worked their way down field in 10 plays to put the ball on Southern’s 21-yard line before Fowler hit Corbin with a 21-yard TD pass with 1:12 to go.
Still, the Rams didn’t go down without a fight, as Barnett took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 42 yards to the Central 49-yard line. An offside penalty pushed Southern back 5 yards, and two plays later a Cammarata pass into double coverage was deflected and intercepted with 33 seconds left, ending the threat.
“It’s a tough loss, but it will teach us some lessons,” Miele said. “We’ll take the positive stuff we did in the first half and roll with it however we can, but it’s a frustrating way to start the season.”
Besides rushing for 61 yards and two scores, Miele was a big force on defense with the blocked punt, a sack and six tackles, including a couple in the backfield. Walker also came up with 10 tackles.
At the conclusion of every Emmert-Boyd Classic, a Most Valuable Player is awarded from each team. Corbin was the MVP for Central, while Miele was the MVP for the Rams.
“It’s definitely an honor to be named MVP for this game,” Miele said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our offensive line for giving me the space to get into the end zone those two times.”
— David Biggy