By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
PLEASANTVILLE — After Pleasantville took a 13-0 lead on visiting Gloucester Catholic early in the second quarter on Friday night, it looked as though the Greyhounds would have little trouble dispatching the Rams and putting their playoff hopes on more solid footing.
What happened during the next three quarters may have forced head coach Chris Sacco to swing by CVS on his way home for an extra-large bottle of antacids.
A game that Pleasantville had in control early turned into a wild back-and-forth affair as the teams combined for more than 100 points. The Greyhounds finally put the game out of reach with late touchdowns from running back Mohamed Toure and quarterback Sahmir Jones to win, 66-40, and improve to 6-1. The victory gave Pleasantville a bunch of power points, and if the Greyhounds can take care of business next week against Middle Township, they’ll make the playoffs just two years after going 0-10.
“They are a heck of a team. I tip my hat to them, they never give up. But we have to clean things up and make less mistakes,” said senior defensive back Le’Quai Athill. “We were practicing for No. 10, the passing quarterback. (Clark) gave us a different look. We just had to adjust and do our best.”
Gloucester Catholic starting quarterback Danny DeAngelis scored on a sneak to shave the lead to 13-7, but was knocked out with an injury in the second quarter. His backup, Alijah Clark, led the Rams to 33 points in the final three quarters.
Pleasantville threatened to blow the doors off the Rams (5-2) several times, but each time Gloucester Catholic was able to come back with big plays to somehow stay in the game. Three straight touchdowns by the Greyhounds — a Toure 17-yard run, a 45-yard pass play from Jones to Brian Stalworth, and a long interception return from Jabril Shakur — gave Pleasantville what seemed like a commanding 34-7 lead.
But Clark hooked up with Dashaun Harris on a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 34-13. Pleasantville answered early in the third quarter on another touchdown pass from Jones, but again the Rams responded. Mike McAleer broke free for a 61-yard touchdown that brought the Rams to within 40-19, and Gloucester Catholic added two more touchdowns — on a 75-yard run from Harris and a 75-yard pass from Clark to Matthew Gray — to get to within 40-33 late in the first half.
“Offensively, we looked good, we just have to tighten a few things up. I have faith in my boys. We kept our heads up and kept our cool,” said Toure, who also plays middle linebacker. “We couldn’t let up defensively. We have a lot to work on defensively before play Middle Township.”
Pleasantville leaned on Toure and Jones late in the game. A 57-yard scoring run from Toure late in the third quarter pushed the lead to 46-33, and Jones found Dan Samuel wide open for an 18-yard touchdown pass as the Greyhounds bolted out to a 54-33 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Rams got to within 54-40 when Clark scrambled and connected with Dameal Rudolph for a long touchdown pass before Pleasantville sealed the win with two touchdowns in the final five minutes.
“I just kept saying, every time we were down, ‘feed the beast. Feed the best.’ He’s a heck of a football player,” Athill said of Toure. “Our offense just has to make plays, and just make less mistakes. We’ve worked so hard (to be in this position) but we can’t think we’re going to get in (to the playoffs). We have to play (against Middle) like it’s a playoff game, do our best and take care of business.”
“We’ve been working a lot in practice and we’re opening up the offense a lot more, running more plays. It’s really clicking. (Toure) has been big. Ever since we were kids and playing junior football, he’s been the man. And there are a lot of other players who are helping our team win,” said Jones, a transfer from Mainland Regional. “The defense had a couple of mix-ups, but I knew that our offense has a lot of weapons and that we could score. At halftime, we got a little lax, but in the middle of the third quarter we knew it was still a game and we had to keep the pressure on them.”
Toure said he loves the fact that the Greyhounds are competing for a playoff spot just two years removed from a winless season.
“I remember playing for the Jokers and coming here, and Pleasantville would be getting blown out,” he said. “And now we’re 6-1. Who would have thought?”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays