Pinelands Regional Football Team Falls in Season Opener

Sep 13, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Junior running back Evan Burtonn had a great game on Friday night as the Pinelands Regional High School Wildcats football team opened its 2017 season against the visiting Point Pleasant Borough Panthers. The problem for Pinelands was that PPB senior QB James Fara had an even better game.

Burtonn ran for 163 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns, a 47-yard effort in the first quarter and a 34-yard scamper in the final stanza. But Fara was responsible for four TDs. Three were on the ground, with runs of 9, 15 and 1 yards. He also connected with running back Brandon Cipriano for a 56-yard scoring pass. Fara ended the night with 178 rushing yards and completed three of six passes for 80 yards.

Point Pleasant Borough won the game, 42-17.

Tanner Gordon, a senior fullback, opened the scoring for the Panthers with a 45-yard run, and place kicker Nate Chiarello was successful with his point-after attempt, as he would be all night. So it was 7-0 Panthers at the 9:14 mark of the first quarter.

Pinelands, though, struck right back, thanks to Burtonn’s first TD, and place kicker Jason Jeannotte was true with his PAT, making the score 7-7 with 6:44 left in the quarter.

The tie didn’t last for long. The Fara-Cipriano-Chiarello combo struck at the five-minute mark to put PPB ahead for good, 14-7.

There were a couple of bright spots for Pinelands. Obviously Burtonn was one of them. The other was Jeannotte’s performance. The senior was good on both of his point-after kicks and added a 36-yard field goal near the end of the first half. It is easy to imagine Jeannotte winning a game for the Wildcats later in the season with a late three-pointer.

Don’t think the loss is necessarily an indication of what is in store for the remainder of the Wildcats’ season. Point Pleasant Borough is the class of the Shore Conference’s B South division. The Panthers were divisional co-champs in 2015, didn’t have to share the crown last year and were the obvious preseason pick this time around.

Pinelands lost its first game in 2016 to PPB, 12-31, and then went on to lose its next two games. But when things looked glum, the ’Cats went on a four-game winning streak and were never blown away the rest of the season.

Next up for Pinelands is Marlboro, where the ’Cats will travel on Saturday for a game set to kick off at 1 p.m. The Mustangs, who ended up with fewer wins that the Wildcats in 2016, beat Pinelands, 41-28, in both teams’ second game last year. Marlboro, though, suffered a loss even more crushing than that of Pinelands’ in their season opener last week, falling to A North rival Manalapan by a 44-0 count.

— Rick Mellerup

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