GLASSBORO – Pat Hayden went down on the game’s first play. The trainer checked his foot on the field, but he had to be helped off by two of his Gateway Regional High School teammates. His day appeared to be finished.
But, as so often happens, things aren’t always as they appear to be. Hayden, the 6-foot 3-inch, 240 pound Gators senior, wasn’t going to let his teammates down. He returned in the second half, limping between plays, but a force once the ball was snapped. He finished with two sacks and helped lead a stingy Gateway defense that dominated Glassboro throughout most of the game as the Gators remained unbeaten with a 22-6 victory.
“We want to be a tough team, that’s what we’re all about,” Hayden said, standing on the field after the game. “Our front seven, we just want to out-physical every team we play. We have a great defensive scheme each and every week. Our coaches prepare us phenomenally for what we have to face.
“Honestly it’s about the coaching. We work harder. We get into the weight room every day during the off-season. Coach (Pete) Goetz, our defensive coordinator, puts in a great plan every week.”
Gateway held Glassboro to 111 total yards, with 63 coming in the first half when the game was still close with the Gators leading just 8-6 at halftime. But the Gators scored on the opening drive of the second half on a Derrick Parker 4-yard run to take a 15-6 lead. From that point on, the game was in the hands of Hayden and his defensive mates.
“In my 12 years of coaching, this is the best defensive front I’ve ever had,” said Coach Josh Mason whose team improved to 5-0. “They’re tough. They’re hungry. They’re quick to the ball and they’re playing really aggressive right now.”
In the first quarter, Glassboro quarterback Gavin Shields had a ball tipped and intercepted by the Gateway’s Jackson Kelly who returned it to the Bulldogs’ 33-yard line. Nine plays later, Gators’ quarterback Matt Goetz dove into the end zone from the one. After two consecutive Glassboro offsides penalties moved the ball closer to the goal line, Gateway went for two and again it was Goetz diving into the end zone for an 8-0 lead.
Glassboro answered in the second quarter with a 69-yard drive in eight plays. The Bulldogs got a big play on third-and-nine on their own 32 when Shields, who was about to be sacked, lateraled the ball to R.J. Gadson, who ran 19 yards for a first down. Five plays later, on second and seven from the Gateway 33-yard line, Shields passed to Greg Brackett, who went up between two defenders to make the catch and sprinted into the end zone. The conversion run failed and Gateway still led 8-6.
In the second half, Gateway turned to Laqwan Sims, a 5-11, 185 pound junior. He would finish with 82 yards rushing, but on the half’s opening series he picked up 11 yards rushing and eight more receiving as the Gators, getting a break on a roughing the passer penalty on a fourth down halfback pass, drove 76 yards in nine plays and scored on Parker’s run to take a 15-6 lead. The Gators capped their day on Sims 15-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
“We made some good adjustments at halftime,” Mason said. “We wanted to work Laqwan in there. He’s been playing pretty well for us.
“It wasn’t our best game. We committed too many penalties. We have some stuff we need clean up because from here on out every game we play we’re going to play a good football team.”
Gateway 22 Glassboro 6
Gateway 8 0 7 7 – 22
Glassboro 0 6 0 0 - 6
Ga-Matt Goetz 1 run (Goetz run)
Gl-Greg Brackett 33 pf Gavin Shields (run failed)
Ga-Derrick Parker 4 run (Jackson Kelly kick)
Ga-Laqwan Sims 15 run (Kelly kick)