Jarred Sanchez is comfortable in a variety of roles on the football field.
Underdog is just another one.
"People can overlook us all they want," Sanchez said Saturday after leading Hammonton to a 21-14 victory over Atlantic City in a Cape-Atlantic League game that was as crisp as October's weather. "I guarantee you, Hammonton football will be right there fighting to the end."
Hammonton is the defending South Jersey Group 3 champion, but the Blue Devils have been in the weeds a little bit this season. They graduated a bunch of good players from last year's team. They lost two of three games after a 3-0 start.
This might not be one of veteran coach Pete Lancetta's powerhouse teams, but the Blue Devils are finding their stride. They took a big step with this victory over a previously undefeated Atlantic City team (6-1) that likely will be a factor in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
"It's a process," Lancetta said. "We can't do the same things we did last year. We're starting to find out what we can do."
Hammonton (5-2) has its usual collection of tough, instinctive kids who know how to make football plays. Two examples: junior Bob Barbieri's leaping catch between two defenders of a 27-yard pass that led to one touchdown, and senior C.J. Conway's leaping interception that snuffed out Atlantic City's last drive with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining in the game.
The Blue Devils also have a terrific all-around player in Sanchez, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete who runs, catches, passes, returns kicks, and plays some serious defense.
"I pride myself on that," Sanchez said of his versatility. "I always tell the coach, 'Whatever you ask me to do, I'll find a way to do.' "
Sanchez ran 12 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He caught three passes for 59 yards. He even completed a 27-yard pass.
He has drawn recruiting interest from programs at the 1-AA level.
"I think his position is receiver in college," Lancetta said. "He goes and gets it. He's a matchup problem."
Sanchez made the game's biggest play when he broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. That snapped a 14-14 tie.
On the play, Sanchez started left, cut back, and ran away from Atlantic City's secondary.
"One of my offensive linemen, Steve Musto, got into a kid," Sanchez said. "I broke off that, cut back, and it was off to the races."
Shore Conference power Lacey Township looms as the favorite in a South Jersey Group 3 field that should include the dangerous likes of Delsea, Burlington Township, Moorestown, Timber Creek, and Winslow Township.
But don't count out the defending champion. Hammonton will be battle-tested after playing a Group 4-heavy schedule that includes Non-Public 3 power Holy Spirit, probably the most talented team in South Jersey.
The Blue Devils are an oddity: a returning champion with something to prove, a premier program dressed as an underdog.
That suits their star running back just fine.
"We're on the grind now," Sanchez said.
Atlantic City 7 7 0 0 – 14
Hammonton 0 14 7 0 – 21
AC: Radi Tolbert 1 run (Ishmael Naji kick)
H: Dylan Rosu 1 run (Esteban Sandoval kick)
AC: Ishmael Naji 9 pass from Jamal Anderson (Naji kick)
H: Jarred Sanchez 5 run (Sandoval kick)
H: Sanchez 44 run (Sandoval kick)
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or email@example.com.