By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Senior Football Writer
EVESHAM TOWNSHIP — Millville High’s football team didn’t care for the fact that its foe on Friday night led the area in points allowed.
It really didn’t like that others have pegged Mainland and Winslow as potential usurpers to its two-time Group 4 sectional throne.
The Thunderbolts also weren’t all too thrilled that some thought Cherokee would win at home here in the final game of the regular season.
A team like this doesn’t need motivation. The Bolts found it anyway.
Millville rolled, ran and then roared over the Chiefs, 41-17. In doing so, the Bolts proved their point — and then some.
“I think we just told everybody who we are,” coach Humberto Ayala said. “We already know who we are and what we’re about, but that doesn’t mean anything.
“We did what we did last year. Our job is to prove it. Next week is the first stepping stone to get back to where we want to go.”
Ayala’s club proved itself as tops in South Jersey to date, where it’s sat all year in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11 rankings. Millville (7-1, 5-0 West Jersey Football League American) suffered its lone loss to Group 5 powerhouse Toms River North in the season opener, 14-7.
Against fourth-ranked Cherokee (6-2, 3-2 WJFL American), the defense made its impact felt early. Down 3-0 early in the second quarter, linebacker Joey Zamot got his fingertips on a pass and deflected it to Kyon Conyers.
The talented safety raced 36 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Two snaps later, Zamot himself pilfered a pass and returned it to the 11-yard line. His brother, quarterback Jacob Zamot, ran it in from six yards out to make it 14-3 with 8 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first half.
“We come in with an underdog mentality, so when we score it feels great,” Joey Zamot said. “Coach (Chuck) Core says that we can win the game ourselves.
“Our defense scores a lot of touchdowns. When we hold them and we score, that just feels great.”
That’s where the score stood at halftime.
But the Chiefs used two stellar pass plays by Ryan Bender — one 41 yards to Luke Brown, one 25 yards to Trent Osborn — to have the contest tight at 21-17 with eight seconds left in the third frame.
On the next play, spectacular junior Lotzeir Brooks ran as far as he could. Jacob Zamot heaved it. Brooks stopped, grabbed it and raced in for the 80-yard score.
“When we got back on offense, they told me, ‘It’s coming to you,’” Brooks said. “After that (touchdown catch by Osborn), I had my head down. My teammates, everybody just lifted me up and said I was going to go get it back.
“I got it back.”
Millville got another possession soon after. Zamot hit Ta’Ron Haile on a 41-yard score.
Then, the final firework belonged to Brooks again. He made an over-the-shoulder interception and ran 82 yards through traffic for a touchdown.
In a span of about 30 minutes, the Thunderbolts showed their full ability. So did Brooks, a talent who will go down as one of the best to ever play in South Jersey. He is already coveted by most every college program under the sun.
He is flat-out brilliant when the ball touches his hands.
“It feels good. I’m blessed to have this talent from God, he gave it to me,” Brooks said. “I’ve just got to keep going.
“This is not the end. There is more to come.”
The playoffs begin next week. Millville figures to have the top seed in Group 4 South, which comes with homefield advantage to the state finals.
The Bolts have only one goal — defend their status in that final game. This was a message sent to those who want to take their crown.
“All week, we knew what we were coming here for,” defensive leader A’Cear Cornish said. “They’re not better than us. The only way they could beat us was for us to beat ourselves.
“Now, everybody has to come through the ’Ville. Nobody is beating us at the ’Ville.”
If they show what they put on display Friday night, it doesn’t matter where the games are held.
Mark Trible is a special high school football writer for South Jersey Glory Days. You can follow him on Twitter @MTrible. Also, catch his high school football show (The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show) every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/sjglorydays.