By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
EVESHAM TOWNSHIP — As long as you saw what happened on a 3rd-and-long for the Cherokee High School Chiefs in the first possession here in William H. Foltz Stadium on Thursday night, your vantage point would have been the same as anyone else in attendance — no matter the angle.
Junior tailback Brandon “Bam” Boria took a handoff on 3rd-and-17 from the Cherokee 16-yard line. He burst 24 yards up the middle on a trap play. From there, the obstacles seemed limited and every Chief enjoyed the ride.
With a 35-0 blowout of rival Lenape, Cherokee (1-0) shooed away any ghosts of last year’s overtime loss here to the same club while ending a five-game skid against them.
“This game was all personal,” Boria said. “I woke up this morning and texted the senior group chat from last year that ‘this game’s for you. I’m going to run up and down this field just for y’all. This is personal. This ain’t no joke. I don’t want to lose. It’s all for you guys.’”
One would hate to be on Boria’s bad side like the Tribe (0-1) were. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound star dashed his way to 132 yards on 12 totes. He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass as well. With a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, his strides are so quick — yet seemingly effortless — and changes in direction happen as if his toes barely touch the ground.
“Bam, he’s a stud,” coach Brian Glatz said. “He’s the leader of the team. That’s why he’s a captain as a junior.
“… Obviously, he’s no secret.”
No, he’s not. And after the performance that came from Ryan Bender here, neither is the first-year starter at quarterback.
Bender used his legs repeatedly in the first half on the Chiefs’ jet sweep-inside zone-quarterback keep option offense. All told, he finished with 52 yards and two scores on the ground.
Through the air, he turned in a nearly perfect performance — 7-for-8, 149 yards and that score to Boria. He grew up here and like so many other young boys, he dreamed of this position on Cherokee’s depth chart.
It would have been hard to guess on a judgment of his demeanor and efficiency.
“That’s the personality you have to have as a quarterback, you have to be cool as a pickle,” the 6-foot-4 signal caller said. “You have to knock all the sounds out — the band, the fans — you have to just focus on the game.”
Bender’s 7-yard keep ended that first drive that Boria kickstarted to hand the home side all the advantage it needed. Cherokee marched 77 yards in a little less than six minutes. On the second play of the second frame, Bender plunged in from a yard out. His 9-yard rush on the snap prior put the Chiefs on the goal line.
“This year was my first year of track, and that’s what I credit it to,” Bender said of his ability on foot. “I did the 200, the 100, the long jump, high jump.
“It got me in shape and made me faster and helped a ton.”
The Cherokee staff gives Bender the trust to make those three-pronged run-game decisions. He handled the responsibility perfectly.
“I feel it helps us on all ends,” receiver Tommy Pajic said. “It gives us more versatility. We can run it, we can pass it, we can run the read.
“Bender can run it if he needs to. Everyone is having fun out there.”
That first long-distance down provided a snapshot of what the entire contest portrayed. Again, with 58 seconds left in the second stanza, Boria offered more of a wide-angle glimpse.
He sprinted 60 yards to the end zone to make it 28-0 and effectively put it on ice. With a defense that allowed little to nothing all evening, only the final numbers were in doubt.
“Most of the time, it feels weird,” Boria said of the sensation that occurs as he speeds away, alone. “It feels great, but weird.
“On that one play up the gut, I was chasing my shadow. You know that one scene from Forrest Gump where he’s running down the field? Most of the time it feels like that, running down that open field.”
You could tell right away. Or, you could have waited a bit and understood it further. A new cast of characters lined up here for the Chiefs and made good on a pain point from 2020.
One guy in No. 28 felt that agony and promised with his new mates, he’d feel the overdue ecstasy on Thursday night.
A red and white obstacle, limited. Boria and Bender and company, a few steps too fast – and then some.
Follow Mark Trible on Twitter @Mtrible and check out The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show, hosted by Mark, every Wednesday throughout the season at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/acglorydays.