RUNNEMEDE – One thing that can be said about watching the Triton Regional High School football team is it will always be entertaining.
Take, for instance, the momentum-seizing play in Friday night’s West Jersey Football League National Division matchup with Pennsauken with a share of the title on the line. It had element of surprise and it had timing and it worked to perfection.
Leading 13-0 after the first half and the rain beginning to fall, Triton returned the second half kickoff to its own 30-yard line. On first down, Triton coach Domenic Tomeo called a play he had drawn up day before which featured the workhorse running back, Eric Staton, who had never thrown a pass before, hooking up with the quarterback, Geff Giancaterino, who had never caught one before. The result was a 70 yard touchdown boosting the Mustangs lead to 19-0 and the Indians never recovered. The defense finished the shutout and the offense added a couple more scores to register a 31-0 victory.
The win moved Triton to 5-3 overall, firmly in the hunt for a South Jersey Group 3 playoff berth and 4-1 in the division. Cherry Hill West can share the division title with a victory over Cherry Hill East when they play the night before Thanksgiving.
“Every Tuesday the kids come out to practice and say what play do you have this week,” Tomeo explained. “I just draw them up. I don’t even call them anything. We practice it once or twice. This one wasn’t the one we practiced. We drew it up after practice yesterday. We looked at it. We talked about it. Today we’re at lunch, we said let’s do it. The kids came in at halftime, it was on the board and we said this is what we’re going to do.”
At the snap, Giancaterino handed the ball off to Staton for what appeared to be a sweep right, but Staton pulled up and looked downfield. As the Pennsauken defense closed in, Staton, who slipped on the wet turf and was falling backward, heaved the ball toward Giancaterino who was alone down the left sideline. He caught the ball in stride and outran the Indians defense to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown..
“I have been playing quarterback since I was four years old so I’ve never caught a pass before,” Giancaterino said. “But Eric has a strong arm. We had a lot of confidence in him.”
Staton, who also rushed 18 times for 111 yards and scored two touchdowns, said it was all a matter of trust.
“Oh man, I hope I don’t mess up,” Staton said when asked what went through his mind when the play was called. “I’m not used to throwing the ball. Coach told me, if you see anybody down field, just let it go. I trusted it and I threw it. Geff grabbed it, snatched it and took it to the end zone – six points.”
Coming out for the second half, there was still a sense Pennsauken was in the game. The Indians moved the ball in the first half, getting as close as the Triton 15 yard line on one possession, but penalties and a persistent Triton defense kept them off the scoreboard.
Meanwhile the Mustangs scored twice in the first quarter on a 12-yard run b y Staton and a 15-yard run by DaVaun Payton. But the Staton-to-Giancaterino touchdown was a back-breaker.
“We have good speed. We have good team effort and the kids take the right angle to the ball,” said Tomeo about the defensive effort. “And they play as a team.”
Two fourth quarter touchdown runs, one a nine-yarder by Staton and the second a five-yard run by Ryan Franz, sealed the shutout.
WJFL National Division
Pennsauken 31 Triton 0
Pennsauken 0 0 0 0 - 0
Triton 13 0 6 12 - 31
T – Eric Staton 12 run (Staton kick)
T - DaVaun Payton 15 run (run failed)
T – Geff Giancaterino 70 pass from Eric Staton (kick failed)
T – Eric Staton 9 run (kick failed)
T – Ryan Franz 5 run (kick failed)