By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
WINSLOW TOWNSHIP — On a late run to put the first sectional title in program history out of reach here on Saturday night, a few Winslow Township teammates helped elevate Trey Thorpe. He’d already been pushed into the air by a defender, but the help gave him a few more yards.
It’s the least anyone in green could do. After all, Thorpe lifted the Eagles to heights never seen before this postseason.
His 179-yard, four-touchdown performance added another stamp to the playoff passport. This one, the Central Jersey Group 4 title game journey — a 34-22 win over Shawnee.
Thorpe’s heroics on the last offensive drive made it even sweeter for the home fans.
On a possession that lasted 12 plays and nearly 7 minutes, Thorpe took a handoff on 2nd-and-11. He hit the extra gear and rolled 30 yards past the pylons to seal things for the Eagles (9-2).
“I just knew coming in, I wanted to go out with a bang,” Thorpe said of his postseason. “I just turned on a whole other level.
“My confidence just boosted up and I started taking care of my body better throughout the playoffs.”
He did that with a better regimen of ice baths.
His biggest run on that huge drive helped put the result on ice as well. Coach Kenny Scott went for it on 4th-and-3 at his own 44-yard line.
“My man, he found the hole and he hit it,” quarterback Hamas Duren said. “He kept churning those legs and he fought for it.”
Thorpe got it by inches.
“You’ve got to go,” Scott said of the decision. “I didn’t want to give the ball back to those guys.”
Prior to the season, Scott harped on one thing he needed from his team— the ability to finish games when it mattered. To put their knuckles in the sod and lay the hammer down.
It’s as if Scott’s wishes were in front of a packed house in this much anticipated and final championship of the weekend. Thorpe, the hammer. The Renegades, the nail.
“To finish the drive with a touchdown and our offensive line dictate the line of scrimmage, those are the things we want,” Scott said. “Those are the things that matter.”
This one went back and forth as a title game should. It stood at 14-8 at halftime in the hosts’ favor. They made it 22-8 but Shawnee (7-4) battled back again to make it 22-15.
Even at 28-15, the Renegades climbed back in it with a Matt Welsey touchdown run — his second of the game. That made it 28-22 with 9:35 left.
Shawnee executed an onside kick on the next play. But on 4th-and-6 mere moments later, Welsey’s run came up just short when senior linebacker Emeril Mitchell got him out of bounds.
That opened the door for the fateful drive. Thorpe carried it nine times on the possession. He also jumped on a bad snap in a key spot.
“This feels amazing, this right here, this feeling is crazy,” Mitchell said. “… After last year’s performance I knew we were going to come here.
“We’ve been talking about this since the summer. I knew that we were going to do it — and we finally did it.”
In 2020, the Eagles reached the top bracket pod in the West Jersey Football League, though not an official playoff. They were shut out in a loss to Holy Spirit.
Now, they are headed to Rutgers to play Millville, the South Jersey Group 4 champ on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m.
It will be the last game of the high school season in New Jersey. And in the Thunderbolts, Winslow will now see another one of the state’s best public teams.
Coach Scott’s crew lost to undefeated SJ Group 3 champs Cedar Creek and beat the CJ Group 3 champs, Woodrow Wilson.
“I felt like we were well-prepared because our schedule was so tough,” Thorpe said. “We played so many tough teams, we weren’t in an uncomfortable situation.”
Not even above ground, or all over it.
Clinging to her father’s hip, Scott’s oldest daughter Kaylynn revealed how excited she was.
“All the way to the moon,” she said.
Trey Thorpe’s masterful postseason of 536 rush yards and nine touchdowns in three games, well, it lifted her there, too.
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.