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Bulldogs stun Eagles for S.J. football Group 2 title

Junjor Drew Gavranich turned a short pass into a 51-yard, game-winning touchdown as the Bulldogs captured their fourth sectional title since 2010.

Haddonfield High School football coach Frank DeLano celebrates the SJ2 championship with his players after they beat West Deptford 21-17 December 3, 2017 at Rowan University.
Haddonfield High School football coach Frank DeLano celebrates the SJ2 championship with his players after they beat West Deptford 21-17 December 3, 2017 at Rowan University.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Drew Gavranich caught the pass, slipped the tackle, and raced down the sideline.

"All I saw was green grass," Gavranich said.

The junior wide receiver from Haddonfield made one catch in Sunday's South Jersey Group 2 championship game against West Deptford at Rowan University.

He made the most of it.

Gavranich ran into the end zone and into Haddonfield lore, lifting the Bulldawgs to a 21-17 victory over their arch-rivals on a clear, cool afternoon at Richard Wackar Stadium.

Junior quarterback Jay Foley passed for two touchdowns and ran for another and senior nose guard Mark Troiani made two late sacks for Haddonfield (9-3), which rallied from a mid-season slump to captrure its fourth sectional title since 2010 as a No. 6 seed.

"This is just amazing," said Troiani, who sacked West Deptford quarterback Pete Orio on back-to-back plays to set the stage for Gavranich's go-ahead heroics.

Orio was 15-for-21 passing for 177 yards and two touchdowns for top-seeded West Deptford (10-2), which was forced to rely on the pass more than usual because of the second-half absence of running back Kenny Lim.

"Losing Kenny Lim hurt," West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom said of the standout junior, who aggravated a knee injury. "But that's football. Hats off to Haddonfield. They made plays when they had to.

"We made too many mistakes, too many penalties. But credit Haddonfield. They earned it, they deserve it and they get to celebrate it."

The game was a microcosm of Haddonfield's season. The Bulldawgs stumbled after losing 17-14 in overtime to West Deptford on Oct. 20, dropping their next two games by a combined 39 points.

"We weren't going down that way," Troiani said. " "I knew this team would never give up. We all believe in each other and in our coaches.

"We have a saying on defense: 'One heartbeat.' We stuck together."

Haddonfield needed its resilience on Sunday, as West Deptford took a 14-7 lead on Orio's 46-yard pass to Darren McKeown with just 14 seconds left in the first half.

Then the Eagles consumed more than nine minutes of the third quarter with a 16-play drive that ended with a Mike Bilodeau field goal and a 17-7 lead.

"We made a lot of mistakes," Foley said. "But we always keep fighting."

Foley started the rally with a 15-yard touchdown run, losing his helmet along the way.

"I think it flew off just before I got in the end zone," Foley said.

The dynamic Foley played his typical roller-coaster ride of a game. He was 3-for-3 passing for 82 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score in the second half, overcoming two interceptions and a lost fumble.

"This biggest thing for our town, our school, our parents," Foley said of the victory. "It's an amazing feeling."

Troiani ruined one West Deptford drive with two sacks, and senior safety Seamus Glennon ended the Eagles' last possession with an interception.

In between, Gavranich turned his one reception of the game, a 51-yard run-and-catch with a little more than two minutes on the clock, into the stuff of his boyhood dreams.

"I've been coming to these games since I was 5, 6 years old," Gavranich said. "I always used to come and watch and think I would be out here someday."

Haddonfield 0 7 7 7 — 21

West Deptford 7 7 3 0 — 17

WD: Tyshawn Bookman 19 pass from Pete Orio (Mike Bilodeau kick)

H: John Foley 54 pass from Jay Foley (Henry Grozier kick)

WD: Darren McKeown 46 pass from Orio (Bilodeau kick)

WD: Bilodeau 19 FG

H: Jay Foley 15 run (Grozier kick)

H: Drew Gavranich 51 pass from Jay Foley (Grozier kick)