For the St. Augustine Prep football team, the game meant nothing.
Playing for pride and looking to vent a season's worth of frustration, the Hermits made quite the statement Friday night in their West Jersey Football League Continental Division clash with previously undefeated Vineland.
Dominant on defense and along the offensive line, visiting St. Augustine left Gittone Stadium with a 14-0 victory and a renewed faith in the strength of its program.
"This win was huge for us," St. Augustine senior defensive end Garrett Dolan said. "To come in here and beat an undefeated team, play the way we played, control the game, it says a lot about the pride we have and how much we support each other."
St. Augustine (5-4), the No. 11 team in the Inquirer Top 25, got strong work from junior running back True Robinson and freshman running back Pat Smith.
Robinson carried the football 26 times for a season-high 124 yards and both touchdowns. Smith carried 26 times for 92 yards, dropping below 100 when he lost 9 on his final carry.
"The offensive line did great," Robinson said. "Those guys were opening holes all night."
The loss dropped fourth-ranked Vineland (7-1) out of the ranks of the unbeaten and likely will leave the Fighting Clan with the No. 8 seed in the South Jersey Group 5 tournament.
Vineland could open the playoffs next weekend at Lenape or Rancocas Valley, which project as the likely top two seeds depending on the results of a couple of games on Saturday.
"It was a frustrating game," Vineland senior quarterback Isaih Pacheco said. "We have to build from this, bounce back and get ready for the playoffs."
A huge crowd nearly filled the stands at the historic stadium in Vineland to watch the Clan try to run its record to 8-0 and improve its playoff position on a warm, clear night.
St. Augustine had no such incentive. The Hermits were locked into the No. 8 seed in Non-Public 4 and will visit top-seeded Bergen Catholic, a North Jersey superpower program, next Saturday.
St. Augustine also was looking to bounce back from a 22-10 loss last Saturday to rival and No. 3 St. Joseph in a game in which the Hermits held a 10-0 halftime lead.
That loss echoed of similar setbacks this season, as St. Augustine also held the lead before dropping decisions against No. 2 Millville and No. 5 Holy Spirit.
And the losses came on the heels of a disruptive offseason as former coach Mark Reardon and two of his top assistants left the program and two standout senior players transferred to other schools.
"It's been a tough few months for these kids," St. Augustine coach Pete Lancetta said. "You win a couple of those games, maybe you feel a little different.
"I felt really bad for the seniors. We tried as a coaching staff to keep them together, but it has been tough.
"This game helps. To come in here and win like this, it makes it feel a little better."
Lancetta was especially pleased because of the nature of the victory.
The Hermits completed just two passes for 33 yards. They controlled the football and the clock with their offensive line and their running game, and they played air-tight defense against a team that was averaging 48.1 points.
"It felt great," senior offensive lineman Jack Compton said. "We just fought and fought."
Dolan and junior linebacker Shane Quast led a defense that held Vineland to just three first downs in the first 3 1/2 quarters.
Quast ended the game with a sack of Pacheco, setting off an emotional celebration on the Hermits' sideline and in visiting stands.
"Just our toughness, our perseverance," Dolan said. "This has been a tough season for us. We've had a lot of close losses. We were just coming out here for pride and we got it done."
St. Augustine 7 7 0 0 — 14
Vineland 0 0 0 0 — 0
SA: True Robinson 4 run (Nate Fondacaro kick