RUNNEMEDE – One or two moments are all that really matter in a tight game.
On Friday night, the Triton High School football team faced just that moment. The Mustangs came out strong against Ocean City and held the ball until 1:30 remained in the first quarter, with a lead and a pair of onside kicks to its credit.
That said, in the third quarter Ocean City had battled its way back in a seesaw game down by three points with the ball and headed straight for the Mustangs goal line.
“It was time to step up,” Eric Staton said. “There were times in the past that maybe we would get our heads down. Maybe tonight if (Ocean City) had scored we would have had our heads down. But we stepped up. That’s what good teams do.”
An interception by Joe Rubba, followed by 10-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a 34-yard strike from quarterback Geff Giancaterino to Dauvante Payton settled the night with a 33-23 win for Triton in a West Jersey Football League interdivision game. Triton (4-2) will host Seneca next week and Pennsauken the following week that could set up a National Division title.
“We showed a lot tonight,” Triton head coach Domenic Tomeo said. “We had a lot of kids step up and play really week. Our two lines were fantastic and when we needed a big play we had the guys that could do it.”
Ocean City (3-2) appeared flat off its bye week as Triton built an early 12-0 lead. In fact, the Mustangs scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 63-yard jaunt by Staton and then after an onside kick took a 12-0 lead as Staton scored his second of three touchdowns on the night.
“The holes were there,” said Staton, who rushed for 182 yards on 20 carries. “We had to keep pushing. We knew Ocean City wasn’t going to quit. But we also knew this was ours for the taking.”
Ocean City, still undefeated in the Independence with games against Oakcrest and fellow division leader Mainland still on the docket, did respond with a pair of touchdown connections between Ian Aungst and Brandon Lashley to take a 17-12 lead at the half.
The lead improved to 23-12 on the opening drive of the second half as Aungst ran in from 7 yards but Triton didn’t fold.
“We had to keep our heads,” Giancaterino said. “That next drive changed everything.”
Six plays – all runs – capped off by a 25-yard touchdown by Staton out the Mustangs back up.
“I told him it was his time to carry us,” said Payton, who caught two passes on the night. “I told him he was going to get the ball and that they couldn’t stop him, not with the holes our line was creating.”
Both teams struggled over the next few possession until Ocean City found itself on the Triton 33-yard line down three. Aungst looked again for Lashley, who found space along the sideline inside the Triton 5-yard line. What appeared to be a great leaping catch was ruled out of bounds and the Red Raiders let that frustration disrupt their mindset. Rubba intercepted the next pass and Triton had more than just momentum, the Mustangs had the ball and one idea only, and that was to score.
On fourth-and-3 – the Mustangs converted five fourth downs on the night – Payton got behind the Red Raiders defense and in effect, it was game over.
“He was open,” Giancaterino said.
“I just wanted the ball,” said the junior, who also caught a pass for 30-yards on a trick play from his brother Davaun in the first half. “We know no one expects us to do anything. We know what social media says about us. We want to prove all of those people wrong. We have a good team and the only place to prove it is on the field.”
Quarertback Geff Giancaterino, running back Eric Staton and wide receiver Davaunte Payton all scored in the second half of an impressive win.
Ocean City 0-17-6- 0----23
Triton 12- 0-8-13----33
T: Eric Staton 63 run (kick failed)
T: Staton 1 run (pass failed)
OC: Brandon Lashley pass from Ian Aungst (Henry Souto kick)
OC: Lashley pass from Aungst (Henry Souto kick)
OC: FG Henry Souto 21
OC: Aungst run (kick failed)
T: Staton 25 run (Staton pass from Geff Giancaterino)
T: Giancaterino 7 run (kick failed)
T: Davaunte Payton 34 pass from Giancaterino (Staton kick)