DELRAN –The players on Florence High School and Holy Cross understood they would need to tighten their chin straps a few notches in a game that would be won or lost the old school way. A game won on the ground and that attrition would determine the survivor.
In a cycle of the game these days when teams are pass giddy, the Flashes and Lancers knocked themselves silly on both lines. The thick grass at Tom Reilly Stadium was pounded flat.
The last team standing was Holy Cross, a 14-7 survivor over Florence in the West Jersey Football League inter-division slugfest.
“We definitely were thinking it would be this type of game,” Holy Cross senior two-way lineman Nick Werkheiser, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who never stopped working. “We knew they were a strong running team and we would have to play tough.”
Florence coach Joe Frappolli stayed at 298 career wins, which is second on South Jersey’s all-time list behind Paul Sacco of St. Joseph Hammonton.
The Flashes (1-2) play at Palmyra next Friday and are home the following week against Penns Grove in what Florence fans hope is the milestone win for their beloved and legendary coach, who is now in his 44th season on the sideline of his alma mater.
“It is an honor to coach against Coach Frappolli,” Holy Cross coach Frank Holmes said afterwards. “He is a legend and on the Mt. Rushmore of South Jersey coaches.”
Florence, which was coming off a bye, certainly looked refreshed and reaffirmed the game would be grinded out on the opening possession, going 65 yards on a 15-play drive – all runs – to take the sudden lead on a Joe LaVach 3-yard scoring plunge.
“They had a nice first drive, but then we stopped the run,” said senior defensive tackle Brian Beck, a 6-1, 305-pound captain who also battled at offensive guard. “Then we established our run game.”
Holy Cross (3 1) answered the body blow on its first possession when Tim Petrucelli powered 12 yards for the touchdown. Paul Ginty kicked the extra point to tie the game on the first play of the second quarter.
The Lancers, winners of six straight over Florence, added the game’s final score on their next possession when Petrucelli rushed six yards to the end zone and Ginty added the kick to double their lead with 2:22 left in the first half.
“This is the way we prefer to play,” the 6-foot, 205-pound Petrucelli said about the ground game after rushing for 150 yards on 24 carries. “We knew it was going to be this kind of game going in and we were looking forward to it.”
The second half was combative and competitive, but there just wasn’t any scoring.
“We had out mistakes,” Beck said. “But a win is a win.”
The Lancers look like they can pound it out with anyone as 5-10, 220-pound senior Matt Verrico is also a rugged running back. But Holy Cross also has a talented passer in senior quarterback Jeff Undercuffler. The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder displayed a strong arm and a nice touch when he did throw, completing half of his 12 attempts, but this wasn’t the type of game where Coach Holmes needed to air out the ball, not when Florence attempted just two passes.
“They are a good team, I knew that last year when I looked around and saw they were all coming back,” Holmes said about the Lancers’ 26-20 win.
The Lancers, who stay at home and host Willingboro next Friday, have won two straight after losing to Haddonfield.
“We have 13 seniors and we have been looking forward to this season since we were little freshman when we went 10-0,” said Petrucelli. “We wish we were undefeated, but we still are in a good position.”
And the Lancers should feel good about themselves after surviving a grinding game against a tough team.
Lancers 14, Flashes 7
Florence 7- 0-0-0--- 7
Holy Cross 0-14-0-0--- 14
F – Joe LaVach 3 run (Joe Brunner kick)
HC- Tim Petrucelli 12 run (Paul Ginty kick)
HC- Petrucelli 6 run (Ginty kick)