By Rich Fisher
Sep. 8: After losing its opener to Allentown by 27 points, the Nottingham football team was not as bummed out as one might expect.
“From an offensive standpoint, we stuck with it pretty good last week,” two-way lineman Bryce Fremgen said. “We ran the ball well against them and the scoreboard didn’t reflect how we played.”
Fremgen could say the same thing about Friday night’s game at Hightstown, which Nottingham won 28-14 in a more convincing fashion than the scoreboard seemed to indicate.
For the first three-plus quarters the Northstars completely dominated the game. A muffed punt and a last-second touchdown allowed the feisty Rams to score two TDs in the final 4:11, but for the most part it was a strong effort by Nottingham.
Especially by sophomore running back Deonte Nicholson, who rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries.
Defensively, Nottingham allowed 135 rushing yards, but just 49 prior to the Rams late flurry that was highlighted by three big Michael Quigg runs.
“We came out good in the first half,” Fremgen said. “We wanted to keep the intensity in the second half like it was a zero-zero ballgame but it fell off a little bit. We had it locked down in the first half, but we had to keep pushing.
“We got one score in the second half, but on defense we just didn’t focus. We didn’t keep on our keys in the second half.”
Nottingham (1-1) started in impressive fashion, although the drive nearly ended before it started. On third-and-seven from the 45, sophomore quarterback Logan Barber found Jaier Nelson with an 11-yard completion to keep the possession alive. Nicholson then ran nine straight times down to the 3-yard line before Barber found Justin Vazquez with a 3-yard TD pass.
Making his second start, Barber went 4-for-7 for 36 yards, slipping in a pass on occasion while Nicholson ran wild.
On the Rams first possession, defensive coordinator Frank “The Godfather” Gatto was not happy with the family early on. Hightstown’s Johnny Andre picked up huge chunks of yardage in getting the Rams to the 15 yard line.
And suddenly, things changed.
On 2nd-and-10, Fremgen made the initial hit on Andre before Andre Johnson finished him off for a 12-yard loss. On fourth down from the 27, quarterback Liam Monahan was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Mario Medina.
It was like two different defenses during the same offensive series.
“It was just reading our keys,” said Fremgen, who forced a fumble with a sack later in the game. “We’re working hard on defense and playing team defense. We’re not just running upfield trying to make a play every single time. We’re setting people up to make plays.”
That stand seemed to lift Nottingham. Hightstown got four first downs on its first six snaps but would not get another until midway through the third quarter. The Rams finished with just eight overall.
Nottingham’s second and third possessions produced touchdown runs of 3 and 1 yards by Nicholson.
The first one was set up by Ki’Shawn Williams’ 27-yard run, and was followed an adventure, as place-kicker Alix Oge chased down an errant snap on the PAT, and threw a beautiful long pass to Eric D’Heron for a 2-point conversion. The second one was set up by Nelson’s 24-yard interception return to the 2-yard line.
A long kickoff return gave Hightstown a final chance for points in the half but Medina came up big on two straight plays to force a punt.
The game was scoreless in the third quarter and Nicholson capped his banner night with a 1-yard TD run to start the fourth quarter.
As an offensive lineman, Fremgen loves blocking for the sophomore.
“Every time he makes a big run he comes back to the huddle and pats everyone on the butt,” the veteran said. “He’s a great team player.”
And he played a great game for his team on Friday.