Aamir Petrose can finally get some well-deserved shut-eye. The Woodbury tight end-defensive end was much more successful on Saturday in his battle to sack the quarterback than he was the previous night in trying to get some sleep.
Either way, he showed that going up against the Woodbury defensive line is an extremely difficult task after the Thundering Herd defeated host Paulsboro, 26-0, in a game that clinched at least a share of the Colonial Conference Patriot Division.
Woodbury (6-1) and Paulsboro (6-1) are two of South Jersey's fiercest rivals and usually play competitive games, but in this one the Thundering Herd dominated on defense and did more than enough on offense to win their third straight over their chief rival.
"I just couldn't sleep last night because I was so focused on Paulsboro," Petrose said.
These two could meet again, as they did last year when Woodbury beat Paulsboro, 16-0, in the South Jersey Group 1 final.
In Saturday's game, Petrose had four of the Thundering Herd's eight sacks. At 6-foot-5 and 197 pounds, he runs like a defensive back and of course rushes the passer like a lineman.
"Their front four has a lot of speed," Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard said.
Petrose and 6-1, 172-pound Teddy Johnson are bookend defensive ends whose quick first step seems like an unfair advantage. The Herd have depth at tackle with Karon Gibson, Michael Paige, and Larry Gaines among the players plugging things up in the middle.
Even though many of Woodbury's players go both ways, Petrose and Johnson sure weren't catching a breather on defense.
"I think the key is how well-conditioned we are," said Johnson, who doubles as an offensive lineman. "We keep running at opponents."
The key was stopping the Paulsboro ground game, which was limited to minus-5 yards rushing, after all the sack yardage was added up.
"They forced us to pass, and when they are able to come after the quarterback they put a lot of pressure on," Howard said.
The offense got all the points it needed when quarterback Anthony Averett, a converted running back, showed he hasn't lost his running instincts. On the first play from scrimmage Averett darted outside for an 82-yard touchdown, reinforcing why he is considered one of the top sophomores in South Jersey.
Averett, who gained 147 yards on 11 carries, didn't throw a pass in the first half, in which Woodbury took a 14-0 lead after Gibson (17 carries, 78 yards) scored the first of his two 1-yard runs.
The Herd put it away with two fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards by Gibson and Tyler Jenkins.
In between the defense took over.
Senior defensive back Marcus Upchurch intercepted two passes. All the while, the pass rush never let up the heat on Paulsboro quarterback Billy Coleman.
It all started with Johnson and Petrose creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in the pocket.
"They are tall and lanky and get off the ball so quickly," said Woodbury coach Zack Valentine.
It was an impressive win for a Woodbury team that won't relinquish its Group 1 title very easily.
The best part for Petrose is that now he can get a good night's sleep, while ensuring that future Woodbury opponents won't enjoy that same luxury.
Woodbury 7 7 0 12 – 26
Home 0 0 0 0 – 0
W: Anthony Averett 82 run (Karon Gibson kick)
W: Gibson 1 run (Gibson kick)
W: Gibson 1 run (kick failed)
W: Tyler Jenkins 5 run (kick failed)