The Haddonfield Memorial High School football team demonstrated that it could compete with the best Group 2 has to offer when it went toe-to-toe with top-ranked West Deptford on Friday night.
But the Bulldawgs came out on the losing end of a 25-12 decision and will likely miss the postseason as a result.
Haddonfield got a touchdown run from Mike DeFeo and a touchdown pass from Mike McLaughlin, but couldn’t stop the Eagles’ ground game as West Deptford clinched the Colonial Conference Liberty Division title. West Deptford’s Connor Smith and Gerald Owens combined for more than 375 yards and three touchdowns on the ground as the Bulldawgs fell to 5-3.
“I’m just proud of this group,” Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano said. “That’s a very good team and we don’t make excuses. Our kids practiced really well this week, they were dialed in and excited for the challenge. They came out and they gave it their best shot.”
Haddonfield could have clinched a playoff spot with a win, but needed some help to earn a berth with a loss. That help never arrived. Missing the playoffs would be especially painful because Sterling qualified for the postseason with a 4-4 record, with one of the losses coming to the Bulldawgs. However, the Knights had more power points. (Official power point totals were not updated at publication.)
Eagles’ head coach Clyde Folsom said he was particularly proud of his team knowing that West Deptford (8-0) already had the No. 1 seed clinched while the Bulldawgs were fighting for their season.
“To be able to come into Haddonfield when they are in a must-win situation with two weeks to prepare for us certainly wasn’t an easy task,” said Folsom. “They are a great football program.”
The Eagles’ first score of the game came through the air when quarter back Alex Hilbmann threw a perfect 15-yard touchdown pass to Herb Snyder on third-and-14. Snyder has been on of the Eagles' top receivers all season, but has limited receptions in a run-first offense.
“I didn’t expect to get the ball, but (Folsom) threw me in there and I somehow pulled it in,” said Snyder. "It felt great."
The rest of the first half success belonged to the West Deptford defense, which limited Haddonfield to 41 yards of total offense. Haddonfield had its best drive of the half midway through the first quarter when it opened the series of the West Deptford 41 and drove it down to the 3-yard line for a first-and-goal. On the next play, Adam Augugliaro was stripped of the ball and Connor Smith recovered it.
Then, in the second quarter Haddonfield had a golden opportunity when Hilbmann was sacked and fumbled deep in West Deptford territory, setting the Bulldawgs up at the Eagles’ 6-yard line. Haddonfield was unable to take advantage though, as a run for a loss, a sack and a penalty doomed the drive.
“We had our opportunities,” Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano said. “…We couldn’t capitalize, but credit them.”
“In the first half our defense stepped up and we had two goal line stands,” said Folsom. “It really kind of kept us in the game. In the second half we started to wear them down a little bit. Certainly G (Owens) had some big runs and Connor Smith played big for a senior. He really stepped up and had some big runs and got some critical first downs.”
Haddonfield was able to reach the end zone early in the third quarter when Mike DeFeo broke off a 37-yard touchdown run on the second play of the half to tie the game at 6-6. After each team produced points on their next possession, Smith broke off his first touchdown run—a 29-yard effort down the near sideline. A missed extra point left the Eagles ahead 12-6 with 2:38 left in the third.
The West Deptford defense forced another stop and Smith extended the lead to 18-2 when he broke free for a 52-yard score with 6:56 left in the game.
The performance was made sweeter for Smith due to the fact he missed last year’s state final.
“I didn’t play in the state championship last year because I broke my collarbone and the last two times I played Haddonfield it was a loss, so it feels great to finally beat them being on the field,” Smith said.
Haddonfield (5-3) kept fighting and got the game back within a single score when junior quarterback Mike McLaughlin tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Robinson.
The Eagles—who also clinched a division title—received a squib kick and attempted to run out the clock, but Owens wanted even more, breaking several tackles on a 54-yard touchdown run that sealed the deal with 3:36 left. Snyder added an interception in the game’s final moments to spark a celebration.
“Our kids fought,” DeLano said. “We played this game for 48 and that’s what you what you train for. It doesn’t matter if you go up or down, we go until they tell us to stop playing. There is a lot of character on our team. There is a tradition here of winning and our kids believe they can win every game. It’s a really neat thing to watch this group.”