The state playoff run has come to an end for the Florence Township Memorial High School football team.
Fighting through a mud-ravaged field and a potent Willingboro High School offense, Florence was eliminated from the Central Jersey, Group 1 state sectional playoffs with a 22-6 loss on Nov. 9 in Willingboro.
Top-seeded Willingboro advanced to the sectional playoff final where the Chimeras play second-seeded Paulsboro High School this Friday, Nov. 16, in Willingboro. Paulsboro advanced with a 34-0 victory over Asbury Park High School in the semifinals on Nov. 10.
Meanwhile, Florence will now cap its season when it pays a holiday call to Riverside High School on Thanksgiving Day. The game on Nov. 22 will kick off at 11 a.m.
Florence has already won the West Jersey Football League’s Freedom Division championship this season.
Florence, which won its opening playoff game by defeating Middlesex High School, 21-14 on Nov. 2, had trailed Willingboro, 8-0, in the second period when the Flashes struck.
Florence quarterback Shane Fajgier connected with John Woolston for a 20-yard touchdown that cut the Willingboro lead to 8-6. But the conversion run by Florence failed.
Willingboro was able to control the second half behind the running of Demie Sumo.
Sumo scored on a 26-yard burst in the third quarter and then iced the victory for Willingboro when he took off for a 29-yard TD run. That touchdown was set up by an interception by Khaleb McRae.
Sumo finished the game with 160 yards and two TDs on the ground.
Florence received a solid game from its fine running back, Jajuan Hays.
Hays gained 132 yards rushing to push his total for his senior season to 1,053 yards.
Hays reflected on his team’s triumphant regular season after the loss to Willingboro.
“We still kept the winning tradition going winning a division title this year,” Hays said. “It’s always tough to end like this knowing that we won’t be state champions. You grow up, dreaming about becoming state champions.”
As Sumo’s late TD sealed the victory for the Chimeras, Hays complimented his team’s commitment and effort when they were faced with probable defeat in the final minute of the game on their closing drive.
“We find a way to grind out games,” Hays added. “Even this game, it kind of got away at the end, but even the last drive, we got moving the ball and just having pride – playing for each other and becoming a family. I’m real proud of these guys.”
With Florence head coach Joe Frappolli’s 45th season coming to a close, he hopes a victory at Riverside will put a positive conclusion on a season that he said was a battle week-after-week for his team.
“They played hard every week with a tough schedule,” Frappolli said. “They grit and grind every week. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I love all these guys.”