Backed up on its own 18-yard line and locked in a second-quarter scoreless tie on Turkey Day, Gloucester’s football team called 28 sweep.
Senior Vince DiGiacomo took the ball from quarterback Andrew Burkhart and followed fullback Amar Young’s block.
Then, the 5-foot-10 tailback did the rest.
A stiff arm on a Gloucester Catholic defender opened up the field. DiGiacomo raced through the green for an 82-yard score.
“All I know is the hole opened up and the linebacker came through,” DiGiacomo said. “I stiff-armed him and kept running full speed until I got to the end zone.”
The dash took all the three-year starter had.
“I’m usually our one-point snapper,” he explained. “But, my backup had to go in because I was a little drained.”
When the dust cleared, the Lions topped the Rams for a third consecutive season with a 27-7 result. DiGiacomo stood the hero with 242 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns plus an interception on defense.
The tremendous performance earned him the most votes as Gridiron Gang Player of the Week.
“I feel like I always have my best games in any sport against Gloucester Catholic,” he said. “I don’t know why, it just happens.”
One reason might be related to the versatile 18-year-old’s father, Vince Sr.
The elder DiGiacomo played on the Rams’ 1979 state championship team. He graduated from Gloucester Catholic in 1982.
On game day, Vince the father wears his maroon and gold.
“I throw that in his face to get him motivated,” he said. “I always bring down my state championship jacket.
“I always tell the fans when I walk around and see my old buddies from Gloucester Catholic, ‘My heart will always be here, but I gotta cheer my kid on.’”
At 5:30 a.m. last Thursday, the father and son talked about the game.
“He put it in my head they’d be ready for me and ready to come after me,” the younger DiGiacomo said. “He got me fired up. It’s like the Super Bowl because that’s where both my parents graduated from.”
Part of the father’s message revolved around his memories on the high school gridiron.
“I told him, ‘You know, after this game that’s it, there’s no more high school football,’” the 51 year old said. “You think you might go to college and you might play there but the reality never sets in this might be the last time you put on a helmet.”
While family ties may have added motivation to the big game, DiGiacomo’s talent did the heavy lifting.
He’s one player coach Ed Malone wanted to touch the ball in key spots for the Lions (7-3). That reliance showed itself in a 22-21 win over Deptford in the second game of the season.
DiGiacomo ran for a score and added another through the air. All after an injury in the first half to his foot.
He didn’t complain or ask out of the game. In fact, it wasn’t until last Friday when DiGiacomo got news from doctors that he’d played most of the season with two broken bones in his foot.
“He’s a real tough kid,” Malone said. “He didn’t want to reveal any type of injury. … He was a guy who’s so versatile, we had to get him the ball as much as possible.”
The jack of all trades played tailback, wide receiver, quarterback, linebacker, strong safety and long snapper for Gloucester.
He made an impact on offense against the Rams. On defense, an early interception thwarted a drive deep in Lions’ territory.
DiGiacomo also made a heady play on special teams when he dove on a fumble. The ball popped loose on a kickoff return after Gloucester Catholic cut the lead to 13-7.
“I’m glad he came to Gloucester,” Malone joked.
The 195-pound athlete is too. His final game made for a scene he’ll never forget.
“It’s going to be hard not playing old Gloucester football,” DiGiacomo said. “I knew we had to go out with a bang. I wanted everyone to be proud. I didn’t want the seniors to go out with a what-if feeling about what we could have done.”
Mark Trible; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
GRIDIRON GANG PLAYER OF THE WEEK POLL RESULTS
Gloucester RB/DB Vince DiGiacomo – 7,901 votes
Washington Twp. WR/DB Nick Grosso – 4,191 votes
Mainland K Mike Juliano – 609 votes
Overbrook RB Marques DeShields – 212 votes
Salem QB Shareef Jeffries – 22 votes