CHERRY HILL – Nick Patrizi expects to be offered the biggest piece of pie when the family meets for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
The Haddonfield High School senior says he earned that distinction by helping his team defeat Cinnaminson 35-8 Saturday in a South Jersey Group 2 semifinal game played at Cherry Hill Stadium.
Patrizi rushed for 110 yards and scored a touchdown en route to the victory against a Pirates team that’s coached by his uncle, Mario Patrizi.
“It was a great game to play against my uncle, very exciting,” the younger Patrizi said. “He’s my dad’s brother and we’re very close. I go to his house every year for Thanksgiving, and it should be fun this year.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and obviously this will be a memory.”
Both coaches played down the relationship, focusing more on team issues.
“He’s had a good year, but this was Cinnaminson versus Haddonfield,” said Mario Patrizi. “It was nice and I appreciated the opportunity (to coach against him), but they have a lot of weapons.”
Haddonfield’s Frank DeLano said he never discussed the issue with Patrizi during the course of game preparations.
“Obviously this was a big game for him personally,” he said. “But I did not talk about it because I don’t think it was fair to him. It was us versus them. That’s the way we approached it.”
The victory continued an unlikely run for the Bulldawgs who have won two playoff games after closing the season with three straight losses.
The Bulldawgs have earned the right to meet Colonial Conference Liberty Division rival West Deptford in the championship game on Dec. 2 at Rowan University.
When the teams last met, West Deptford won on an overtime field goal.
“Credit the character of the team – how they wanted to be defined,” said Delano. “That’s not the way they wanted to go out. We’re really proud of our guys.”
The outcome of Saturday’s game probably came down to two factors.
Haddonfield quarterback Jay Foley was able to keep his team in focus. He ran for one touchdown and threw for two more – including a 42-yard toss to his brother John to open the scoring.
Foley later added a 45-yard scoring strike to Davis Smith as Haddonfield took a 14-8 lead in the second quarter.
“Every single time I throw it to him I think he’s going to come down with it,” Foley said about the pass to his brother. “I think our two wide receivers Johnny and Davis are two of the most athletic guys around, and I have full confidence in them.”
The other factor was the Haddonfield defense was able to overmatch the Cinnaminson offense.
The Bulldawgs were guilty of five turnovers for the game, but the defense was able to step up and prevent Cinnaminson from taking advantage of the miscues.
The best examples came in the third quarter. During a time when Cinnaminson was still within one score of getting back into the game, they intercepted two passes, but were stopped twice inside the 30 after running out of downs.
“It was a low third quarter at points, but we just stuck together,” said Haddonfield nose tackle Mark Tropiani. “We just held our ground. We weren’t going out that way. We held together.”
The margin between the teams was still only 14-8 going into the fourth quarter, but the Bulldawgs blew the game open with three touchdowns.
One of them came on Foley’s 44-yard run, supplemented by a three-yard run from Gabe Klaus. That TD was set up by Patrizi’s 51-yard burst. Patrizi later added a four-yard run for a score.
Foley credited the defense with holding the Pirates down until the offense got a chance to blow it open later.
“Our defense has been killing it, and I think that’s why we’ve been winning games,” he said. “Those stops they made on fourth down just fully boosts the entire team. The confidence level just shoots up.”
The one offensive bright spot for Cinnaminson came in the second quarter when the Pirates briefly took an 8-6 lead.
Kevin Schoch delivered the touchdown when he ran 26 yards for a score, and Rashad Raymond then caught a conversion pass from Shawn Ruffin.
But the Haddonfield defense shut things down the rest of the way.
South Jersey Group 2 semifinal
Cinnaminson 0 8 0 0 -8
Haddonfield 0 14 0 21-35
H: John Foley 42 pass from Jay Foley (Henry Granier kick)
C: Kevin Schoch 26 run (Rashad Raymond pass from Shawn Ruffin)
H: Davis Smith 45 pass from Jay Foley (Granier kick)
H: Gabe Klaus 3 run (Granier kick)
H: Jay Foley 44 run (Granier kick)
H: Nick Patrizi 4 run (Granier kick)