PAULSBORO – It was a play the West Deptford High School football team had run in practice several times during the course of the year, but it was never called in a game situation.
At least, it wasn’t until Saturday.
With only a few seconds left on the halftime clock, the Eagles lined up three receivers on the right side. Each ran into the end zone and it was up to quarterback Pete Orio to find the open man.
That man proved to be Jason Collier. A huge target at 6-foot-7 280 pounds, Collier hauled in the 24-yard scoring pass as time expired.
The touchdown broke a 14-14 tie and propelled the Eagles to a 35-26 win over Paulsboro in a West Jersey League interdivision matchup of South Jersey playoff finalists.
The Eagles (10-1) will next play Haddonfield for the Group 2 title and Paulsboro (9-2) will meet Penns Grove for the Group 1 crown. Both games will be played at Rowan University.
“We’ve practiced that play multiple times,” said Collier, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. “So it was like we were well oiled to do that, and we did it today.
“I wasn’t expected to get the ball right away, but Pete read it right and just threw it up there and I came down with it.”
The pass was one of two touchdown throws Orio completed for the game. The other came on a four-pass to Darren McKeown in the third quarter as the Eagles opened a 28-14 lead at that point.
The touchdown capped a 64-yard drive that began with only 50 seconds left in the half. Orio completed four passes on that drive, including a 15-yarder to Collier to get things started.
Orio confirmed the scoring pass to Collier came on a play he wasn’t expecting to be called.
“When he (Coach Clyde Folsom) called it, I was a little surprised,” he said. “We worked on it maybe four times in practice, but we never used it in a game. When the situation came up, we executed it pretty well.”
The play was especially big because it broke the momentum of the Red Raiders, who had fallen behind 14-0 in the first quarter only to make a recovery.
The Red Raiders had pulled into a 14-14 tie as a result of two touchdown passes from Colin McCarthy, each coming on a fourth-down play.
The first went for 28-yard to Jacob Perez El and the second was a nine-yarder to Dehron Holloway. Holloway’s touchdown catch came with only 52 seconds to play in the second quarter.
It appeared the teams would go into the locker room tied, but the Eagles’ offense would not be denied in its drive for the go-ahead score.
“That really hurt us,” said Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard. “It ended up being the difference in the ballgame. We just didn’t defend it well enough and didn’t make the play well enough. We hated to see them get that one, but to their credit, they made the play.”
The touchdown gave the Eagles the lead for good, but it’s a testament to the intensity of the rivalry that both teams fought hard throughout the second half.
Folsom spoke about how difficult it is to squeeze a final regular season game in between two playoff games. But still it was a game both teams clearly wanted to win.
“It didn’t matter toward the playoffs or the conference,” Folsom said. “But in terms of community pride, it’s important to the kids and important to the community. Plus, the outcome should give us some momentum going into next week.”
Both teams had good individual performances. Aside from his two touchdown passes, Orio ran 20 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Paulsboro’s McCarthy threw for three touchdowns, including a 47-yard bomb to Santino Morina late in the game to close the gap a little bit.
Holloway scored twice, adding a one-yard third quarter run to his nine-yard reception.
The Eagles took advantage of two turnovers to build up their 14-0 lead.
An interception by Ray Seas led to a 10-yard touchdown run by Tyshawn Bookman. A fumble recovery by Dylan Lucas created the opportunity for T.J. Hoyt to score on a seven-yard run in the second quarter.
West Jersey League
West Deptford 14 7 7 7-35
Paulsboro 0 14 0 12-26
WD: Tyshawn Bookman 10 run (Mike Bilodeau kick)
WD: T.J. Hoyt 1 run (Bilodeau kick)
P: Jacob Perz El 28 pass from Colin McCarthy (Ricky Wolf kick)
P: Dehron Holloway 9 pass from McCarthy (Wolf kick)
WD: Jason Collier 24 pass from Pete Orio (Bilodeau kick)
WD: Darren McMcKeown 4 pass from Rolio (Bilodeau kick)
P: Holloway 1 run (KF)
WD: Orio 20 run (Bilodeau kick)
P: Santino Morina 47 pass from McCarthy (PF)