By LARRY HENRY JR.
Correspondent
MAPLE SHADE — Kerry Nicholas witnessed the frustration and struggles being part of a winless 2019 season as a freshman at Bordentown High. Since then, Nicholas has been part of an impressive turnaround for the Scotties, one that continued Friday night on the road at Maple Shade.
The sophomore tailback rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown while helping his team hold on for a 21-20 West Jersey Football League victory over the Wildcats. It was Bordentown’s fifth win of the season, moving the Scotties to 5-2.
“We just kept fighting to the end,” Nicholas said. “It was a tough game for us in not-so-great conditions on the field and Maple Shade played very hard, but we overcame it. My line did well for the most part in sloppy conditions, so we’re happy to celebrate this win.”
It was all Scotties early as Skip Edwards’ team scored on its opening possession. Jaden Blanding made it 7-0 Bordentown after pounding it in from 9 yards out to cap off a 10-play, 54-yard drive. Defensively, the Scotties frustrated Maple Shade in the first quarter, with Sha’Meir Coleman-Smith and Maurice Cucci both intercepting Wildcats quarterback Justin Milligan to end back-to-back Maple Shade drives.
“I give Bordentown a lot of credit, because they came out and hit us in the mouth, which is what we aimed to be ready for,” Wildcats head coach Imion Powell said. “They made it tough for us on offense and gave us a lot of different looks, but most importantly they played hard and never gave up and that is why you see them leaving tonight with a win.”
Bordentown scored on back-to-back drives in the second quarter to extend its lead to 21-0, with Dennis Morolda connecting with Ryan Byard for a 7-yard touchdown ahead of Nicholas’ 20-yard score up the middle of the Wildcats defense. However, Maple Shade turned the tide just before halftime and fought down to the last drive in hopes of earning its first win in three weeks after having to sit out due to COVID-19 protocols.
“Tonight felt like two halves of football, we got a couple of guys who got banged up in the third quarter, but I give my players all of the credit,” Edwards said. “They played their hearts out tonight and I know it can get frustrating at times when things aren’t going your way, but they fought down to the final drives and played with resiliency.”
Mikey Santore’s 24-yard circus catch in the end zone gave the Wildcats life just before halftime, making it 21-8 at the break. Bordentown’s defense saw Justin Meehan score on a 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter before hauling in a 25-yard screen pass from Milligan, making it a one-point game. Bordentown pressed Milligan on a possible go-ahead, two-point conversion attempt and forced the pass high and out of bounds before running out the clock to earn a road victory.
“Defensively, we did our jobs and made the plays when it counted,” Blanding, who recorded one sack from his defensive line position, said. “Coach is always telling us to play together as one unit and one heartbeat and I think you saw that tonight. Things got a little dicey at the end, but we came out and held on for the win. It was a great team effort.”
Nicholas started the game strong for Bordentown and continued to grind out a tough performance as the minutes ticked down. After being part of the tough season a year ago, the tailback said he is excited to see the growth of the team one year later.
“It feels good to get that taste of winning because we worked hard last season and it just didn’t go our way,” Nicholas said. “Now it is pleasing to see because we are learning and getting better as a team and that is what is most important in the long run. We have a lot more chemistry than we did a year ago and if we keep putting in the effort during the week and on game day, I think we will be fine.”
What’s next: Bordentown will face off with Steinert on Nov. 20 looking to stay perfect in the division and reach the six-win mark for the first time since 2014.
Larry Henry Jr. covers Burlington County sports for Glory Days Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @lhenry019.