MT. HOLLY – The Athlete and The Coach.
In a classic comeback worthy of a “telling your grandchildren” label, the Rancocas Valley High School football team needed both to be at their ultimate best Friday night.
And they were to complete a turnaround that left the home bleachers shaking and the visiting fans knowing it took a supreme effort by The Athlete and The Coach to beat them.
First, The Athlete made the play and then The Coach made the call for the Red Devils stunning 15-14 win over defending Group 5 champion Millville.
After being blanked for the first 46 minutes, the second-seeded Red Devils shocked No. 3 Millville when Iverson Clement made a play that is worthy of being the top highlight of the Division I recruit’s sparkling career and then Dan Haussman made the call that could define his meteoric rising coaching career at Rancocas Valley.
Clement showed why he is a University of Florida commit when he fielded a punt at his own 44-yard line, stutter-stepped to freeze the two Millville gunners, darted into the middle of a pack, spun free when he looked trapped, darted down the left sideline with sprinter’s speed and dove Superman style from the 5-yard line to avoid a converging tackler for the highlight video 56-yard touchdown.
“I always say, ‘give me a little bit and I will take a lot,’ ” Clement said.
Really, he made a play out of determination and athleticism that former Rancocas Valley and NFL alumni Franco Harris, Irving Fryar and Alonzo Spellman would shake their heads in disbelief.
“I had a dream this week that I would be diving into the end zone,” said the fleet and flying 5-foot-11, 195-pounder.
Then, down 14-13 following Clement’s heroics, Haussman called for a daring fake extra point. RV’s reliable kicker Kyle Prescavage lined up for the kick, but holder Bryce Mangene took the snap, stood up and tossed a pass to Danny Myers for the winning points with 3:44 left in fourth quarter.
“It was a call that wasn’t as easy as I thought,” said Haussman after the superb South Jersey Group 5 semifinal between ranked teams in the South Jersey Sports Digest Top Ten.
Haussman gave the green light for the fake. It was up to holder Mangene to keep the green light on. The Red Devils junior quarterback read the Millville alignment and executed.
“Bryce made a great call,” Haussman said.
“They saw it was open and trusted us,” Myers said about Haussman’s call.
Myers said they practice the play about three times a week during the season. He said it worked the only time they used the fake in an earlier game.
Mangene could’ve kept the ball and ran if Myers was covered. But he wasn’t after rolling into the flat from his tight end alignment.
“They blitzed two players so we knew we had the pass,” Myers said.
Rancocas Valley (9-1) plays No. 1 Lenape (9-1), a 63-28 winner over No. 4 Howell, on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at Rowan University for the sectional title.
In late October, Rancocas Valley posted an impressive 10-7 win at Lenape to hand the Indians their only loss.
“We will just believe in our coaches and do what they tell us,” said Myers about the fascinating rematch.
Down 14 points, Rancocas Valley cut the deficit in half when Keshawn Harris caught a 14-yard pass in the back of the end zone from Mangene and Prescavage kicked the point after with 9:19 left in fourth quarter
“We were down at half, but we knew we could come back,” Myers said.
Clement willed the comeback.
“He brings it all to the table,” Haussman said about Clement.
“The whole sideline went crazy,” Myers said.
Millville (9-1) stormed to the Group 5 title as the No. 3 seed last season and the Bolts looked like they were going back to the championship when they benefitted from a spectacular individual effort, too.
Lying on his back in the end zone, Millville’s Tex Thompson caught a deflected ball that goes down as a 22-yard pass from quarterback Elijah Nichols. The conversion run failed, but the Thunderbolts led 15-0 lead with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Millville, which was almost derailed in the first round as they needed overtime to outlast sixth-seeded Williamstown, 20-14, couldn’t hang on at Rancocas Valley in a rematch of last season’s semifinal.
The Bolts scored on their first possession when running back Clayton Scott slashed for a 4-yard score. Scott added the conversion run for the 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Millville, ranked No. 3 in the SJSD Top Ten, has every reason to bounce back quickly since the Bolts play next on Thanksgiving at ancient rival Vineland (7-2).
Rancocas Valley, ranked No. 6 in the SJSD Top Ten, rolled Eastern 57-9 in the first round of the playoffs. But that lopsided win wasn’t more impressive then avenging last year’s 32-15 loss to Millville with the fourth quarter dramatics by The Athlete and The Coach.
“This is history,” Clement said. “This means a lot to the team and the community.”
Millville 8 0 0 6 - 14
Rancocas Valley 0 0 0 15 - 15
M - Clayton Scott 4 run (Scott run)
M - Tex Thompson 22 pass from Elijah Nichols (run failed)
RV - Keshawn Harris 14 pass from Bryce Mangene (Kyle Prescavage kick)
RV - Iverson Clement 56 yard punt return (Danny Myers pass from Mangene)