By Wayne Witkowski
Allentown High School’s football team hosts Pemberton Township High School at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 with the West Jersey Football League Patriot Division lead on the line. The Redbirds have a team that has looked much different the past couple of weeks than it did earlier in the season.
Both teams are 2-0 in the division, with Pemberton at 3-1 overall and Allentown at 3-2 after a 52-14 thrashing of Hopewell Valley Central High School Sept. 30.
“I never thought negatively; we were just feeling our way,” coach Jay Graber said. “A team has to see what kind of team it can be. Sometimes it takes a few weeks. Now we know what kind of team we are.”
Joe Mannino led the way against Hopewell Valley with three long touchdown runs and rushing for 179 yards on just 16 carries. Jordan Winston, who rushed for 133 yards on 11 carries, and Ricky Mottram each scored two touchdowns, as Allentown raced to a 39-7 lead at halftime. It was Allentown’s seventh victory over Hopewell Valley in their last eight meetings.
Mannino, who scored two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards in a 20-3 victory over Northern Burlington County Regional High School the previous week, has come into his own after a quiet start slowed by injury when he backed up Aydon Chavis.
“I was just going harder in practice and staying healthy,” Mannino said of the strong effort of late.
“We evaluate what we do in the course of the season, and whoever is playing best at the time gets to play,” Graber said. “Also, we have guys going both ways, and sometimes it’s tough on guys going both ways.”
Chavis continues to start at cornerback and rotates at running back with Mannino.
After Hopewell Valley snapped a punt out of the end zone early in the game, Mannino ran 41 and 35 yards for touchdowns and a 16-0 lead just four minutes into the game. Mottram ran 1 yard for a touchdown and Winston bolted 65 for another before Hopewell Valley ran back the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
Winston padded Allentown’s lead in the second quarter with a 6-yard scoring run, and freshman Chris McCrea, who made five of seven extra-point kicks, converted a 30-yard field goal for the 39-7 halftime lead.
Mannino ran 48 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and Mottram finished off a fourth-quarter drive with a 2-yard run before Hopewell Valley tacked on its other touchdown.
“Overall, everyone played well,” said Graber, who also pointed to the blocking of sophomore fullback Nick Campbell. “That’s a big part of our running game, and he’s having a great season.”
Mottram has endured the grind of playing both ways and continues to lead the team in tackles for the second straight season with 57. Jha’Quil Brown, who also earned praise from Graber for his play at cornerback, has 29 tackles, while Joe Bellotti has 17 tackles and Colin Roy follows with 16 tackles and four sacks.
Graber also praised the deep rotation of the defensive line of Ryan Huth, who is bound for Princeton University, as well as Makelli Quinones, Joe Bailey, Angel Santiago, Cameron Capone, Harrison Hill and Antonio Triscari, among others.
Their efforts kept Hopewell Valley’s offense under 100 yards until its last possession, when it scored its second touchdown.
Together, they need to shut down a Pemberton team that relies on quarterback Joe Benson, who has completed 42 percent of his passes for 423 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions, and halfback Ja’quay Redding, who has rushed for 522 yards and three of his team’s six rushing touchdowns.
Allentown, on the other hand, has rushed for 20 touchdowns as a team, and Winston has thrown for one while passing for 245 yards.
“We definitely can beat Pemberton,” Mannino said. “We had tough losses to St. Joseph’s (Hammonton) and Shawnee, which are really good teams, and our coach wants us to get better and tougher and more physical playing those kind of games.”
Allentown (7-2) split two games last week.
It lost, 1-0, to Robbinsville High School Sept. 28 when Megan Gratz put in a loose ball in front of the goal set up by a penalty corner. The Redbirds beat West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, 2-0, Sept. 26 on goals by Sydney Pado and Page Zytkowicz.
Coach Dana Thompson faulted her team against Robbinsville for not getting enough productivity out of its midfield and an approach that was too defensive-minded, while Robbinsville’s goalie made some big saves, particularly on shots by high-scoring Mary Bellotti.
Next up for the Redbirds is an Oct. 5 game at home against Princeton High School.
Junior Devon Hoernlein finished eighth in the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational B Division race at Holmdel Park Oct. 1 in 19:42, as Allentown finished sixth in the team standings.
Sophomore Valerie Kiel was 35th in 20:59, while senior Sara Gutter was 51st in 21:25 and Jesse Bragger was 58th in 21:37. Also for Allentown, freshman Isabella Walker was timed at 22:49 for 104th place, and sophomore Georgia Borkowski finished in 23:28 for 124th.
Nate Byrnes led the boys to 10th place in the team standings in the C Division race with a time of 17:49 for 51st. Three Allentown runners were closely behind: Thomas Bethea was 57th in 17:55, Matt Gregor finished 60th in 18:02 and Charles Carey was 62nd in 18:04. Colin Harvey (19:16, 110th place), Zachary Elwell (19:17, 111th) and Sean Kirgan (19:53, 136th) rounded out Allentown’s entries.
Alex Searing had three assists and was one of seven goal-scorers in Allentown’s 7-1 victory over Nottingham High School Sept. 27 that evened the Redbirds’ record at 3-3.
Alyssa Sloane, Emma Pascarella, Vanessa Rodriguez, Kassidy Mulryne, Rachel White and McKinley DeAngelo also scored. Allentown led, 4-0, at halftime.
Megan Whitney had two assists and Molly Robinson made two saves.
Allentown was scheduled for games at Lawrence High School Oct. 4 and at home against Hightstown High School Oct. 5. It plays at Robbinsville Oct. 7 and against Spotswood High School Oct. 11.
Anemic scoring continued to plague Allentown (1-4-1) in a 1-0 loss to West Windsor-Plainsboro South Sept. 29 and in a scoreless tie with Nottingham Sept. 27.
Joe Jurik and Chris Reeder shared the goalkeeping duties for Allentown.
Allentown was scheduled for games at Lawrence Oct. 4 and at Hightstown the following day. It plays a home game Oct. 7 against Robbinsville and a road game Oct. 11 against New Egypt High School.