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Bevis forces fumble late as Woodstown holds off rival Salem to remain unbeaten

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

SALEM (N.J.) - Woodstown linebacker Zach Bevis tends to fly under the radar.

His coach sees him as underrated, although that designation should change after the junior provided the biggest play of the day in the Wolverines' 7-6 win over Salem on Saturday afternoon.

Following a 21-yard completion by Rams quarterback Jahki Coates to set up first-and-10 on the 12-yard line, Bevis pummeled his opponent in a gap to force a fumble with 3:54 left in regulation.

Both teams traded possessions one more time, and the Wolverines prevailed with one final defensive stand to secure the victory.

"Before the play, I knew that we had to make a stop," Bevis said. "It was just about who was gonna make it and who was gonna step up. I just read it perfectly, came down. Perfect timing when he came through the hole and I just laid him out."

Woodstown entered the contest unbeaten and atop the South Jersey Group 1 United Power Ranking ladder with a group-best 13.75 power points.

Saturday's triumph marked the second consecutive win for Woodstown against its former Thanksgiving Day rival and it's third victory in the series since 2019.

The win also emphasized the Wolverines' legitimacy in Group 1 by withstanding the physicality of a hard-fought battle against the defending regional champions.

"It was an unreal performance," Woodstown coach John Adams said. "We knew that it was going to be a close game if you look at the (previous) years and what this game means to both communities. Our kids came in and they we're locked in from the start of warmups. We were excited and they played well."

Standout running back James Hill powered a six-play, 43-yard scoring drive with five rushes for 35 yards to set up an eight-yard passing score from Max Webb to David Harvey. Harvey slipped into the flat and reeled in the loft from Webb to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead with 5:39 left in the third stanza.

"The play before, we ran a jet motion to me," Harvey said. "A lot of teams key up on me sometimes because they think I'm a threat. We ran that jet motion, I didn't get the ball and we ran belly away. Then the next play we came back, we ran that same jet motion and I just leaked out into the flat and I was wide open.

"Walked right in for the touchdown," Harvey added. "It felt amazing."

Woodstown also overcame two fumbles.

Facing fourth-and-six from its own 33-yard line, Salem's Coates delivered a punt that was bobbled in the air. The Rams regained possession at the 20-yard line and eventually used a five-yard rushing score from their signal caller to narrow the deficit to 7-6 with 3:58 left in the third period.

Hill also fumbled on Woodstown's first drive of the final stanza with 10:37 left to play, but the Wolverines' defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive.

"We've just talked to the kids over the course of the season about facing adversity and being able to bounce back," Adams said. "They can't hang their heads. They got to show that they can get over things. Life lessons in football."

Salem suffered only its fourth loss since 2020. The Rams are 21-4 over their last 25 contests.

Frustration was a common theme for the Rams on Saturday between penalties and minimized execution in moments of opportunity.

"Frustration," Salem coach Montrey Wright said. "It's a lot of pressure on this senior class. Who's going to be the guy to take the team in full control? It's more than just putting the jersey on and being a part of Salem football. It's more to that. As coaches, we're challenging these guys to step up and be the guys we need them to be."

The Wolverines will begin to prepare for the gauntlet of their schedule with showdowns looming against Woodbury, Haddonfield and Penns Grove.

As for right now, Woodstown will savor the sweetness of conquering its arch nemesis.

"It feels so amazing," Harvey said. "I can't express it enough. It's truly something special. This feeling is something I don't think I'm going to be able to feel ever again."

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