By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
MILLVILLE — Senior quarterback Nate Robbins joked following the South Jersey Group 4 championship game that the trophy was quite a bit heavier than he thought. One thing that was heavier was host Millville’s foot that it kept plastered to the gas pedal all night long against Ocean City, which came in undefeated and seeking its first sectional title under coach Kevin Smith.
The Thunderbolts’ offense, when firing on all cylinders, can resemble a Corvette, and no matter what speed bumps the Red Raiders’ defense — one of the best in the state all season — tried to throw out there, Millville just went over and around them with seemingly easy regularity. Millville took a 13-3 lead into halftime, tacked on six more points in the third quarter, then exploded for 21 points in the fourth frame — including a touchdown with less than 30 seconds left — to take down Ocean City, 40-3.
The Thunderbolts said they were eager for a little payback, as Ocean City whipped them 36-16 during last year’s covid-shortened season.
Mission accomplished on that front.
Senior running back LeQuint Allen, who has committed to Syracuse University, rushed 27 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and senior quarterback Nate Robbins completed 12-of-21 passes for 196 yards and three more scores.
“We were hyped coming in to play them because it was a statement game from last year. They gave it to us last year, so coming in here and letting them have it felt good,” Robbins said. “We were working for this all summer, just putting in that blood, sweat and tears all summer, working in that hot weather. It’s still shocking to me that we’re already here. It went fast, but we got everything done. All our goals are done.”
“We just had to get our revenge from last year, they beat us pretty bad, and we didn’t want to let history repeat itself. We wanted to put our names in the history books,” said Millville senior defensive tackle Jaydan Wright. “We had an emotional week of practice, everyone was in tune with the game and it all came together. Everything just felt right.”
This night belonged to Allen and he showed why he is one of the top players in the state. On the game’s opening drive he toted the rock on all but one carry as Millville drove 52 yards in less than three minutes, taking a 7-0 lead on Allen’s 4-yard touchdown run. He added a 1-yard run in the third quarter that pushed Millville’s lead to 19-3 and effectively iced the game. That scoring drive came after Allen, playing linebacker, forced a fumble on Ocean City’s opening possession of the second half.
“I have full trust in him. We’ve been playing since we were 6 years old, so our handoffs are just like memory now, it’s easy. When I put the ball in his hands I know he’s going to make something happen,” Robbins said of Allen. “He steps up in the locker room, talks to the guys, gets their focus all on the game. Even on the field he’s hyping our guys up and if somebody makes a mistake or if I throw a pick he’ll come up and say it’s all good, we’ll get them next drive. He’s just an all-around great football player.”
Ocean City (11-1) cut the early deficit to 7-3 when senior kicker Brendan McGonigle nailed a 28-yard field goal, but Millville (9-2) answered on its very next drive, as Robbins hooked up with freshman phenom Lotzeir Brooks down the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown and a 13-3 lead. Robbins added a 50-yard scoring strike to Calem Bowman early in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 25-3 and tacked on another touchdown pass to Brooks, this one on a little inside screen that Brooks took down the right sideline to the house to close the scoring.
“Everybody on the team — I have trust in (Naeem) Sharp, Baby T (Ti-yon Cephas), Ta’Ron Haile, Bowman, just everybody — I know if I put the ball out there, they’re going to go get it,” Robbins said. “When we turn the ball over I’m not scared because I have complete trust in our defense. They’ve been showing me why I can trust them all season. I just throw the ball out there and see who gets it. I’m not scared to put it out there.”
Equally impressive was Millville’s defense, as the Thunderbolts allowed just 32 rushing yards and 41 receiving to an offense that nobody could stop all season. Ocean City had scored at least 21 points in every game this season and had amassed 3,500 yards in 11 games.
“I have a lot of energy and when I bring that out a lot of my teammates connect to it and we start gelling and coming together. In Millville, we’re OBG (orange-and-blue gang), so we have the best offense, defense, kickoff return in the league. The best in South Jersey,” said Wright, the emotional leader of the Thunderbolts’ defense. “It’s been hard work. A lot earned in four years, it’s about time. A lot of these kids who are younger, they should be used to this because this is what they’ve been doing. For us seniors, we’ve never had this feeling before, so it’s a big experience for us.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays