By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Senior Football Writer
TABERNACLE — At 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, Bill Fisher came out and raised the five division champion flags that sit atop the Seneca High football field press box.
He won them — and every game the Golden Eagles triumphed in since the school’s inception in 2004.
Fisher also used the early time to reflect at the dawn of a day that would see his final game as head coach.
“I think that’s the most emotional I’ve been,” he said of that morning. “I’m blessed. I really am.
“Do I want to hold a blue trophy over my head? Yeah. But I’ll take this any day of the week over a blue trophy.”
Sentimentality came back after the final whistle here on Thanksgiving following a 13-6 win over Cherokee.
“Every year I had a special group,” said Fisher, who finished his career that began at Triton in 2001 with a 121-117 record. “Even if I had a 2-8 season, it still was an amazing group of seniors.
“The football gods have kind of been on my side, I think, a little bit.”
They were on Thursday, too.
There were a couple of fumbles the hosts were fortunate to pounce on to retain possession. Then, Jamar Warthen forced one on a punt return to secure the victory in the final minutes for Seneca (10-2).
Warthen also caught a touchdown from freshman quarterback Anthony Tirico in the first half. Tirico found David Vacca for a 76-yard score in the third quarter to raise the lead to 13-0.
It stood there until Murad Campfield’s short plunge for six early in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs (9-4) came up short on a 4th-and-1 late in the frame. A 3-and-out forced the punt that created the final dramatic moment.
“It’s been all love from coach Fish,” Warthen said. “To win and have him go out on a win, it means everything.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever met. His love for the game changed my life and how I love football.”
When asked about Warthen’s performance, Fisher paused as long as he could to compose himself.
“I guess, you know, when I’m not coaching next year, that’s the guy I’m going to miss,” Fisher said as his voice cracked. “He’s special.
“He is the guy who makes everybody laugh, makes everybody loose and at the same time — if you’re not hitting people in practice — he’ll let you know.”
Warthen will be back next season. However, 21 seniors will not. They also soaked up the final victory on their home turf.
They came a long way from a 3-7 record in 2021. The past two campaigns each ended at 10-2 with sectional final appearances.
“It’s been a ride,” star senior back Zac Fearon said. “We really just turned the bus around. I feel happy and sad, but it’s been a great four years.”
Fearon pointed to Fisher as a father figure to all on the team and knew how much the roster wanted to send him out a winner.
“We went into this game with a nothing-to-lose mentality,” Fearon added. “Once that first whistle blew, we were the more physical team for all four quarters. We stuck together.”
A man with a sterling reputation among the South Jersey community had more than just green-and-gold clad supporters on Thursday. Prevalent in the local football scene since his days as Deptford quarterback for legendary coach Joe Corbi, Fisher has gained plenty of friends and fans around the region.
Even this reporter found himself a bit misty-eyed in the postgame interview. Fisher is nothing if not constantly helpful and keen to accommodate any requests of himself or his program. His kindness and good humor are appreciated.
After he received several farewell gifts — a signed jersey, football, framed photo, among others — the 56-year-old took photos with his upperclassmen.
He then met with a throng of alumni who came to witness the final chapter.
“You want to do things the right way,” Fisher said. “I’ve got young coaches who have that energy that I had when I first got into coaching.
“I’m so happy to give them this program and I get to leave with these memories. It’s special.”
Mark Trible is a special high school football writer for South Jersey Glory Days. You can follow him on Twitter @MTrible. Also, catch his high school football show (The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show) every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/sjglorydays.