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2023 Battle at the Beach Day Two recap

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

OCEAN CITY (N.J.) - The second day of the third annual West Jersey Football Coaches Association Battle at the Beach high school football showcase was nothing short of action packed. Here's a recap of Saturday's action.

Devron Lewis powers Hightstown past West Deptford

The Hightstown Rams started off the second day of Battle at the Beach with a 19-7 victory. Devron Lewis returned the opening kickoff for an 87-yard touchdown to put the Rams up 7-0. Hightstown would not look back as Aidan Carter blocked a punt and took it to the end zone. West Deptford attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter as Brady Cobb scampered in from 15 yards out to bring the Eagles within a score, but Hightstown iced the game with Lewis' second touchdown on a 48-yard jet sweep.

Lewis hopes to be a trailblazer for Mercer County in the Battle at the Beach showcase. His performance showed that Rams belonged.

"We're the first team from our county to come down here and win," Lewis said. "Today we showed that Mercer County belongs in this event and we hope that more teams show interest and have fun like we did today."

St. Thomas Aquinas sends message with dominating win over Paul VI

In a battle of two non-public programs, St. Thomas Aquinas dominated Paul VI, 42-7, to open the 2023 campaign. Chase Young scored a trio of rushing touchdowns for the Trojans. Elijah Abass-Shareef added a score on the ground with a three-yard rushing touchdown. Zacai Manigo reeled in an 83-yard receiving touchdown and a returned an interception 40 yards for six points. Paul VI's lone score came on a six-yard touchdown pass from Dom Santiago to Elijah Wilson.

The Trojans came into the matchup with something to prove to their doubters. Their performance against Paul VI certainly opened eyes.

"We felt like too many people were sleeping on us," Young said. "Our play on the field is going to define us, not any talking. We will wake up anyone who was sleeping on us."

Malachi Castle leads Rancocas Valley to victory over Union

If there was anyone Rancocas Valley coach Garrett Lucas could lean on, it was Malachi Castle. From Day One, Lucas has coached Castle through youth ball, to Lucas' tenure Delran, and now at Rancocas Valley in Mount Holly. Castle notched a 20-yard snag and scurry into the end zone and eventually iced a 21-6 victory over Union with with a two-yard rumble across the plane. Jameer Bellamy also found his way into the end zone with a 35-yard rushing touchdown on a botched snap. Union showed life as Renick Doralis hauled in a 26-yard pass from Omalley King on fourth down for a touchdown, but it was too little too late.

The connection Lucas and Castle have developed is equivalent to a father-and-son bond.

"I just can't say enough positive stuff about Malachi," Lucas said. "He's like a son to me. I've coached him and known him for so long that I genuinely see him as one of my own children."

IMG Academy holds off St. Joseph's Prep in primetime matchup between two of the country's top teams

The one Battle at the Beach matchup football fans had circled on the schedule was between IMG Academy (FL) and Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse St. Joseph's Prep under the lights at Carey Stadium. Highlighted by Ellis Robinson, the No. 1 ranked player in the 2024 class, and David Stone, the No. 6 ranked player in the 2024 class, the Ascenders are also directed by Delran, New Jersey native Billy Miller. IMG defeated St. Joseph's Prep, 17-14, on Saturday night.

The Ascenders jumped out a 17-0 lead courtesy of a rushing touchdown by Jayden Bradford followed by a touchdown pass from Bradford to Donovan Olugbode and a field goal by Patrick Kane. St. Joe's Prep responded with a pair of scores on defense and special teams. Erik Sanchez blocked a punt to allow Rameir Hardy to scoop up the ball and sprint to the goal line. The Hawks' defense clamped down early in the fourth quarter. Alex Haskell stripped Bradford and junior Anthony Sacca recovered the ball in the end zone to put St. Joseph's Prep within reach, but the comeback effort fell just short.

IMG Academy's Donovan Olugbode (1) catches a pass and sprints upfield in a 17-14 victory over St. Joseph's Prep at Carey Stadium in Ocean City, New Jersey on Saturday, August 26, 2023. Collin Conway/D2 Sports Network

The win was an emotional one for Miller. He grew up going on summer vacations in Ocean City, and now he coached one the country's premier programs to a victory at his old vacation spot.

"Personally, this win means a lot," Miller said. "I grew up going on vacation here and now to get a win on this field, in this city, in front of this crowd with this team, there's just nothing better than it."

Miller, a 2003 graduate of Delran High School, had high praise and was grateful for an invite to the event.

"Being someone who grew up in South Jersey," Miller said, "seeing the magnitude of this whole weekend, just shows how much the game has grown over time. It'd be nice to get an invite for next year, we'd love to come back here and play."

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