Rancocas Valley Blanks Kennedy, 17-0

Posted: October 31, 1987

Rancocas Valley continued its strong football turnaround, and enhanced its South Jersey playoff prospects, shutting out stubborn Kennedy, 17-0, in Willingboro last night.

Sam Jenkins rushed for 175 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and Willie Allen kicked a 23-yard field goal, as RV raised its record to 4-2.

The Red Devils are 3-2 in the Burlco Liberty Division, but seem out of that race, as Willingboro, Pemberton and Cherokee all have just one loss.

But Rancocas Valley is very much alive for the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs, with just two more weeks to go before selection day. (Teams with at least a 6-2 record earn playoff consideration, with the four-team field selected by power rating, if more than four teams have the necessary won-loss record).

Kennedy fell to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the Liberty. The Gryphons still meet Cherokee, Pemberton and Willingboro in a difficult ending to a season that began 3-1.

Rancocas Valley meets Hammonton (1-4-1) and Shawnee (2-4) in the two weeks before the playoff field is selected.

Red Devil coach Bruce Lazaruk admitted that thoughts of the playoffs dominated his play selection for the first half, one in which his team struggled.

Since Jenkins had run wild in the second half, gaining 125 of his 175 yards, sideline observers were wondering why RV started so slowly, leading just 3-0 at halftime.

"That might have been me," Lazaruk said. "I think we were trying to do too much. In the second half we said let's just put it on the offensive line and give it to Jenkins.

"In the first half we tried too much play action and too many passes. We dropped some and never seemed to get it going.

"So in the second half, we gave it to Sam."

Jenkins had carried 10 times for 50 yards in the first half, but the closest Rancocas came to the end zone was the 6-yard line, two plays before Allen's 23-yard field goal.

In the second half, however, the 5-9, 175-pounder carried 14 times for 125 yards and the two touchdowns.

"You don't have to be real smart to figure out what we're gonna do," Lazaruk said. "All Sam needs is a crease in the defense to be gone."

Jenkins said the offensive line had a lot to do with his second-half success.

"We made different blocking assignments," he said. "I gained a few more yards and they kept calling my number. The line was much more aggressive in the second half, so they kept coming back to me."

Still, RV led just 3-0 into the fourth quarter and, when Kennedy's Doug Watson grabbed an interception on the final period's first play, it looked as if Kennedy might pull an upset.

But the Gryphons could not move away from their own 13-yard line and were forced to punt.

Finally, Rancocas Valley went to its bread and butter. Jenkins carried on four of the five downs needed to move 43 yards for the touchdown, including the last 19.

Allen's conversion kick raised the score to 10-0 with 7:22 left and RV was breathing easier.

The Devils got the ball back six plays later, when John Atkinson grabbed a deflected pass for an interception.

On the Devils' third play, Jenkins went 22 yards around left end to score, clinching the game with just 2:54 left to play.

Allen's conversion raised it to 17-0.

Atkinson's second interception, again on a deflected ball, killed Kennedy's final drive.

"We work on our tipped ball drill every day," Lazaruk said. "We've had four this year now, although those are John's first two. He got good position with everything in front of him and was able to profit from the tip.

"It's good to see those drills come in handy once in a while."

Despite the fact that Rancocas Valley has never beaten Hammonton (Lazaruk's former school) in four tries, and despite the fact that Shawnee has one of the year's great wins in beating Pemberton, Rancocas Valley now seems in good shape to enter the playoffs for the first time since 1981.

That's why Lazaruk was experimenting on offense in the first half.

"We have some big games coming up to get to the playoffs," he said, "and if we're going to get there, and do anything in the playoffs, we have to be able to mix it up.

"We've got to throw and we've got to trap up the middle once in awhile. We have to develop more variety on offense."

Unless of course, a problem arises. Then RV has a simple expedient.

"I know," Lazaruk said. "Give it to Sam."

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