The final big play of the game was made by a 14-year-old freshman nicknamed “The Highlighter.”
Hamin Anderson's neon shoes and neon gloves are about the only thing that would make him standout among his larger teammates.
And they were visible even as he was swarmed after his final-minute interception at the goal line sealed a 21-17 win for his Highland football team Friday night over visiting Timber Creek in a big Black Horse Pike rivalry game.
Anderson is just 5-foot-8, skinny, wears braces and looks every bit like a freshman.
But that's what made it feel so fitting after the game. It seemed like everybody - every grade, every size - contributed to Highland's win -- the second straight year the Tartans knocked off the perennial power.
“It feels great - I had to do that for my team - and, you know, I’m “The Highlighter," and “The Highlighter” has to be known. I just did what I was supposed to do,” said Anderson, a safety who was pivotal in an all-out team effort to keep Timber Creek - led by star quarterback Donovan Leary - scoreless in the second half.
The game featured two of South Jersey's marquee talents in Leary and Highland running back Johnny Martin.
Both showed why they're such highly touted recruits. Leary flashed mobility and a big arm. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 210 yards and two first-half touchdowns, both to Dior Boyd. But he was picked off twice in that scoreless second half, as the Tartans defense did not allow him to get into a rhythm.
Martin carried the ball 22 times for 168 yards and a touchdown. He ran for a 65-yard touchdown in the first quarter - his second touch of the game - to give Highland (4-1) a lead that it never lost.
"This was a big stage and we promised ourselves we wouldn't lose," said Martin, whose Tartans have rattled off four straight wins since dropping its opener to St. Joseph at Rutgers.
"This is the best week of practice we've ever had," Martin said. "We want to keep this winning streak going - it's not going to stop."
The two teams featured opposite strategies on offense.
Timber Creek (3-2) was pass-first and Highland was run-first, using a combination of Martin, Mike D'Amico and quarterback Javon Holley to control the clock.
The Tartans used the strategy to build a 21-17 first-half lead thanks to several long scoring drives.
In the second half, Highland's ability to drain the clock was the perfect complement to a defense that kept making big plays.
Timber Creek (3-2) only had four possessions in the second half. Two ended with interceptions, one was a punt and one was a turnover on downs with 2:37 left in the game.
“It just felt like everyone contributed tonight. That’s what makes the win so special,” said Highland coach Brian Leary.
Timber Creek 7 10 0 0 --17
Highland 14 7 0 0 -- 21
H: Kasim Randall-Dale 3 run (Justin Carter kick)
H: Johnny Martin 65 run (Carter kick)
TC: Dior Boyd 7 pass from Donovan Leary (Zach Coluccio kick)
TC: Boyd 15 pass from Leary (Coluccio kick)
H: Javon Holley 2 run (Carter kick)