By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — If you’re looking to deliver a knockout blow against your former Thanksgiving Day rival in the season opener at the Battle at the Beach, it helps to have a guy named Tyson.
Mainland junior Jamie Tyson — who helped lead the Mustangs boys basketball team to its first Cape-Atlantic League Tournament championship last winter as a sophomore — did a little bit of everything on Friday morning to help the green-and-white get their 2022 season off to a blistering start.
After a sluggish first quarter, Tyson took over in the second, as he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback John Franchini, scooped up a fumble and scored from 60-yards out on Egg Harbor Township’s next possession, and added an interception 29 seconds before halftime to thwart another Eagles drive. His two touchdowns in the second quarter came after a safety and a 21-yard touchdown run by senior Ja’Briel Mace, and by halftime Mainland led, 23-0.
That cushion was plenty, as Mainland cruised to a 37-0 victory in the Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week to kick off what promises to be an outstanding high school football showcase weekend at Carey Stadium.
“Jamie balled out today,” said senior captain and defensive lineman Paul Lombardo. “That kid is a dawg, we love having him.”
“We’ve been working really hard this offseason,” Tyson said. “I’ve been practicing both sides of the ball, getting the plays down. It’s exciting to see that I was able to come out here and do my thing today.”
Neither team could get anything going in the first quarter, but early in the second quarter Mainland took a 2-0 lead when a punt snap by EHT sailed out of the back of the end zone. The Stangs got the ball back and marched 64 yards in about six minutes, taking a 9-0 lead on Mace’s burst through the middle. Freshman kicker Nate Kashey was perfect on the extra point, and the 13-year-old finished the day 5-for-5 on point-after attempts.
From there, it was all Mainland.
The Mustangs recovered the following kickoff and took over at the EHT 27-yard line with three minutes, 20 seconds left before halftime, and that’s when Franchini found Tyson over the middle to put Mainland up 16-0. On EHT’s next possession is when Tyson gathered up a fumbled screen pass on the right sideline and ran 60 yards untouched for his second score of the day, and a 23-0 Mustangs lead.
“I saw it, picked it up and had to take it to the crib,” Tyson said.
In the third quarter the lead swelled to 30-0 on a two-yard scoring run by Cohen Cook, who spent time at both quarterback and running back, and Mainland capped the scoring on a two-yard run by Rocco DiBiaso with 7:25 remaining.
Franchini had a solid varsity debut, going 3-for-5 with 57 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. Mace, a Villanova University recruit, racked up a game-high 84 yards on 11 carries.
“We ran the ball a lot and (when we had to throw it) Johnny looked good. We’re proud of him,” Lombardo said.
Added Tyson, “Johnny came out and did his thing. We got him ready and we got Cohen ready also. It’s good to see that (Franchini) was composed. He wasn’t too nervous, he was ready to go out there and do his thing.”
Mainland’s defense was just as good. EHT was held to 77 yards on 17 carries and the secondary was able to hold four-year Eagles starting quarterback Christian Rando mostly in check. He finished 7-for-14 for 57 yards.
“We got that goose egg on defense,” Lombardo said. “We switched up our defensive front a little bit based on their scheme and I think that helped a lot. We were able to get some pressure on them.”
“We practiced a lot in the deep third (of our secondary) because we knew their quarterback is a four-year starter. His throwing, and his running game, are both pretty good,” Tyson said.
The Mustangs said they can’t get too amped up over a win in the season opener, however. They’ll be right back at Carey Stadium on Thursday night to take on a tough Ocean City squad, then host Oakcrest on Sept. 9 in their home opener.
“We’re not looking that far ahead, we have a big week coming up where we’ll be right back here in Ocean City,” Lombardo said.
“We have a quarterback who can go out there and do his thing, so that’s a positive that came out of this game,” Tyson added. “It feels good to get this win, especially on this field. We have Ocean City next week, so we have to come back here and do the same thing.”
What’s next: Mainland travels to Ocean City on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. Egg Harbor Township travels to Holy Spirit on Friday, Sept. 2 at 6 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; On Twitter @GDsullysays