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Malachi Castle helps Rancocas Valley dance past Highland on Homecoming Day

MOUNT HOLLY (N.J.) - Malachi Castle joined in unison as his teammates on the field and classmates in the stands danced during warm-ups at halftime and sang along to songs by Justin Bieber, Ice Spice, Meek Mill, and more.

The crowd was in a dancing mood for much of the day as only a few hours separated Saturday afternoon's West Jersey Football League Memorial Division showdown and the Red Devils' 2023 Homecoming Dance.

Rancocas Valley boogied its way to a 27-0 victory in front of a packed house at Bill Gordon Field in Mount Holly.

"This was a fun win and a great way to end the regular season," Castle said. "Getting this win definitely will make the dance better tonight.

"After tonight, we have to lock in for playoffs. We want to make a run and make a statement this year."

Rancocas Valley's Malachi Castle (0) breaks loose from a tackle attempt by Highland's Jaiden Smith (9). The Red Devils blanked Highland, 27-0, at Bill Gordon Field at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey on Saturday, October 21, 2023. Collin Conway/D2 Sports Network

Castle charted 10 rushes for 93 yards and a score. Quarterback Nick Marco turned his eight rush attempts into 58 yards and a touchdown.

Rancocas Valley opened the contest with a 46-yard rushing score from Marco followed up by a defensive stand in its own territory that resulted in a turnover on downs to conclude a six-play drive from Highland. The Red Devils unleashed an element of trickery to their passing game as Sayvien Adams took a toss in the backfield and exited the pocket to fire downfield to a wide-open Brody Deiter for an 83-yard touchdown.

Rancocas Valley's defense recorded its second shutout of the season to help the program improve its record to 7-2. Highland started a pair of drives well into Rancocas Valley territory and a few others close to midfield, but the Red Devils did not fold. Rancocas Valley tallied a pair of interceptions. One was returned for a 65-yard pick six by Aiden Kitts. Montre Wilson's interception sealed the victory late in the fourth quarter.

Saturday's victory was the playoff tune up the Red Devils needed.

Last year's heartbreaking defeat to Atlantic City in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 5 playoffs still looms in the mind of Rancocas Valley coach Garrett Lucas.

"It hurt last year, it really did," Lucas said. "The biggest difference from last year's team to this year's is the maturity and experience level. Last year we didn't have too many guys playing both ways and some guys had never seen playoff football before, let alone on their home field in an atmosphere like this."

The Red Devils will host Burlington County rival Lenape in the first round of the Central Jersey Group 5 playoffs on October 28 at 12 pm.

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