Millville rallies past St. Augustine in a thriller

Millville running back Clayton Scott carried the Thunderbolts on Friday night against St. Augustine.

Clayton Scott is a top running back and a dynamic defensive player.

He also punts for the Millville football team.

And with the Thunderbolts in deep trouble  Friday night, Scott showed his versatility also extends to the sidelines and play-calling duties.

“He called it,” Millville coach Dennis Thomas said of the winning touchdown in Millville’s 25-23 victory over St. Augustine Prep in an instant classic of a West Jersey Football League Continental Division clash of Top 5 teams.

Scott not only scored the go-ahead touchdown on a pass from quarterback E.J. Nichols with just 25 seconds remaining.

The senior also dialed up the play during a timeout with 31 seconds left during a discussion with Thomas, Nichols, and others on the Millville sideline.

“I said, ‘Coach, run Texas,’ ” Scott said. “I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but I didn’t think a linebacker could cover me.”

Scott ran for 134 yards on 24 carries and senior Marcial Ramos scored three touchdowns for Millville (3-0 overall, 2-0 in the division), the No. 2 team in the Inquirer Top 25.

The loss was St. Augustine’s first to a South Jersey team since the 2014 season-opener against St. Joseph. The No. 5 Hermits (2-2, 1-1) had won 27 in a row against South Jersey opponents.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” St. Augustine coach Pete Lancetta said. “They hung in there, battled back, kept grinding. That’s all your can ask.”

St. Augustine rallied from a 19-10 deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, taking a 23-19 lead on freshman Pat Smith’s 19-yard scoring run with 4:53 remaining.

Millville got a strong game from Nichols, a senior who transferred before the season from Camden Catholic. In his first full-time action at quarterback, Nichols was 14-for-20 passing for 149 yards and three touchdowns.

Nichols was at his best in the final drive as the Thunderbolts went 92 yards in 13 plays. He hit Cartier Gray for 13 yards. He hit Ramos for 15 yards. He hit Carlton Lawrence for 39 yards with a deep slant on third-and-7, moving the Thunderbolts to the Hermits’ 26-yard line with 2:16 to go.

“He did a heck of a job, that quarterback,” Lancetta said. “His escapability was incredible.”

Nichols, who had split time with senior Tristan Harris in Millville’s first two games, was critical of his own play.

“I didn’t feel like I was playing that well,” Nichols said. “I started out OK, but then I died out.

“But my teammates were behind me, ‘Ace’ [Scott] and the offensive line, they were talking me up. When your team has that kind of trust in you, you have no choice but to come through.”

Nichols hit Ramos for 7 yards and Lawrence for 5 as the Thunderbolts reached the Hermits’ 10. With 0:31 left, Thomas called his final timeout.

“I was going to call slants,” Thomas said. “But Clayton was like, ‘Coach, call Texas.’ So we has the receivers all run ‘go’ routes.”

Scott curled out of the backfield, caught a short pass from Nichols, and raced into the end zone to complete the 10-yard touchdown play on a 3rd-and-5 in the waning seconds before a huge crowd at LaRosa Field at St. Augustine.

The victory was extra special for Scott, since he is friendly with several St. Augustine players, including senior Xavier File, a Millville resident.

“I was over X’s house three days ago,” Scott said. “I was like, ‘X, this is our year.’

“He said, ‘You said that last year and you said that the year before that.’

“I said, ‘No, X, I mean it. This is our year.'”

Millville 7 6 0 12 — 25

St. Augustine 7 0 3 13 — 23

M: Marcial Ramos 11 pass from E.J. Nichols (Carlton Lawrence kick)

SA: Sincere Rhea  88 kickoff return (Nate Fondacaro kick)

M: Ramos 16 pass from Nichols (kick fail)

SA: Fondacaro 23 FG

M: Ramos 1 run (pass fail)

SA: Isaiah Raikes 2 run (Fondacaro kick)

SA: Pat Skith 19 run (pass fail)

M: Clayton Scott 10 pass from Nichols (kick fail)