Nottingham’s Alex Ogi looks for room to run. Photo by Dan Danko III
By Rich Fisher
Nov. 4:The name Joe Logue means a lot to the older residents of Mercer County due to his outstanding career as a Trentonian high school sports writer for five decades.
It also means a heck of a lot to the young football players of Hamilton Township, as the trophy bearing Logue’s name signifies which of the three high schools has the best team in town.
Nottingham laid claims to that honor for the second straight year and for the fifth time in the last six seasons by taking a 49-13 win over visiting Hamilton West today.
After falling behind 6-0 and in peril of going into an even deeper hole, the Northstars (8-1) responded with 42 straight points to blow it open. A win would have given Hamilton a Central Jersey Group III playoff berth, but only Nottingham and Steinert will now make the post-season from the township.
The Northstars are the top seed in CJ IV and will face a formidable foe when Freehold Boro comes to visit Saturday. Nottingham meets the Shore Conference team with two titles already under its belt – WJFL Valley Division and Hamilton Township champions.
Photos By Dan Danko III
“That’s a great feeling,” sophomore safety Jaier Nelson said. “That shows everyone we’re good.”
“It means a lot to our program to be the best in the area,” added senior defensive end Nkemdi Ede. “It helps boost us on the radar.”
Nottingham coach Jon “Big Dawg” Adams knows what the trophy means from growing up in Hamilton. It’s definitely bragging rights.
“I say to the kids affectionately, that this is my dirt,” said Adams, who was covered by Logue as a player. “This is where I came from. I lived a mile down the street. Nottingham wasn’t a high school then, I had to go to Steinert, but I take a tremendous amount of pride that a Klockner kid, has kind of built something here that can maybe go for a long, long time. The kids here have worked their butts off year-round and I’m really happy. It’s a great day for our program.”
Nottingham’s biggest concern was staying healthy, which it did. It also wanted to give the Freehold coaches – who were on hand – something to think about other than Diontae Nicholson.
Logan Barber helped do that. After missing the Steinert game and most of the Lawrence game with a concussion the sophomore quarterback returned to go 5-for-6 for 60 yards and a touchdown. They were modest stats, but enough to show the scouts they can’t just load the box against Nicholson.
“We knew we had to throw the ball a little bit and we got Logan back today and he came out hot,” Adams said. “He suffered a concussion the early part of the Lawrence game and just came back two days ago. He threw the ball well. He showed he’s maturing, and doing a great job.”
Hamilton’s Hezekiah Patterson also came out throwing well in the Hornets first series, as he went 3-for-6 for 41 yards in Hamilton’s 52-yard scoring drive. Patterson culminated the march with a 2-yard run to make it 6-0.
“We just failed to communicate on defense,” Eke said of the early woes.
The Hornets (3-5), who have dropped four straight, drove to Nottingham’s 5-yard line on their next series. But penalties stalled the drive and a field goal attempt went wide.
That proved to be the lift Nottingham needed. It then marched 80 yards and got a 34-yard TD run from Nicholson to go up 7-0. On Hamilton’s first play of its next series, starting at the 9, Eke stripped the ball on a running play and took it in for a score. Alix Oge added the second of 7 PATs and Nottingham went from trailing 6-0 to leading 14-6 in 20 seconds of game time.
“Hats off to coach (Tom) Hoglen,” Adams said. “They came out, took it to us right off the bat, went down the field and scored. We kind of staggered into the ropes, looked around a little bit. Then we got guys stepping up and make plays. We were able to kind of gather ourselves. We got our confidence back.”
Nelson helped set up the Stars third TD of the second quarter when he returned a punt 20 yards to start the possession at the 40. He grabbed it with two hands in traffic and it looked like it might slip through for a second.
“Yeah for a little bit,” he said. “I had to hold on, I knew we had great running back and I said, ‘I can’t lose this one, and then my boys will score.’”
That’s what happened as Nicholson tallied with 31 seconds left in the half to make it 21-6. The sophomore finished another banner day with 145 rushing yards.
In the third quarter, Barber found Justin Vazquez with a 4-yard TD pass. Louis Akpadago, who rushed for 51 yards, scored on an 8-yard run. In the fourth, Nelson returned an interception 60 yards to put the score at 42-6.
“Jaier is a receiver by trade but we like to put our best athletes over on defense and we’re gonna need a guy like him next week when we’re playing against their five wide receiver attack,” Adams said. “Dereck Williams has been stepping up big for us (and had another interception). It’s nice to have those young guys stepping up, making some plays.”
Hamilton had one more bright spot when Patterson (11-19-2, 153 yards) found Francis Saydee with a 53-yard touchdown pass. Eric D’Herron, who rushed for 60 yards, closed the scoring with a 20-yard run.
“Eric D’Herron had an awesome day today,” Adams said.
Nottingham will now focus on Freehold as the season starts all over.
“We gotta just keep working,” Nelson said. “Just because we’re 8-1 we can’t sleep on any team. We gotta go into the first round like it’s the first game of the season.”
Actually, their only loss was to Allentown the first game of the season. Better make it like it’s the second game.