By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
PLEASANTVILLE — The last time the Pleasantville High School football team was above the .500 mark, current seniors were less than three feet tall and not too far removed from diapers. Normally, head coaches don’t get the Gatorade bath after the third game of the season, but following the Greyhounds’ 50-7 victory over Pitman on Friday night, players were in the mood to celebrate.
The win was the second straight after the Greyhounds snapped a 21-game losing streak that stretched over two seasons and into the 2016 campaign. The last time Pleasantville won two straight was to finish out the 2013 season, when it beat Riverside in an NJSIAA consolation game then rival Ocean City on Thanksgiving.
“It feels good. We just came out, played our game, and we wanted this ‘W’ so bad. We played tough and got the win,” said senior defensive back Tay’shon Evans.
Pleasantville got a huge break when Pitman fumbled the opening kickoff, and three straight runs by Dan Samuel put the Greyhounds up 6-0 just 63 seconds into the game. Two series later, Marcus Peeler picked off a Pitman pass to set up Pleasantville’s second score. Quarterback Le’Quai Athill found a wide-open Evans on a slant pattern for a 44-yard touchdown pass, and David Samuel ran in the two-point conversion to push the lead to 14-0.
“That was amazing. They fumbled and we scored off of it. We have to score off turnovers, and we were able to do that today. It was raining, so we knew we couldn’t really go to (the passing game), so we opened it up with the running game and the offensive line did well,” Evans said. “I knew if I would have dropped that pass coach would have been in my ear, so I had to catch it. I had to score for my team and help lead them to the win.”
“The corner was short, so I trusted my guy to go up and get it,” Athill said. “I just threw it up and let him run under it. (Evans) is a fast guy, so I just had to throw it up there.”
Aside from that one big pass play, Pleasantville mostly stuck to its ground game in rainy and windy conditions. In all, seven different players scored as the Greyhounds (2-1) pounded out six rushing touchdowns. Both David and Dan Samuel scored rushing touchdowns, along with Athill, Keon Henry, Brian Stalworth and Mohamed Toure.
The Panthers (0-3) briefly cut the lead to 14-7 in the first quarter when quarterback Nick Kargman hooked up with Phil Iannella on a 69-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline, but two possessions later Toure capped off a long drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give Pleasantville a 20-7 lead. Athill scored on a quarterback keeper with 30 seconds left and Dan Samuel added the two-point conversion as Pleasantville went into halftime with a 28-7 lead.
Athill said it was important for the Greyhounds to get off to a quick start, and they did just that by scoring four times in the first half.
“The last two games, we started off slowly. In the last game, we had three turnovers in the first 10 minutes, so we had to jump out to a faster start,” Athill said. “We had to get some momentum and then keep pushing through the entire game.”
Pleasantville came into this season off consecutive 0-10 seasons, but under second-year coach Chris Sacco, the Greyhounds are right in the thick of things in the West Jersey Football League’s United Division, just a game-and-a-half behind division-leading Holy Spirit and Buena Regional.
“This is the first time in 13 years that we’ve been over .500. That’s a great feeling and it gives us some confidence,” Athill said. “We have a big game next week against Holy Spirit, so we have to work hard (next week).”
“We’ve been coming to practice and working hard, that’s been the biggest factor — and believing in our coaching staff. That’s the biggest factor,” Evans said. “It means a lot, because when I was little, people used to always say the Greyhounds weren’t any good, and I took offense to that. This year, we’re trying to make a change.”
The Greyhounds face their biggest challenge of the season so far next Friday night when they host Holy Spirit, which outlasted a tough Delsea team, 14-7, on Friday night to improve to 4-0.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN