BEREKELEY TOWNSHIP – Central knew exactly what kind of player they had starting at running back entering the 2017 season. Now, the rest of the Shore Conference knows, too.

Sophomore running back Kavon Chambers authored a dazzling debut in his first varsity start by rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, including the game-tying touchdown in overtime, as the Golden Eagles pulled out a 24-23 overtime thriller over rival Southern in a Shore Conference Class A South game to open the Shore Conference football season on Friday night at Joseph J. Boyd Stadium.

A Matt Barnett 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime gave Southern (0-1, 0-1) a 23-17 lead, but the extra point did not connect, opening the door for Central to win the game on its overtime possession. The Golden Eagles did just that as Chambers scored from 25 yards out on the first play, and senior Shane Black split the uprights with the extra point to send the Golden Eagles to victory in walk-off fashion.

“It was an ISO play and I bounced it out to the right side,” Chambers said. “I saw daylight, and thank God I got to the end zone.”

Black did not have any field goals last season but was 24 for 28 on extra points. He has a solid leg, and entered the season as one of the better kickers in the Shore.

“I bust on him all the time in practice but he always pulls through,” said senior tight end/linebacker Blake Horgan. “He’s the guy for us.”

“You can’t ask for more from a kid in a pressure situation,” said Central head coach Justin Fumando.

The victory extends Central’s winning streak in the Boyd-Emmert series to four games, and also increases its all-time series lead to 25-19-1.

Down 10-0 at halftime, Southern rallied back to take a 14-10 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Joe Miele, who finished with a team-high 84 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Chambers’ second touchdown run of the game on the ensuing possession put Central back in front, but a final scoring drive by Southern ended with junior Zach Hem connecting on a 25-yard field goal with nine seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Central entered the season as a program on the rise in Fumando’s second year at the helm, but was faced with replacing the program’s all-time leading rusher, Mike Bickford, as well as four starters on the offensive line. For a program that operates in a run-first, multiple-I attack, there was certainly reasons to be concerned. Having Chambers ready to assume the role of the featured tailback certainly helped, and even though Fumando and his staff knew Chambers had great potential, even they marveled a bit at his opening performance.

“He’s an impressive young man,” Fumando said. “He works hard, and is another kid that bought into the weight room in the offseason and got bigger, got faster, got stronger.”

“He played phenomenal,” said senior three-year starting offensive lineman Brandon Voss. “Mike leaving, it hurt us, but [Kavon] is a phenomenal player, and he doesn’t put it all on himself. He trusts his offensive line.”

The victory was also a referendum on Central’s rebuilt offensive line, where Voss and Horgan are the only returners in the seven-man blocking unit. The newcomers: left tackle Vance Pelino, center Raul Rivera, right guard Nick Provenzano, right tackle Derric Esporrin and fullback Justin Ciaccio had strong games up front to help pave the way for Chambers.

“It’s a big confidence boost for them,” Fumando said. “We said we would find out how good we are tonight because that is a good football team we faced. I’m just proud of those guys. There are some new faces, but those guys work hard. They overcame some ups and downs tonight.”

“That was our main concern coming out here and they rose to the challenge,” Horgan said. “They took care of business and played it in a phone booth.”

Central started fast, and it appeared the Eagles (1-0, 1-0) were going to run away with the game by halftime. After stopping Southern on three straight downs to open the game, Chambers and the offense took over and immediately marched 56 yards in eight plays to take a 3-0 lead. Chambers had runs of 13 and 15 yards early in the drive, but Southern stymied Central once it got inside the 20-yard line and forced a field goal attempt. Black connected from 35 yards out to put Central up midway through the first quarter.

Central’s defense forced another punt and took over possession at its own 44-yard line with 2:39 to play in the first quarter. A 20-yard run by Chambers on third-and-6 pushed the ball into Southern territory, and a 17-yard catch by Horgan over the middle put the ball inside the 20. A nine-yard catch by Jonathan Gonzalez on third-and-12 allowed Central to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 6-yard line, and Chambers was able to navigate his way up the middle for the touchdown and a 10-0.

Central opened the second half with runs of 21 and 16 yards by Chambers to quickly move the ball to Southern’s 23-yard line, but a strip-sack by junior linebacker Joseph Guglielmo and fumble recovery by senior Mike Levine shifted the momentum and allowed the Rams an opening to get back in the game.

Southern’s Delaware Wing-T offense finally started to gain traction on a methodical 14-play, 69-yard scoring drive that chewed up 7:26. Senior quarterback Sean Distelcamp had a 32-yard completion to senior running back John Dolphin, and Barnett made a great catch on a deflected pass to set up Miele’s 1-yard touchdown run. Hem knocked through the extra point to trim Central’s lead to 10-7 with 1:58 left in the third.

Southern then surprised everyone with a bold onside kick attempt, and it paid off when Barnett recovered after the ball barely traveled the necessary 10 yards. Working against a tired Central defense, Southern moved 48 yards in nine plays to take a 14-10 lead on Miele’s second short touchdown run.

“They put the game in the hands of their best player,” Fumando said. “Joe Miele is a terrific football player. He’s a big, physical runner and I think their attitude there was just to impose their will on us, and they were doing it for a while. Then we made a mistake and gave them the ball [back], so it gave them more momentum.”

Southern had run 23 straight offensive plays to that point, making the next Central possession crucial to avoid putting its defense right back on the field. Scoring was ideal, but avoiding a three-and-out was a must.

“The emphasis there was to just keep moving the ball and get some first down,” Fumando said. “We had to give our defense a chance to get some air and their legs back under them.”

“Anybody would be feeling that but we weren’t as gassed as most would think,” Horgan said. “We spend a lot of time in the weight room, a lot of time conditioning. That’s Fumando’s big thing. Without that we’re not in this game like we were. We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in, so mentally we were prepared. And physically, we’d been preparing all winter.”

Starting at their own 28-yard line, the Eagles drove 72 yards in seven plays to re-take the lead, 17-14, on a 7-yard touchdown run by Chambers on third-and-2. A 15-yard facemask penalty against Southern on the first play provided an assist, moving the ball out near midfield. Two plays later, Chambers ripped off a 30-yard run down to the 15-yard line, and two plays after that scored to give Central the lead with 6:06 to play.

Southern used nearly all of the remaining time to put together a 14-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Hem’s game-tying field goal. A 21-yard pass from Distelcamp to junior wide receiver Schneider Juste moved the ball into Central territory at the 39-yard line. Distelcamp had the ball knocked away on a second-and-8, but was able to recover it to keep Southern’s hopes alive. A 9-yard catch-and-run on a dump-off to Miele brought up a fourth-and-3 from the Central 19-yard line with 55 seconds left in regulation. Southern called a naked bootleg with Distelcamp, a left-hander, rolling to his right. Nobody was home, and Distelcamp scrambled 11 yards for a first down. Southern had to burn its final timeout after a run for no gain on first down, and two incomplete passes brought up fourth down where Hem converted the short field goal.

From there the team’s traded 25-yard touchdown runs in overtime with the difference being Black’s extra point. For the third straight year in Week 0, Central and Southern played a thriller that came down to the final minutes. It was also the second overtime game between the two teams in the last three years.

Moving on from Bickford, who totaled over 5,000 rushing yards in his illustrious career, was never going to be easy. Chambers still has a long way to go to match the production and consistency of his predecessor, but his first try was about as good as it gets.

“He’s a talented kid who has a bright future ahead of him,” Horgan said. “He pulled through, and that’s what we do as a team.”

“It’s very exciting, man,” Chambers said. “Just watching Bickford, I learned a lot and was able to take it in and display it on the field today.”

 

Box Score

Central 24, Southern 23 (OT)

  Southern Central
First downs 18 14
Rushes-yards 50-218 28-190
Passing 4-8-0 4-9-0
Passing yards 71 40
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 1-15 4-21

 

Southern (0-1, 0-1) 0 0 7 10 6 – 23

Central (1-0, 1-0)    3 7  0  7  7 – 24

 

Scoring summary

C – Shane Black 35-yard field goal

C – Kavon Chambers 6-yard run (Shane Black kick)

S – Joe Miele 1-yard run (Zach Hem kick)

S – Joe Miele 2-yard run (Zach Hem kick)

C – Kavon Chambers 7-yard run (Shane Black kick)

S – Zach Hem 25-yard field goal

S – Matt Barnett 25-yard run (kick failed)

C – Kavon Chambers 25-yard run (Shane Black kick)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – S: Joe Miele 15-84, Matt Barnett 11-66, John Dolphin 11-25, Vin Miele 6-16, Dupreme Holland 3-16, Sean Distelcamp 4-11; C: Kavon Chambers 25-201, Lino Delguidice 2-(-3), Joe Fowler 1-(-8).

PASSING – S: Sean Distelcamp 4-8-0 71; C: Joe Fowler 4-9-0 40.

RECEIVING – S: John Dolphin 1-32, Schneider Juste 1-21, Matt Barnett 1-9, Joe Miele 1-9; C: Blake Horgan 1-17, Jonathan Gonzalez 1-9, Darius Martorano 1-7, Justin Ciaccio 1-7.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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