By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
MAYS LANDING — The Absegami football team got smoked in its season opener by Ocean City, losing 49-7 in the head coaching debut of Chris Sacco, who spent the previous five years building Pleasantville’s program into a South Jersey Group 2 championship contender.
Losses like that tend to stick in Sacco’s craw. He’s a Hammonton guy and in that town football is even more popular than blueberries. You can bet a bushel full of blueberries that Sacco had his team dissecting film for hours after that season-opening drubbing at the hands of the Red Raiders.
Sacco’s Braves haven’t lost a game since.
Their latest victim was longtime Thanksgiving Day rival Oakcrest, as Absegami scored on its opening drive Friday night and never looked back, racing to a 42-7 victory in Glory Days Magazine’s Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week. Junior quarterback Ray Weed capped off the Braves’ opening drive by plunging into the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, and threw a pair of touchdown passes later in the first half as Absegami, 4-1 and winner of four straight, built a 28-0 lead by the intermission.
“We always want to come out strong. If we kick off to them, stop them, then get the ball and score, that’s kind of the goal we’ve had every single game so far,” Weed said. “We’ve had some success stopping teams and getting the ball and scoring; that’s what we did today and that started the momentum pretty quickly.”
On Absegami’s second possession, Weed really showed his maturation as a quarterback. Facing 1st-and-20 at Oakcrest’s 26-yard line after a penalty, Weed dropped back and stood in the pocket as Jordan Marcucci’s fade pattern down the left side developed. He lofted a pass to the back of the end zone and Marcucci hauled it in for the score. Weed then ran in the conversion to push Absegami’s lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter.
“I saw that they were playing man (coverage) on Jordan, who is probably one of the best athletes in this area. I trust that he’s going to make a play and he went up and made an amazing play on the ball,” Weed said. “Each year you get more confident in myself and this year I’m a lot more confident in my reads and knowing where to go with the ball, and how to throw the ball into specific areas — for three years now I’ve been the starting quarterback here, so I feel like I’m pretty comfortable throwing those kinds of passes.”
“A lot of teams game plan around me this year, but when the coaches saw they were playing me one-on-one, we’ll always take that shot because we have confidence (in that route). As soon as I burned him off the line — Ray actually threw a nice ball into the corner of the end zone — (the DB) was pulling on me a bit but you have to be able to catch the ball in traffic. I just let the ball sink in and followed through with the catch,” said Marcucci, a senior and younger brother of former Braves standout quarterback Andrew Marcucci. “I want to go to college for free. A lot of schools doubt me, so I just want to prove that I can play at the next level.”
Late in the first half Sahmir Brown got into the action when he capped off a long Absegami scoring drive with a 6-yard touchdown run and Anthony Silipena added the extra point. He was 4-for-5 on extra points for the Braves.
The backbreaker came in the waning seconds of the first half, as Weed found Marcucci over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown pass that was set up by a big run from Brown. That gave Absegami a 28-0 lead. Maurice Moseley pushed the lead to 35-0 in the third quarter with a 16-yard run and Mar’ion Cowan capped things off with a 6-yard TD scamper. Oakcrest’s points came on a scoop-and-score fumble recovery by David Connelly, who also added the extra point.
Absegami, a surprise 4-1 team, will close out its regular season at Atlantic City next Friday, and then away a “playoff” pod scenario.
“Buying in,” is the key, said Weed, “we’re all as one, that’s kind of our team motto. We’re together, we don’t care who is scoring touchdowns, we’re all happy because our team is winning. Just buying in is the biggest reason why our team is successful right now.
Added Marcucci, “Like Ray said, it’s buying in. Coach Sacco puts something up and then we put it down as a team — when we make little mental mistakes, he goes over it and we fix it. He’s a great coach. Right now, I’m trying to make the best (of this season) and the team is making the best of it. It’s so fun (winning these games). I’m trying to soak it all in because I know it’s going to be gone just like that. It’s been a crazy four years and a helluva ride.”
What’s next: Absegami travels to Atlantic City on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. Oakcrest hosts Egg Harbor Township on Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays