GLASSBORO -- Stephen Mulville had tried only two field goals all season for the Lenape High School football team, and one of them was a miss.
Yet, coach Tim McAneney says he had complete confidence in Mulville when he was sent out for a 33-yard attempt to win the South Jersey Group 5 championship.
“We kick field goals every day in practice,” McAneney said. “You come here and put him on the right hash and he does what he does it was awesome to see.”
Mulville put his attempt right down the middle with five seconds to play Saturday night, lifting the Indians to the Group 5 title with a 10-7 win over Rancocas Valley in a game played at Rowan University.
“This is the best moment of my life,” Mulville said. “I don’t think I’ll experience something like this again.”
It was Lenape’s first-ever sectional football championship, and one the players will no doubt remember for a long time.
That will no doubt be true of Mulville, who was understandably mobbed by his teammates in a wild celebration that carried well into the bench.
“You can’t draw it up any better than that,’” said Lenape quarterback Matt Lajoie. “A game-winning field, a last 50-second drive. A state championship, you’ll talk about for the rest of your life. But the way that ended . . . you can’t even put it into words.”
The one person who didn’t seem totally overwhelmed with emotion was Mulville, himself.
A lineman at the start of his career, he expressed an interest this season in kicking and it’s worked out for all concerned.
“I don’t think he’s missed an extra point all year,” McAneney said.
Asked why he hasn’t been used more as a field goal kicker, the coach spoke about the overall effectiveness of his offense.
“When we get inside the 30 we like to go for touchdowns, he said. “We’ve scored a lot of points this year.”
Despite his lack of attempts in game situations, Mulville showed a lot of poise on his winning kick -- even after Rancocas called a time out to try to `ice' him.
“Obviously I was a little nervous,” he said. “But I was going to put it through.”
The field goal was set up by a 19-yard pass from Lajoie to Brandon Marshal who brought the ball down to the 19-yard line.
Even though there was time to run another play, the Indians were facing a fourth-down situation, having fallen just short of the first-down marker.
“We were trying to get what we could get,” Marshall said. “I knew if I caught it and could get out of bounds and stop the clock it would set up a good field goal attempt for our kicker. We did what we had to do.”
“The kids kept their poise,” he said. “They performed under pressure. It was unbelievable timing. They believed in each other and they won a state championship. What a day for them.”
The game was a defensive battle throughout.
Lenape took a first-quarter lead on Lajoie’s 1-yard touchdown run, but they were then pretty much stymied until the last drive of the game.
Rancocas Valley had a couple of chances to draw into a tie, but the Lenape defense held firm.
Finally the Red Devils did break through late in the third quarter when they drove 74 yards, a journey that stayed alive when Kyle Snap successfully executed a fake punt.
Soon after that, Bryce Mangene completed a 35-yard pass to Ethan Jackson and that paved the way for a 34-yard touchdown pass from Mangene to Iverson Clement on a fourth-and-15 play.
The teams slugged it out in the fourth quarter and Rancocas had a shot to take the lead with a field goal, but the attempt went wide.
Lenape took over for their last possession after a punt on their own 49-yard line and moved methodically down the field.
A 12-yard pass from Lajoie to Jake Topolski moved them into Rancocas territory, but it still looked like overtime was looming.
But the Indians made the plays necessary to avoid adding extra time.
“We put it in the kids' hands," McAneney said. "And they did it.”
S.J. Group 5 championship
Lenape 7 0 0 3-10
Rancocas Valley 0 0 7 0 -7
L: Matt Lajoie 1 run (Steve Mulville kick)
RV: Iverson Clement 34 pass from Bryc Bryce Mangene (Kyle Prescavage (kick)
L: Mulville 33 field goal.