Millville came back after trailing at halftime, to beat Northern Highlands, 18-14 in the first statewide Group 4 championship. Their defense bailed them out when their offense would have some hiccups; without the hiccups, the game would not have been as close as it was.
The Thunderbolts came out scoring on a touchdown pass from Jacob Zamot to Lotzeir Brooks for a 6-0 lead, as they moved down the field quickly and precisely. Highlands scored the next two touchdowns on passes from JR Walley to Danny Smiechowski and Luke Saturn for a 14-6 lead before Millville scored again to make it 14-12 in the second quarter. Walley entered the game late in the first quarter when starter Nate Johnson went out injured.
Zamot found Freddie Lavan for a short touchdown pass in the third quarter to put Millville in front for good, 18-14, in the third quarter. It was all they needed despite turning the ball over four times in the second half.
It was the Millville defense that was the story of the night.
Despite being put in tough situations, that defense put out the fires. Northern Highlands had great opportunities, but Millville’s defense put up roadblocks with whatever the Highlanders tried to do. Nobody had outstanding stats, but they played good team defense. Overall, they held Highlands to 70 yards on 26 carries. Subtract two early runs by Johnson and it was 53 yards on 24 carries. They gave up yards through the air, but not in the second half. Solomon Massey-Kent, Bricere Hunter, and A’cear Cornish were some of the defenders who did their jobs.
Brooks had an outstanding game with many receptions, top defensive play, and his blocking a field goal. Zamot also had a good game passing, setting up opportunities for the Thunderbolts. But they had roadblocks that were self-inflicted and the defense always came to the rescue.
For Highlands, Zach Chostaka, wearing #36 instead of his usual 56, had his usual productive game and Andre Johnson showed something by running a Millville receiver from behind on a long pass play. Smiechowski was a top player on both sides of the ball. While they may regret their missed opportunities, Millville also missed their share.
*Stats courtesy of nj.com