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Plan B works wonders for Penns Grove's Elmer

On a day when his fastball wasn't working, Nick Elmer went with the change-up.

On a day when his fastball wasn't working, Nick Elmer went with the change-up.

Playing against a Woodbury team that expected an aerial show, Elmer threw the Thundering Herd a curve.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Penns Grove senior is among the top passers in South Jersey, but on this day, Elmer and coach Kemp Carr made the type of adjustment that wins teams championships.

So it was only fitting that Elmer culminated a record-setting season for his team with a similar individual performance. He rushed for 308 yards and two touchdowns on 35 exhausting carries as Penns Grove defeated Woodbury, 30-14, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 1 final Saturday at Rowan.

Thus, Penns Grove (12-0) won its first sectional title since the NJSIAA playoffs began in 1974. The Red Devils also became the first team in the state to score 600 points in a season, finishing with 621.

Not to be outdone, Elmer put himself in the record books. According to area historian Chuck Langerman, it's the most yards rushing by a South Jersey quarterback in a regular-season or postseason game.

Conversely, Elmer, who entered the game with 1,716 passing yards, completed just one pass and threw two interceptions. Still, he found a way to win.

"I went into the game thinking we would be able to throw the ball," Elmer said. "It turns out that [running back] Anthony Robertson was playing with an injury, the ball was slippery, and we were playing on turf, which was kind of hard to cut on."

It didn't look that hard when Elmer was cutting by defenders. What was most impressive is how many yards he gained after being hit. He turned several seemingly sure losses into big gains.

"He was like Tim Tebow with his head up," said Woodbury quarterback-defensive back Anthony Averett, the Alabama recruit. "Nobody could get him down."

Elmer is a standout wrestler, and he credited his work in that sport with helping him break tackles.

"I think it has a little bit to do with my wrestling background, just being able to get off and shed people and have the sense to know where people are at the time and know where they are coming from," Elmer said.

Elmer had rushed for 1,033 yards this season entering the game, so it's not as if he hasn't enjoyed success on the ground. It's just that he showed early on that this would be the better route toward victory.

He also showed the leadership ability of somebody who is also a straight-A student.

"He showed today he is a special player and has special gifts," Carr said. "He is a gamer and winner, and wherever he goes, he will be successful because that is who he is."

Elmer says he would like to play college football but hasn't come close to deciding on a school. He said teams might not use him as a quarterback because of his size.

Any coach should add a few inches for his heart and will to win.

Afterward, Elmer was emotional, describing what a long journey it has been during his four varsity seasons in chasing a sectional title.

On his last day, he not only chased it but also caught it, running full speed all the way to championship that ended his career in fitting fashion.