Never-Give-Up Football Wildcats Score Exciting Last-Minute Win

Sep 20, 2017

Matt Fuller, the rookie head coach of the Pinelands Regional High School football team, told The SandPaper last week that he saw a silver lining in his team’s 42-17 loss to Point Pleasant Borough in the squad’s season opener back on Sept. 8.

“I saw our kids play hard to the end,” said Fuller. “We didn’t quit no matter what the score was.”

Sounds like standard coach-speak, doesn’t it? Along the lines of “our kids gave 110 percent” or “our seniors provide great leadership.”

Well, it turned out Fuller knew what he was talking about.

Pinelands, playing on the road no less, trailed Marlboro, 20-14, with less than three minutes remaining on the clock in its second game of the year. The Wildcats were down to what appeared to be their last gasp, with a fourth-and-six deep in their own territory. But sophomore QB Andrew Bartlett hit junior tight end Joey Parkinson for a 60-yard completion and, soon after, senior Brennan Richardson rolled 13 yards into the end zone to tie the game. Marlboro blocked senior Jason Jeannotte’s point-after attempt, so the score remained knotted at 20.

The Pinelands defense took over, stuffing three straight Mustang running plays to force a punt. Then, with just 28 ticks left on the clock, junior running back Evan Burton, who already had recorded two rushing TDs in the first half, a 71-yarder and a 20-yarder, took off again, racing to a 62-yard touchdown. Jeannotte’s aim was true in his PAT attempt, providing the exclamation point to a most improbable 27-20 Pinelands victory.

The Pinelands playbook followed the script of the program’s last few years – run, run and then run again. Burton gained 244 yards on 22 carries while Richardson added 100 yards on 10 touches. Senior Chris Milano ran nine times, good for 59 yards, while freshman Nik DiLeo had two carries for 18 yards. Bartlett had four keepers for 17 yards.

Bartlett attempted four passes, completing only one, but he couldn’t have picked a better time for success.

The loss dropped Marlboro to 0-2.

Up next for what will assuredly be a confident Pinelands team is a visiting Lacey squad in a game on Friday, Sept. 22, that will kick off at 7 p.m. The Lions, like the Wildcats, are 1-1, and they’ve had a common opponent in Point Pleasant Borough, which beat Lacey, 27-0, on Saturday. —R.M.

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