By MARK TRIBLE
WINSLOW TOWNSHIP — Emeril Mitchell stood at midfield — all 6 feet, 1 inch and 210 pounds of him — and gave an honest assessment of what it takes to have a nose for the football on defense.
“You’ve got to play fast, hard, physical and all those other adjectives,” the Winslow middle linebacker said. “Any adjectives you can think of that have anything to do with domination.”
Save the adjectives.
Use the tape.
Flip on the Eagles’ 32-14 decimation of Washington Township here on Saturday night and see what it takes.
Winslow (4-0), ranked No. 5 in the Glory Days Magazine Best 11 of the West Jersey Football League, had 13 points in the first half on defense and 15 yards on offense. Navy commit Jayden Brown swiped a pick-6 and breezed 45 yards for the game’s inaugural points just 2 minutes, 55 seconds into play.
Later, Mitchell ripped the ball from a tailback and ran in 38 yards for another score with 4 minutes left in the first frame.
Then, the special teams got in the mix. The opening kickoff of the second half hit off an Eagle and Trey Thorpe picked it up. He sprinted 70 yards down the sideline for six to make it 20-7.
A punt snap went out of the end zone after a Minutemen (1-2) drive stalled later in the third. Everett Mitchell nailed a 32-yard field goal to make it 25-7 with 3:30 left in the quarter.
Every point came from defense or special teams to that point, though Hamas Duren found Jacob Mitchell for a 19-yard toss in the fourth stanza to make it 32-7. By that time, the opportunistic Winslow defense had already done the heavy lifting. When the unit didn’t score, the 11 in green wrapped up, hit hard and forced exhaustion, mistakes and frustration from the visitors.
A touchdown in the final minutes made the scoreboard less uneven, but only cosmetically. This one never left the talons of the hosts due to Mitchell, Brown and Co.
“It’s humbling to be on this defense,” Brown said. “You’ve got to have communication, you’ve got to watch film, you can’t just come out and play. The results show.
“This season’s been great, but it all came before the season. When coach Bill Belton came in, it was a different momentum.”
Belton, the former All-South Jersey star and Penn State Nittany Lion, joined the staff as an assistant and it helped galvanize this club. It’s evident in the praise his players give him and the words from coach Kenny Scott as well. For years, there has been talent in these parts but not since Mike McBride’s tenure has it been realized to its full potential. Until now.
“I worked under coach McBride’s staff and he always said to me, ‘Surround yourself with great people,’” Scott explained. “The first part was getting a great staff and I’ve got a great staff. No. 2 is really getting these guys to understand that this is not about talent.
“I think we’ve always been talented, but our work ethic stunk for years. The bottom line is, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. That’s what the saying is.”
This edition shows up with hard hats and lunch pails. Plus, there’s plenty of that talent, too, and it shows. The Eagles look every bit the part of one of South Jersey’s best. With hopes that there is a Top-4 pod at season’s end for the entire region, they seem a fit.
Winslow faces Eastern to wrap up its schedule prior to a Thanksgiving week clash with Timber Creek. Those ahead of Winslow — Williamstown, Cherokee, Lenape, Holy Spirit, in order — all have large tests soon.
“We just worry about week-to-week,” Scott said. “Things are changing and evolving on a daily basis with this COVID situation so it’s like, just remain humble, be thankful and whatever the powers that be allow us to be or where to be, we’ll be fine.
“Just follow the protocols and just make sure we’re there, ready to play.”
One of the protocols here is to make sure Emeril Mitchell gets on the bus or shows up on the field. He racked up a sack, plenty of tackles, the fumble score and another loose ball recovery against the Minutemen.
The PA announcer here simply tells the crowd, “You know who” when No. 9 makes the play.
“I want to go to college for free,” Mitchell said. “That’s what’s on my mind all the time. That’s all I think about. I’m trying to go to school for free and I just know I’ve got to work hard out here to maintain that goal.”
The 16-year-old junior has zero college offers. Jalen Cheek, who had an interception, is headed to Boston College. Brown will be a Midshipman. If Mitchell keeps up this play, his opportunities will begin to trickle in.
He played in the youth program around these parts and has seen his fair share of losses the past two years. His hunger is evident.
“Emeril’s a dog,” Brown said. “They need to watch out for him, too.”
If anyone needs to know about this team, its defense or the linebacker that lights the fuse — they can watch all they want.
Frenzied. Ferocious. Fierce. Fantastic. Four-and-Oh.
Actually, save the adjectives.
Put on the tape.
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/