UNION - A whole host of Shore Regional football players knew what it was like to win an NJSIAA sectional championship after having won the Central Jersey Group I title last year. Following a second straight championship victory on Saturday at Kean University, this particular Blue Devils team now knows a feeling only one other team in program history knows.

The Blue Devils rolled up 496 rushing yards and scored a season-high in points in a 56-28 win over Palmyra Saturday to complete a 12-0 season and extend their winning streak to 20 games, the longest in program history.

This group joins the 1981 team as the only unbeaten football teams ever at Shore, the 1982 team as the only team to win a repeat title and is the lone Shore team to win 12 games in an unbeaten season. Saturday's Group I title was the seventh in the history of the program and fifth under 24-year head coach Mark Costantino.

"Our motto was get one for the thumb for coach (Costantino)," senior running back Doug Goldsmith said. "We wanted to be the class that gave him his fifth champion ring so it feels special that we could give him another one."

"My dad played on the 1981 team and he always talks about going undefeated," senior running back Jack Britton said. "He usually tells me that his team was a little better than ours but after this win, I think we belong right up there with the greatest teams ever at Shore."

Photo by Matt Manley

Shore brought home a second straight title with a vintage ground attack that saw Goldsmith and Britton combine for more than 400 yards. Goldsmith finished with 244 yards on 38 carries and a career-high five touchdowns, while Britton carried 18 times for 179 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. Senior Alex Johnson also added 73 yards on eight carries.

The Blue Devils stormed out to a 21-0 lead Saturday despite the turning the ball over on their first possession of the game. Goldsmith committed three fumbles in the game, the first of which halted the opening drive of the game inside the 10 yard-line, but he and the Blue Devils bounced back.

"It was a little tough for me to hold onto the ball today for whatever reason, but I knew the team would pick me up and that I was going to make it up for them," Goldsmith said.

Britton opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown run up the middle and the Blue Devils scored 15 seconds later on a fumbled snap in the end zone that Mike Rosati fell on in the back of the end zone, giving Shore a 14-0 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter.

Goldsmith first got into the act on the third touchdown drive, capping the nine-play, 68-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown surge. During that drive, Goldsmith carried seven times for 57 yards, including a 30-yard burst up the middle and to the Palmyra 31 on the second play of the drive.

Shore's third score gave the Blue Devils and commanding 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and at that point, the Panthers had still not logged a first down against the Blue Devils defense. They finally broke through in the big way, when senior quarterback Max Smyth - the leader passer in the state this season - dropped in a 48-yard touchdown pass over the defense on 4th-and-2 to sophomore receiver Taj Harris.

The Blue Devils responded with an eight-play, 54-yard drive capped by Goldsmith's longest of his five touchdowns, a 19-yard dash up the middle.

With less than a minute until halftime, Palmyra again pulled within two touchdowns of Shore when Smyth rolled to his right and heaved a pass on the run that sophomore receiver Elijah Karnjay pulled in for a 58-yard touchdown 43 seconds before the half.

"They have a lot of weapons, a lot of speed that we had to deal with," Britton said. "Our focus was on keeping their receivers in front and keeping Smyth in the pocket, but he escaped a few times and threw the ball up to his big guys."

Palmyra began the second half with the ball in search of a touchdown to pull within one score. Smyth converted a 4th-and-inches with a second-effort on a quarterback sneak from the Panthers 40, but made his only mistake throwing the ball on the very next play. Senior linebacker Devon McLaughlin camped out in the middle of the field and picked off Smyth's pass to swing the game back in Shore's favor.

"I wasn't really thinking about a turnover exactly," McLaughlin said. "Our guys on the outside were doing a great job covering those guys and I just wanted to stay ready in case (Smyth) wanted to try to draw everyone out and look over the middle."

Seven plays later, Goldsmith carried the ball across the goal line for a one-yard score with 7:04 left in the third.

The last of Shore's three turnovers allowed Palmyra to again climb within two scores, when South Carolina commit Kelvin Harmon scooped up a fumbled exchange and took it 41 yards for the touchdown with 3:12 left to play.

Just as was the case over the course of the game, Shore had two answers for Palmyra's one. Britton broke loose for a 46-yard run down to the Panthers five yard-line and Goldsmith capped the drive with a four-yard run and a touchdown plunge from a yard out.

Goldsmith effectively sealed the game with a 43-yard run on the next drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run to make it five on the day for the senior fullback.

After Harris pulled in an 18-yard touchdown grab from Smyth to cut the deficit back to 21, Shore capped the scoring with an 11-yard run by senior Devon McLaughlin, who eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark for the season with that run.

"I knew I was a yard away, so I was hoping just to get one carry. I'm glad I was able to get an opportunity to score in my last game," McLaughlin said.

While the 56 points was the most Shore has scored all season, the 29 points allowed was also a season-high. Shore had not even allowed a team to reach double-figures prior to its 20-14 Thanksgiving game win over Rumson-Fair Haven. Smyth threw for 290 yards on 19-for-37 passing, with Harris (six catches, 118 yards) and Elijah Karnjay (7 for 103) each eclipsing 100 yards receiving.

Shore's three-headed backfield monster of Goldsmith, Britton and Johnson operating out of the Delaware Wing-T will all be gone next year and the teams they have played on over the last two seasons have set the bar as high as it has ever been at Shore.

"It was special to win a championship last year, but it's even better to do it as a senior and to go undefeated," Britton said. "Eleven-and-1 is nice; 12-0 is better."

 

Box Score

Shore 56, Palmyra 28

Palmyra Shore
First Downs 13 32
Rushes-Yards 10-29 64-496
Passing 19-37-1 0-3-1
Passing Yards 290 0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-3
Penalties-Yards 7-56 2-15

 

1 2 3 4 F
Palmyra (10-2) 0 14 7 7 28
Shore (12-0) 14 14 14 14 56

 

Scoring Summary

S – Jack Britton 24-yard run, George Notte kick

S – Mike Rosati fumble recovery in the end zone, Notte kick

S – Doug Goldsmith 4-yard run, Notte kick

P – Taj Harris 48-yard pass from Max Smyth, Danny Kay kick

S – Doug Goldsmith 19-yard run, Notte kick

P – Elijah Karnjay 58-yard pass from Max Smyth, Kay kick

S – Doug Goldsmith 1-yard run, Notte kick

P – Kelvin Harmon 42-yard fumble recovery return, Kay kick

S – Doug Goldsmith 1-yard run, Notte kick

S – Doug Goldsmith 10-yard run, Notte kick

P – Taj Harris 18-yard pass from Max Smyth, Kay kick

S – Devon McLaughlin 11-yard run, Notte kick

 

Individual Statistics

Rushing: (P) Max Smyth 9-20, Kelvin Harmon 1-9; (S) Doug Goldsmith 38-244, Jack Britton 18-179, Alex Johnson 8-73

Passing: (P) Max Smyth 19-37-0-290; (S) Matt Pennell 0-3-1-0

Receiving: (P) Elijah Karnjay 7-103, Terry Bailey 2-19, Taj Harris 6-118, Kelvin Harmon 3-34, David Lynch 1-16

Interceptions-Yards: (P) Garrett Tetzloff 1-0; (S) Devon McLaughlin 1-9