Southern Regional Football Team's Offense Comes Up Empty Against Jackson Memorial

By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 11, 2017

It’s just a plain old fact and not much of a secret when it comes to football: A team’s defense can play really well, but the offense still has to move the ball and score points to win games. Southern Regional did a lot of one but none of the other on Oct. 6.

“We had plenty of opportunities in the first half and didn’t execute,” said head coach Chuck Donohue, whose Rams dropped to 1-4 after a 10-8 loss to Shore Conference Class A South foe Jackson Memorial. “The effort’s not the question. It’s just about execution. There’s no rhythm to our offense. It’s not something somebody’s doing. It’s something everybody’s doing. They’re all making mistakes. We didn’t block well. We didn’t pass well. We ran the ball a little, but when you don’t pass well, that gets taken away. In high school football, you have to move the ball and then execute when you get near the end zone.”

On the Rams’ first possession of the contest, it seemed they had some sort of rhythm, as they started on their own 21-yard line and made their way into Jaguar territory behind a 23-yard run by Dupreme Holland, a 6-yard spurt by Matt Barnett and an 18-yard run by Vin Miele. Another 5-yard gain by Barnett staked Southern to Jackson’s 28, but two negative-yard plays and a false start penalty pushed the Rams back to the 37, and Donohue opted to punt the ball short and pin the Jaguars deep in their side of the field.

However, a third-down pass play to Matt D’Amore that went for 88 yards set up Jackson’s first score – a 1-yard plunge by Stephon Rodriguez. Kicker Justin Burkert booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 1:52 left in the first quarter.

The Rams went three and out on their next possession, and Jackson started its next possession on its own 25. A few plays later, Southern’s defense came up with a big play when senior Derek Wilson drilled D’Amore on a short reception, forcing a fumble that was pounced on by senior Dave Lowman at the 27-yard line.

Unfortunately, the Rams barely moved the ball during the next two plays and faced a third-and-8 situation from the 23 with just under seven minutes to go in the half. On the next play, senior quarterback Sean Distelcamp rolled to his left and attempted to fire a pass to Holland, but the ball was intercepted. Donohue then turned to backup Carmen Deo, attempting to jolt the offense into another gear.

“We’ve just been very inconsistent on offense, and at some point you have to try something different,” Donohue said. “When it’s good play, bad play, good play, bad play, you can’t play football like that. We just made too many mistakes. We had to do something.”

After the first half ended with Southern still trailing by seven, the Rams moved the ball quite well on the opening possession of the second half, starting at their own 18 and driving downfield in 11 plays – and helped along the way by a Jackson personal-foul penalty – to reach the Jaguars’ 3-yard line. But following a Barnett run that went nowhere, Deo attempted a pass on fourth-and-goal that fell incomplete with 5:24 left in the third quarter.

On the next possession, Jackson didn’t break free of its 10-yard line and was forced to punt, except the snap was low and the ball one-hopped to the kicker and squirted through his hands. It bounced out of the end zone for a safety, making it 7-2.

With the ensuing kickoff taking place from the Jackson 20, Barnett was able to receive it cleanly at the Rams’ 28, and then he made some magic happen. Barnett dodged several tacklers and right around the 40 made a spin move past another Jaguar and broke to the outside, then sped down the right sideline to the end zone. A two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but Southern held an 8-7 lead with 2:57 left in the third.

From there, neither team moved the ball effectively. But with just under five minutes left in the game, Jackson Memorial, which had started its possession from its own 38, lined up to punt on fourth down and executed a fake that ended up putting the ball on Southern’s 26. The Jaguars got the ball to the 11, before Burkert easily delivered a field goal from 28 yards away with 2:45 left on the clock.

On Southern’s final possession, a 15-yard, first-down run by Joe Miele was followed by an incomplete pass, a 7-yard reception by Barnett that put the Rams on their own 45, a blocked pass attempt and then an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3. Jackson ran out the remaining 1:29 for the victory.

The loss marked the third straight for Southern and all but ended its hopes of a second straight appearance in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V playoffs. The Rams are the 10th-ranked team in the section with 23 points, one behind Toms River North but 14 behind Atlantic City, which sat in the eighth position heading into this weekend’s games.

Southern’s next two contests – against 3-1 Brick on Friday, Oct. 13, and then undefeated Brick Memorial on Oct. 21 – must be victories if the Rams hope to stay in contention for a playoff spot, but even that may not be enough since the Rams started their season a week earlier than most in the section and already had their bye week. First, they have to fix the offensive woes.

“It all comes back to what I have to do to get this fixed,” Donohue said. “This isn’t even close to where we wanted to be. The bottom line is we want to win every game we can at this point. But we’re talking Brick, then Brick Memorial. And it’s not easy to hold teams to one touchdown in this division. You have to take pressure off the defense and score points.”

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