By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
WINSLOW TOWNSHIP — There’s not much more for Cedar Creek to prove.
Not after the performance here on the road against a talented foe, two weeks removed from a 7-6 rock fight of a win over Holy Spirit — which came on a short week after a 21-8 victory against Woodrow Wilson.
Down 13-7 at halftime at Winslow Township on Friday, the Pirates returned to the field and made it look too easy to believe.
A 21-point outburst in the third stanza sent another loud statement in a season full of them for Creek, ranked No. 3 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11, en route to a 35-27 triumph.
Those perfect Pirates (8-0) pillaged and plundered and prodded and pulled away after intermission. It may have been a bad thing for the hosts that Homecoming created an additional few minutes of rest and reset at halftime.
“We figured out what we were doing wrong and we got down to it,” coach James Melody said. “We weren’t crying, we weren’t complaining, it was just ‘what are we going to do now?’”
For starters, they were going to hand it to No. 22.
On the fourth offensive play of the second half, senior tailback Ja’Quan Howard went for 14 yards. On the fifth, he rolled 28 for a touchdown to hand Creek the edge at 14-13.
After a three-and-out from the defense, Howard caught a pass for eight yards. He ran for eight more. He broke a 20-yard run. Soon after, J.C. Landicini found JoJo Bermudez for a 26-yard touchdown connection. That made it 21-13 with 6 minutes, 3 seconds left in the period.
The fifth-ranked Eagles (5-2) put together a drive of their own after the Bermudez score. In eight plays, they marched to the 25-yard line. On a third-down pass, Elijah Smalls pilfered a pass in the end zone.
And that territory where good teams create momentum swings to make tight games into sure wins, that’s where the Pirates put themselves — yet again.
“Coach Melody told us, ‘This is the biggest drive,’” Howard said. “My line looked at me. They tapped me on the shoulder and they were like, ‘It’s money.’”
Howard went for eight on first down. He took an iso play 72 yards on the next snap.
He finished the night with 216 yards on 24 carries and three scores. Eight of the touches and 158 yards came in that third quarter.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t say I put them on my back,” a humble Howard said. “Football’s a team sport.
“I couldn’t do it without my line, my coaches making the calls, my receivers out there blocking, it’s a team sport — we did that.”
The record certainly reflects that sum-greater-than-parts theme. In arguably the toughest division within the West Jersey Football League, this band of Bucs has found a way to remain unscathed. Friday’s triumph clinched at least a share of the Memorial Division crown.
“After every game, I think about it but not too much,” C.J. Resto said of the unbeaten streak. “I’m trying to work on 1-0 every week.
“Every week’s a big win but we’re looking for more than just being undefeated (in the regular season);we’re trying to do more than that. We’re trying to go all the way.”
Resto recovered a fumble. Elijah Smalls had that interception and scored on a 45-yard catch-and-run in the first half. Elijah Usher and Kevin Dougherty also stood out on the defensive side. Landicini put several difficult throws in perfect spots.
All that is without much mention of Bermudez, who placed himself in rarified air in this tilt. He became only the sixth player all time in South Jersey to reach 150 catches, per football historian Chuck Langerman.
“We have a lot of threats and people have a hard time guarding us,” Smalls said. “They can’t stop all of us at the same time.”
Creek is every bit the measured mark of a balanced team that should play deep into cold temperatures when hardware is on the line.
Only teams like that can take a deficit on the road against a solid team and remove doubt in a dozen minutes of game clock.
“I’ve always had confidence in my kids, but it is sky high right now,” Melody said. “But the biggest thing is keeping them level-headed, just keep working.
“We’ve got a lot accomplished and we want to accomplish a lot more.”
Mark Trible covers high school football for Glory Days Magazine. Check out his weekly Facebook Live show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show can be seen at facebook.com/acglorydays. You can also take in Mark’s “Hat’s Off” podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m. at our Facebook page.