Updated: Sep 25
WOODBURY (N.J.) - The practice week concluded with dunking footballs in buckets of water.
The Haddonfield Memorial High School football team was aware of the weather forecast, and a nor'easter traveling ahead of Tropical Storm Ophelia was expected to be present during their match with Woodbury to drench the playing surface and create soggy conditions.
That's why the Haddons dunked balls in buckets of water during their practice sessions Thursday and Friday to grow accustomed to the feel of a wet, slippery ball.
The preparation paid off as Haddonfield defeated Woodbury, 21-6, in a rain-filled West Jersey Football League showdown on Saturday.
"We knew the weather conditions," senior quarterback Declan McCarthy said. "We prepared for it all week. We were dunking balls in water, throwing them. Dunking hands in water. We prepared for almost every condition, except the wind was the only thing we couldn't factor in."
Washington and Lee commit Dominic Hahn rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the triumph.
Dominic Hahn rushed for 201 yards and scored three touchdowns in Haddonfield's 21-6 victory over Woodbury in the football game played at Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New Jersey on Saturday, September 23, 2023. Kevin Emmons/South Jersey Sports Zone
"The coaches really prepared us," Hahn said. "The whole week. We just had energy the whole time."
The Haddons' opening drive spanned over seven minutes and consisted of 15 plays. The drive was terminated by a turnover on downs after Woodbury's Jasuan Solomon sacked McCarthy.
The Thundering Herd were unable to register points following the turnover.
The Haddons capitalized on their next drive as Hahn punched in a one-yard touchdown run to help give Haddonfield a 7-0 lead with 9:37 left in the second quarter.
"That one felt great," Hahn said. "The (offensive) line the whole game was just blocking. They really helped accelerate our offense."
Hahn added another score on the ground in the frame as the Haddons built a 14-0 advantage with 2:21 left in the second quarter. The score held for the remainder of the opening half.
Woodbury showed signs of life on a touchdown run by Howard commit Anthony Reagan, Jr. with 4:29 left in the third quarter. The score cut the deficit to 14-6 and was set up by a miraculous catch by Marquis Taylor on fourth down to set up first-and-goal.
"They could've easily folded when we were down 14-0," Woodbury coach Anthony Reagan, Sr. said. "They came out and fought and made some plays."
Haddonfield responded with a 70-yard touchdown scamper by Hahn to create a 21-6 advantage with 3:28 left in the third stanza.
Haddonfield finished the contest with 262 yards on the ground.
The Thundering Herd were without quarterback Dante Viccharelli in the setback. The Pennsauken transfer has accumulated 546 passing yards, five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and one interception in three games played this season.
"We were short handed today, but we didn't make no excuses," Reagan, Sr. said. "Our guys came out here and fought. Saw some guys do some things that we didn't know was gonna take place. It allows us to see that we have great depth moving forward."
Woodbury lost to Haddonfield by 22 points on the road a season ago. The setback sparked the Thundering Herd to wins in eight out of their next nine games and captured the first Group 1 state title in New Jersey history.
Reagan, Sr. is hopeful this year's experience against the Haddons will help build towards a similar long-term outcome.
"You gotta see the end goal," Reagan, Sr. said. "It's a marathon, not a sprint, so in each situation take it one game at a time. Obviously, there's some things we didn't do that they did better than us. Overall, I really liked the way that they came out and battled today."
McCarthy remembers the Thundering Herd going on a run after Haddonfield handed them one of their two losses last year.
The senior quarterback hopes Saturday's win is a defining moment for him and his teammates as they push forward with an experienced group determined to win a championship.
"We knew our run game was going to be heavy considering the conditions," McCarthy said. "It just matters to come out and (play against) a team that was 12-2 last year, and right after we played them, took off like a truck and just basically (blew out) every team they played.
"It's huge to get this win this year and hopefully this means good things for the future. I think as team we just have to play together, play as one, and we'll succeed."