GLOUCESTER TWP. – In the latest edition of the Backyard Brawl, the Highland Regional High School football team unleashed a knockout punch.
And when the main event ends with an offensive linemen leaving the field clutching the game ball, it’s pretty obvious that the big fellas up front played a pivotal role in delivering the lethal blow.
The Tartans’ offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and junior running back Angelo Rodriguez was the beneficiary, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns, during a wet and wild 19-14 home win over rival and previously unbeaten Timber Creek.
“This is big for us,” said Highland head coach Brian Leary after watching his team win its third straight to record 3-3 on the season. “We get a team coming in here that’s ranked (No. 8) in South Jersey and undefeated and we never wavered.”
Going up against Timber Creek’s vaunted defensive line, the Tartans’ O-line won the battle in the trenches. With Billy Taylor (6-2, 290), Andrew Dworacek (6-0, 255), CJ Crowley (6-0, 255), Dominic Masselli (6-0, 260) Byron Williams (6-1, 320) and Byron Williams (6-1, 320) along with tight end Amori Rodriguez (6-2, 235), the line cleared the way for Rodriguez and Nehemiah Butler-Mayhew to pile up over 150 yards on the ground, which included an impressive 14-play drive that chewed up over eight minutes to start the second half and another 15-play drive on its next possession.
“I’ll put our O-Line up against any other one around,” Leary said. “(Timber Creek) has a good defensive line, but they hadn’t seen an offensive line like ours.”
Leary had plenty of candidates for the game ball, but flipped the reward to Crowley, the center who transferred from Timber Creek in December.
“We came out looking for a spark early and we got it,” said Crowley, holding the game ball in his right arm like a running back. “The offensive linemen control the game. It’s on us. We know it and take pride in it. Coach Leary, (line) Coach Plefka, (defensive coordinator) Coach Small, they get us to work really hard in practice. It’s vital.”
And who’s better to ask about the Highland offensive line than someone who has to fight against them every day in practice like senior defensive tackle Jonathan “Murff” Graham.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Graham said. “I think we have the best o-linemen in South Jersey. They are the ones who push me every day in practice. We battle every single day, making each other better.”
Three things we learned
∎ Rodriguez is only getting stronger and that’s bad news for opponents. After enjoying a breakout season (1,387 yards and 18 touchdowns) in 2021 following his transfer from Camden, the bulldozer carried the ball 25 times for 109 yards. His two touchdowns raised his season total to 11. He’s committed to play at Long Island University and study business/marketing.
∎ Highland’s defense knows how to get after the ball carrier. Small’s defense was swarming all evening,, including some big hits from defensive end Elijah Thompson and linebacker Nehemiah Butler-Mayhew and short-circuited the Chargers (5-1), who were held under 20 points for the first time this season.
∎ There’s plenty of great rivalries in South Jersey and the one between Highland and Timber Creek, two member schools of the Black Horse Pike Regional School District, has become one of them. Both student sections were loud and displayed some great signs, too. Even some of the chants like “Drain the Creek” drew a chuckle or two. Pretty impressive, especially with the rainy weather.
For Highland, it’s got to go to the workhorse – Rodriguez.
For Timber Creek, sophomore Karon Brookins accounted for both touchdowns with a pair of touchdown receptions from quarterback Victor Oquendo.
They said it
“We had a rough start (0-3) and we all decided to buckle down. We were tired of losing and we needed to pick it up,” Graham said.
In the history of the rivalry, it’s been said the winner of this game is the “King of the (Black Horse) Pike.”
“Tonight, we are,” Leary said.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports editor for the Courier-Post, The Daily Journal and Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story that needs to be told, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.