By MARK TRIBLE

South Jersey Glory Days Football Writer

SALEM — It may not have been Thanksgiving, but it felt like the Salem and Woodstown rivalry, alright.

And the way it played out will leave plenty of hunger for the Rams while rights to brag stick with the Wolverines.

Less than 24 hours removed from Lenape’s big upset of Millville, the local ranks took another shakeup here as Woodstown stood tall late and got past Salem, 7-6, in the TURNERSVILLEJEEP.COM Game of the Week.

The result and the way the clash played out made it seem like less of a surprise.

Credit a ferocious defense and the well-timed heroics of one Zach Bevis, a junior linebacker whose forced fumble came when the visitors needed it most.

On 1st-and-10 at the 12-yard line with four minutes to play, Bevis popped the ball loose on an inside run.

“I just knew we had to make a big stop, it was just up to who was going to do it,” Bevis said. “I had to be the one to step up and lead the defense.”

The Rams, ranked No. 4 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show/Glory Days Best 11, never came close again. A last-minute fourth down attempt went incomplete to wrap it up, broken up by Wolverines defensive back Garrett Leyman.

It proved an ugly, mean and grey day here. The exact kind reserved for rosters of this ilk with loads on the line.

“This is what’s special about Group 1 football,” coach John Adams said.

Adams used that sentence in reference to quarterback Max Webb’s willingness to attempt extra points this week — and the fact the strategy proved the difference.

Yet, his words meant a lot more than that. A turf battle between two clubs that met for matchup No. 113. Familiarity that breeds contempt as cowbells clang in the bleachers. A need for a hero — and Bevis’ name that now goes down in local lore.

So, too, does David Harvey’s.

After all, he recovered the loose ball.

“Zach just flies through there and smacks him,” Harvey said. “I saw the ball fly out his hands and jumped on it as soon as I saw it.

Harvey caught his team’s lone touchdown, an 8-yarder on a call from Webb — off an old play Woodstown used in 2019 against the blue-and-white. It also worked two weeks ago for Penns Grove against the Rams.

The enemy of my enemy, so they say. That holds true, too, in the best Group 1 division in the state, the West Jersey Football League’s Diamond.

Adams’ Wolverines improved to 2-0 within its confines and 5-0 overall. Salem fell to 4-2 and 1-1 in the collective.

“If you had to switch it to a day, what better day than a 4-1 Salem team and a 4-0 Woodstown team?” Adams asked rhetorically of the game’s movement away from Turkey Day for the first time in forever. “No. 1, No. 2 in the rankings for Group 1? What better year to change it?

“It was a tough call to change that game, but it’s games like this that we looked at.”

Seed opportunities via power point advantages come from a midseason showdown. The holiday contests between two of the state’s current best small school programs would have neglected such bonuses and put them in at a disadvantage.

“It feels amazing to have the power points in play and to have the game really mean something now,” Harvey said. “It meant something before, but now it really means more to our organization.”

Locked atop the division is Woodbury (5-1, 2-0). That’s who the Wolverines will see next Saturday. It’s a rematch of the South Jersey Group1 final last fall.

The Herd took that one, 8-6. But Saturday combined with the last two wins for Woodstown — by eight over Deptford and six over Glassboro in overtime — show mettle that may not have been present in 2021.

Adams credits his roster’s experience. He shouldn’t need to motivate for that all-Wood clash that will be the toast of the state’s Group 1 football. Just like this affair had been.

“It’s good for Group 1 football to have games like this and to have the Diamond Division,” Adams said. “Some people have complained about that.

“What’s there to complain about? It’s awesome football. It’s great football.”

Star back James Hill felt similarly as much with his huge smile as the venue emptied out.

“It feels unbelievable, it’s like a dream come true,” Hill said after he ran for 143 on 27 totes. “To beat Salem? Homecoming game? Here?

“Unbelievable.”

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, and his “Hat’s Off” Podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m.