By MARK TRIBLE
GLOUCESTER TWP. — For all the changes, worries and anxieties about whether there would even be autumn Saturdays like these, two protocols seemed pretty regular on this one.
Williamstown’s football team will gladly squeeze the life out of an opponent’s offense, evidenced by a 21-0 victory in the Glory Days Magazine Game of the Week, presented by TurnersvilleJeep.com, at Timber Creek.
Woodrow Wilson knows it can find the touchdown toss — or defensive highlight — when it needs one, displayed in a 34-27 triumph at home over Shawnee.
Both clubs won sectional titles each of the past two years, Wilson in South Jersey Group 3 and the Braves in South Jersey Group 5.
“Nothing changes,” Williamstown coach Pat Gallagher said after the dew had fallen on the sod and his group had beaten a South Jersey public school for the 24th consecutive time.
Some things do find alterations, though, and not just COVID-19-related.
Gallagher represents one of them. He took over after longtime boss Frank Fucetola stepped down this past offseason. His attention to detail remains on the offense, the same one he’d coordinated prior in this blue-and-white run of success. Yet, he’s drawn to the same structure that led to this point. Mike Seidenberg calls the defense and Gallagher gives him free reign. The drumbeat continues.
“It’s no secret that this team’s built on defense,” Gallagher said with the game ball clutched under his arm. “We’ve got a great defensive coordinator, great defensive line coach, great linebackers coach, great defensive backs coach. Those guys do a phenomenal job.
“I told Seidenberg, ‘Listen, I know I have the title of head coach, but you’re the defensive head coach and I’m the offensive head coach.”
It wasn’t broke, so no need to fix it. In a game marred by penalties and rust, the largest plays ended up three fourth downs that ended in turnover on downs for the homestanding Chargers.
The bell rang. The defense bludgeoned and delivered.
“Don’t let them get anything,” do-it-all senior Brody Colbert said. “Just penetrate, penetrate and cut their breath away. Tire them out. That’s what we’re big on.”
Creek had tried to land a blow on a 4th-and-1 early in the second quarter while trailing 7-0. Down inside the 15-yard line, Colbert and Co. stopped Temple-committed tailback Johnny Martin III for no gain.
That possession came after another in the red zone ended with a Lorenzo Hines interception. Twice more with the game in doubt, the Chargers drove into Braves territory. Twice more, they were sent away on fourth downs.
“It was tough to get things rolling,” first-year head coach Brian Wright, formerly the lead man at Cherry Hill West, said.
Creek finished with little more than 100 yards of offense.
Williamstown struck on its first drive when Colbert caught a short pass and ran in for a 14-yard score. In the second quarter, Keon Sabb hit pay dirt on a short end around to make it 14-0.
Turner Inge capped the points in the fourth when he plunged across the goal line from three yards out.
“Don’t bet against us,” Colbert yelled as he ran off the field immediately after Inge’s score. “Don’t bet against us!”
A glimpse at Saturday night made it difficult to understand why anyone would.
“It’s in our DNA,” Gallagher said. “I know the DNA of these kids. I know that on Friday nights, these kids come to play.
“I know we’re going to show up.”
No matter how distinctly different Gallagher and Wilson coach Preston Brown may be, they have that successful program formula in common.
Brown’s club went up 14-0 on Shawnee earlier in the day in a matchup of two back-to-back section champs.
Early in the fourth frame, Renegades’ quarterback Matt Welsey dove in for six and handed his club a 27-22 lead.
“That’s a football game for you, right?” Brown said. “We’re happy about the way the guys competed and came back. We did what was necessary to win and I’m proud of the guys for that.”
What was necessary Saturday?
A 65-yard drive with two enormous throws from star signal caller Devin Kargman. He hit Elijah Lopez for a 29-yard gain to set up Wilson at the 12. His next snap ended with the ball in Michael Estremera’s hands for a touchdown and a 28-27 edge.
Kargman finished with 281 yards and two touchdown tosses. He ran for another.
Soon after his connection with Estremera, Damir McCrary stripped Welsey on a sack. Dawuh Shakir scooped and scored from 15 out.
“I saw the quarterback and I just took the hole,” McCrary said. “My D-end Marcus (Johnson), he came with me.
“That was amazing. (Shakir), that’s my best friend so when he picked it up and scored, we all got hyped and knew we’d sealed the game. It’s a blessing. We didn’t know if we’d have a season and to be back out here and be with my brothers, it’s a blessing.”
McCrary finished with four sacks, all in the final five minutes.
“Every time we come into the season, each team is different, each team is new and we try to find our identity,” Brown said. “We do some of the same things but obviously we’re bringing in a new center, three new offensive linemen, new set of receivers, a new running back and a whole new defensive front.”
The presence of Brown and his playmakers alleviates adjustment time for those green players. While each roster looks different, he now has a program that expects success every “Championship Week” – Brown’s name for each tilt.
“Play every game like our last,” McCrary, a junior, said. “Every week is Championship Week.”
His words echoed Brown’s. Colbert’s warning against wagering spoke to Gallagher’s proof of team DNA.
Those kids know it and the coaches do, too. Wilson and Williamstown did what the programs usually do to start a season that is anything but usual.
The Tigers and Braves simply handled their business. What else would we expect?
Mark Trible is a former sports reporter for the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill and one of the most popular high school writers in South Jersey. Follow Mark: @Mtrible on Twitter; facebook.com/marktriblewords/