BLACKWOOD The Highland High School football team is enjoying this new feeling of winning.
“It’s all about winning,” Tartans senior quarterback Gabe Martorano said after rushing for the game’s first score. “That’s all we want to do.”
Highland matched its season win total of last year with its second victory of the season Friday night, using a powerful running attack and a pair of timely defensive scores for a 22-14 triumph over previously undefeated Bishop Eustace in a West Jersey Football League Royal Division game.
“This is big for us and the program,” said Spencer Smith, a senior fullback and linebacker. “It’s a huge step up. And this is the first time in a few years we got a win in our home opener.”
Last week, the Tartans (2-1) delivered first-year coach Brian Leary his inaugural win with a victory over Bordentown. Now they have matched the wins from last season’s 2-8 campaign.
“The kids have been on board and they have worked hard,” Leary said. “I’m glad to see the results for them.”
Highland junior running back Orlando Council rushed for 142 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries while Stephon Callahan added an interception return for a TD and Jerry Fuller contributed a late safety.
“We haven’t had a winning season here in over 20 years,” Leary said, “I told the seniors a winning season would be a great legacy.”
The Crusaders dropped to 2-1.
“Their offensive line dominated our defensive front,” Bishop Eustace coach Rob Cormier said. “Our defense couldn’t control their running game.”
Eustace isn’t alone in allowing yards on the ground against Highland. Council rushed for 246 yards and two TDs in the opener against Camden and then 371 yards and three touchdowns last week against Bordentown.
The Crusaders, who won last year’s meeting, received strong two-way efforts by senior running back/defensive back Kevin Lammers and senior running back/linebacker Wesley Payne.
“It’s a great feeling beating a 2-0 Eustace team,” Tartans senior two-way end Tyler Fretz said. “But as the coaches say, we have to take it one game at a time.”
Bishop Eustace scored early in fourth quarter when quarterback Kevin Brandt, who played a courageous game with an injured shoulder, plowed in from the 1-yard line and Trystin Golowski added the point after kick to cut Highland’s lead to 20-14.
The Crusaders had the ball back on their own 2-yard line with 4:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and a chance to post the winning drive.
However, on third down from the 6-yard line, Fuller tackled the Bishop Eustace quarterback in the end zone for 22-14 lead.
“I wanted to make that play more than anything in the world,” said Fuller, a junior defensive end.
The Tartans got the ball back on the free kick. After three runs by Council, the Tartans secured their second win of the season.
“We want a winning season,” Council said. “We owe this to our coaches.”
Highland scored off its opening possession on Martorano’s 2 yard run. Nicholas Baselice added the kick for a 7-0 lead.
Bishop Eustace tied the game on Lammers’ 40-yard run and Golowski’s kick.
Highland grabbed the lead back midway through the second quarter on Council’s 11 yard run around the right end. The kick was blocked so the Tartans settled for a 13-7 lead.
The Tartans scored on Callahan’s 65 yard interception return and Golowski added the kick for a 20-7 spread at the half.
“It brought the team momentum back,” said Callahan, a junior linebacker, on his pick-six. “This win has opened up the season, and a lot of wins to come.”
Kevin Callahan; (856) 486-2424; kcallahan@GannettNJ.com