By Wayne Witkowski
Quarterback Jordan Winston returned to the Allentown High School football team’s lineup after missing last week’s game to help the Redbirds hold off late-charging Trenton Central High School to win, 27-19, in their Homecoming game and clinched home field in their Nov. 11 opener in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV playoffs.
Allentown is assured of one of the three top seeds in the bracket with Nottingham High School, Brick Township High School and Pennsauken High School vying for the other two seeds. Two-time defending champion Jackson Memorial High School, Freehold High School, Moorestown High School, Colts Neck High School and Neptune High School are in the running for the bottom four spots in the eight-team bracket.
“I thought we played well on offense against Trenton. Defensively we had trouble in the third quarter and made adjustments,” coach Jay Graber said.
Allentown (6-2) won its fifth straight game in the Oct. 28 contest. The Redbirds are 4-0 in home games but will be on the road at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at Princeton High School (0-4 division, 1-7 overall) as they look to wrap up a second straight division title in the West Jersey Football League Patriot Division.
Allentown reports no injuries from the victory against Trenton.
“We have to focus on Princeton right now, not the playoffs,” Winston said. “We have to do the same thing against Princeton as we did against Trenton — to step up our passing and running game and let the linemen open big holes. Teams didn’t know we can throw the ball [this season], which gives us an advantage. We’re getting better each week.”
With many competitive losses against winning teams, Trenton has a misleading 2-6 record.
But Trenton has struggled defensively against the pass and, although Jha’Quel Brown capably replaced Winston at quarterback in the previous victory over Steinert, 33-0, Allentown needed Winston’s arm.
He answered with 108 yards in the air, including a 50-yard strike to X’zavier Harris for Allentown’s second touchdown in the opening quarter, to go with his 128 rushing yards, giving him 844 yards for the season. He also has thrown for 607 yards.
“[Passing) helped us a lot,” Graber said. “We established the passing game early and got the big lead.”
“We knew they had big linemen up front and that we had to open up the passing,” Winston said.
It kept Trenton on its heels for Allentown’s run game, which included touchdown runs of 6 yards by Rick Mottram in the first quarter and 7 yards by Joe Mannino in the second, as Allentown took a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Winston ran 27 yards for the final score in the third quarter, when Trenton did its scoring. Trenton changed quarterbacks to Donovan Ford, who threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Thomeir Richardson and a 51-yard scoring strike to Semaj Wilis, who ran 15 yards for the final touchdown.
“Our passing game is definitely very important,” Mannino said. We started passing the ball because [Trenton] put nine men in the box [up front]. With Jordan, it opened the field up and opened everything up.”
Mannino felt the offensive line’s run blocking opened up many holes for him.
“The line played very well behind Makelli Quinones, who plays both ways,” Mannino said. “The underclassmen have stepped up and are blocking pretty well.”
Mottram continued to charge up the defense at linebacker as the runaway team leader in tackles for the second straight season with 77, followed by Brown’s 35.
“I think we’re definitely playing better and clicking on all cylinders,” Mannino said. “We’re becoming the team to beat.”
Junior Devon Hoernlein finished in second place in the girls’ varsity division in 18:59.30 and Allentown was fourth as a team at the Mercer County Championships Oct. 28 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.
Robbinsville High School’s Lauren Kroepfl won in 18:15.12.
Sophomore Val Kiel was the next finisher for Allentown in 20:06.50 for 14th place. Three other runners were bunched up after that: Sara Gutter placed 24th in 20:32.38, Jesse Bragger was one spot behind in 20:36.76 and Isabella Walker took 28th in 21:01.62. Georgia Borkowski finished 37th in 21:29.96.
In the boys’ race, Nat Byrnes ran 17:32.11 for 28th place, and Matt Gregor was timed at 17:32.88 for 29th. Allentown was sixth in the team standings.
Thomas Bethea finished 31st with a time of 17:36.81, and Charles Carey followed in 35th in 17:40.51. Other contributors for Allentown were Mark Soliman (52nd, 18:10.53), Colin Harvey (54th, 18:14.42), Zach Elwell (56th, 18:19.45) and Matt Kaminstein (61st, 18:29.26).
Mary Bellotti scored two goals for Allentown (14-4) in its win over Toms River High School South, 3-0, Oct. 29 in the Central Jersey, Group II quarterfinals. MacKenzie Hultberg put in the other goal.
On Nov. 2, the Redbirds played in the section semifinals against Burlington Township High School, which is 13-0-1 in its last 14 games.
On Oct. 24, Allentown dropped a regular-season game, 3-1, to Toms River High School North. Bellotti, who has 22 goals on the season, scored off a pass from Sierra Wojcik.
Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division champion Allentown (10-5) played its Central Jersey, Group III opener Nov. 1 at home against Ewing High School, which it beat in a regular-season game, 3-0, Oct. 17.
Vanessa Rodriguez leads Allentown’s balanced scoring with nine goals, followed by Emma Pascarella with eight and Alex Searing with seven.
Allentown (5-9-1) played Jackson Liberty High School (6-10-1) in its Central Jersey, Group III opener Oct. 31 in a matchup of two teams that struggled late in the season.
Allentown comes in with losses in four of its last five games. Jackson Liberty has lost seven of its last eight.