Neshaminy pushes back in season-opening 21-0 victory at Ocean City
It came a little tough for Jack Dunkley and Kyle Cunningham. The senior Neshaminy offensive linemen got a little tired of being pushed around last year. And Neshaminy was pushed around a lot. It finished 2-8 last season with a young team that matured through trial-and-error.
The goal this year is to shove back.
It’s Dunkley, Cunningham, and fellow linemen Charles Soska, Jack Castagna Robbie Haines, Joey Zack, and Nick Buchys did Friday night to Ocean City (NJ), the host school for the Battle of the Beach, at Carey Stadium in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Neshaminy achieved half of last year’s victory total with a season-opening 21-0 whitewash of Ocean City, behind the sterling performance of its offensive line and hard running of senior tailback Markus Barnett, who rushed for 274 yards on 28 carries, including scoring runs of eight and 18 yards.
“Markus started every game on defense for us last year and we saw some talent at the running back position and the defensive coaches all agreed that for this coming season, he was going to be our running back and take him off the defense,” Neshaminy coach Steve Wilmot said. “We saw he had talent and he really displayed it today. Our offensive line was a big part of that.
“Our tight ends are a big part of our run game, too. Almost every person on our line got to experience it last year. We had a down year and we had to play a lot of kids. We had a great offseason, too. We had a great offseason in the weight room and I’m happy for our kids. The hard work paid off tonight.”
There was no mystery in what Neshaminy was doing. It pounded on the Ocean City front, creating huge areas for Barnett to run through. There were times when Barnett was not touched until he was six, seven yards downfield. He had big runs of 15, 18, 32, 46 and 47 yards. He slammed through the Ocean City defense for 188 yards in the second half alone.
“We put in that stretch-zone play and we’ve been working it since December in the gym and we relied on it today,” Wilmot said. “They were blitzing and we picked up the blitz. We still made a ton of mistakes today and I would like to pass the ball more than we did. We have things we have to address on Monday, but overall, there’s a lot of great feelings.”
That starts up front.
The Neshaminy offensive line helped amass 292 yards rushing.
“As a team, we feel so much better and we have so much senior leadership,” Cunningham said. “This is going to give us the confidence to run the ball.”
Added Dunkley, “They thought they were going to smash us and they thought wrong. I think the difference between offensively and defensively, is we beat them with strength. They weren’t as strong as we were. I knew if we kept pushing the ball forward, we were going to come out on top.
“This was a confidence booster.”
Ocean City finished 11-1 last year. The Red Raiders were considered to have a formidable attack.
Neshaminy crushed that. Its defense had eight sacks for minus-59 yards. There was one successive three-play sequence when Neshaminy sacked Ocean City senior quarterback Riley Gunnels, two coming from Dunkley, which pushed the ball back from the Neshaminy 26 to the Ocean City 48.
By then, Neshaminy was 14-0 and in firm command.
Neshaminy wanted to make an immediate statement Friday night: It won’t be pushed around anymore.
Neshaminy (1-0) 0 7 7 7-21
Ocean City (0-1) 0 0 0 0-0
N – Markus Barnett 8 run (Kaden Nicastro kick), 4:06
N – Barnett 18 run (Nicastro kick), 4:12
N – Julia Hammond 33 run (Nicastro kick), 2:17
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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