STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – Donovan Catholic is still building its foundation under second-year head coach Dan Curcione, and the Griffins were able to put a feather in their cap by winning the Sportz Farm Ocean County 7-on-7 championship on Monday night at Southern Regional High School.

Junior quarterback Ryan Clark connected with sophomore running back Jahdir Loftland for the go-ahead touchdown with under a minute to play and the Griffins were able to knock down a last-second Hail Mary attempt to defeat Central Regional, 19-13, in an exciting and competitive championship game.

The Griffins will play St. John Vianney in the Shore Conference 7-on-7 championship game on July 12 at 6 p.m., prior to the 41st Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic at Brick Memorial High School. St. John Vianney defeated Middletown North, 20-14, with a touchdown on the final play of the game.

"Just to get the kids out competing against other teams is awesome practice," said Donovan Catholic head coach Dan Curcione. "You can't really develop a rapport with one another unless you're going against someone that's going to push you so it was awesome to go out and test our meddle."

The teams went back and forth during the 30-minute running clock with Donovan jumping out to a 6-0 lead when Clark hit junior wide receiver Andre Laney for a touchdown. Central denied the extra point and was then able to take a 7-6 lead when senior quarterback Gavin Whalen found sophomore tight end Danny Tarris for a touchdown and then again for the extra point.

Donovan came right back down the field and took a 13-7 lead on Clark’s touchdown pass to sophomore wideout James Bivens and the extra point pass to Evyn Menta. Central responded on the ensuing drive, however, as junior quarterback Joe Fowler, the incumbent starter, delivered a strike to his No. 1 wide receiver, senior Darius Martorano, just inside the goal line. The touchdown tied the game at 13 but the Golden Eagles were unable to convert the extra point. Donovan Catholic now had three minutes and change to drive for the winning score.

The Griffins moved quickly as Clark hit junior running back Damian Johnson over the middle for a big gain and Laney made a sideline catch inside the 5-yard line to set up the winning score. On the go-ahead touchdown pass, Clark had an easy pitch and catch with Loftland, who was wide-open across the middle.

Just 20 seconds remained following the touchdown so Central’s offensive players sprinted to the line of scrimmage and got off the final snap just before the clock expired. Fowler launched a pass into traffic in the end zone but it fell to the turf for an incomplete pass despite some pleading from Central’s players that the ball had been caught.

Just five teams were present for the Ocean County 7-on-7 Tournament with Southern splitting its squad into two teams to make for an even six teams. Central defeated Southern and Pinelands to reach the championship game while Donovan Catholic defeated Southern and Lakewood to advance to the final.


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