Thomas, No. 5 Elizabeth blast Union
Elizabeth committed only two penalties for 20 yards and was forced to punt just three times all evening in its much-anticipated showdown against Union.
With those numbers alone as reference, it probably wouldn't be necessary to see any others to guess that things went relatively well for the Minutemen.
But, you'll want to review those other stats just the same, because they are definitely worth reciting.
Kason Campbell accounted for 258 yards and scored three touchdowns with just six touches and fellow senior Jahad Thomas rushed nine times for 152 yards and three scores to spark a strikingly efficient offense that sent Elizabeth to a 42-7 win last night at Williams Field in Elizabeth.
Union (1-1) was forced to play almost the entire game without running standout Jamauri Bogan, who left after just one carry early in the first quarter with an apparent ankle sprain. He carried 96 times for 634 yards and six TDs in two games against Elizabeth last year, but even Bogan's absence could not diminish from Elizabeth's awesome show of speed and clinical-like precision.
"We came out and executed well and we played," Campbell said. He carried three times for 168 yards and two TDs and caught three passes from P.J. Walker for 90 yards and a score. "We put ourselves good position and the offensive line came to block well, so we finished the plays to the end zone."
How well did Elizabeth finish? Let's just say the beginning and the end of drives were often one and the same.
The Minutemen (2-0) forged a 35-0 lead in the first half with three, one-play drives, a four-play move and one laborious five-play series. They completed their scoring with a two-play strike on their first series of the second half.
"We really talked about tying to play mistake free against a good team, and Union is a good club," Elizabeth head coach John Quinn said. "We had a little bit of a rough start; we dropped some passes, but we settled down. We have some kids with some good experience and they played that way tonight."
After the dazzling display of breakaway artistry by Campbell and Thomas, and the cool leadership of Walker, it was almost hard to remember (and barely worth mentioning) the three dropped passes on the Minutemen's opening possession of the game. But the team's ability to immediately put that behind them and connect on the next series is a trait that could serve it well all season.
"We have that next-play mentality," Quinn said. "You make a bad play, you make a mental error, you've got to regroup and make the next play. We did that and were able then to straighten some things out."
Or at least cut back against the grain when the straight thing doesn't go as planned. On the first play of Elizabeth's second drive, Thomas swept right end, but found congestion in the corner. He cut back sharply to the middle and then bolted for a 74-yard TD run with 8:17 to go in the first quarter. Gustavo Briones followed with his first of six PAT for a 7-0 lead.
The Minutemen punted from their own 37 on the next possession, but were able to save their long snapper for more pleasant detail the remainder of the half.
The next series was one play, a 70-yard swing pass from Walker to Campbell for a 14-0 lead with 2:29 left in the quarter. Thomas capped a four-play, 54-yard drive with a 3-yard run, Campbell swept right end for 65 yards on the opening play of the next drive, and Thomas scored from 7 yards out to close a five-play, 64-yard move and build a 35-0 lead with just over 5:00 remaining in the half.
"Everybody stepped up and executed plays," Campbell said. "We all can do our jobs and we know how to do everything as a group. We just come and work hard in practice and try to send a message to the people that Elizabeth is finally back. This is our year."
It was almost Elizabeth's year in 2011, but it fell to Piscataway, 41-34, in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 championship. The Minutemen graduated standout running back Elijah Hughes and some other key people, but return with experience and talent in many areas -- like on the line.
"They're kind of unsung," Quinn said. "You watch these guys run around scoring touchdowns, and everyone forgets that if you don’t have those five or six guys up front -- the engine, so to speak--nothing works. I'm really happy with our line: Akeem Polk, Cory Williams, Zeke Villafana, Esteban Collazos, Aaron Tate and Victor Rivera."
Union was actually without two talented running backs once Bogan left. Junior Jabree Robertson rolled an ankle last week in a victory against Bridgewater-Raritan, so was restricted to defense against Elizabeth.
"It was an uphill battle, but I'm proud of my team. We kept fighting," Union coach Dom Cuniglio said. "I think we moved the ball at times from 20 to 20, but we just stalled inside the red zone a bunch of times. You can't make mistakes against a great football team like that."
Mike Kinney covers football for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS