Southern Dashes Midd North’s Playoff Hopes

By Ryan Fennell

Lions’ running back Joe Racciopi (5) couldn’t avoid Southern’s smothering defense last Friday night. - Sean Simmons

Middletown – Unfortunately for the Middletown North Lions, their late season playoff run of four straight wins after an 0-3 start, ran into a brick wall called Southern Regional (8-1) last Friday night, which ended their hopes at a playoff berth in a 28-0 loss.

“They’re a very good team,” Middletown North head coach Joe Trezza said of Southern Regional.  “They’re a team that’s going to be very successful in the playoffs and have a good shot at winning it all.  They showed today why they’re a one or two seed.”

Southern picked up the 4-seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoff bracket released earlier this week.

The Rams got on the board early and often with a ground attack led by senior running back T.J. Bellissimo, who had 11 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Southern lead 28-0 at halftime and kept the Lions off the board again in the second half to win handily by the same score.

Bellissimo had one carry for 14 yards to open the second half before stepping aside for junior running back Abe Gonzalez who took over the ball-carrying duties for the remainder of the game.

Despite the lopsided score, the Lions refused to give in and continued to try to pound the ball out on the ground with Joe Racciopi carrying the ball 19 times.

“We were trying to continue what we were doing – run the ball well, take our shots to throw the ball.  Unfortunately, (Southern) took our game away,” Trezza said.  “The kids played hard the entire season.  They should be proud of themselves.  Unfortunately, we ran into a team that is playing really well right now.”

“We’re still having a very good season,” Trezza added.  “We still have two games left.  We want to go out and try to win both of them and keep playing and keep getting better, and that’s what we’ve done all year.”

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