There was a stretch in the second quarter when Tyshawn Bookman scored a touchdown three straight times he touched the football.
First a 55-yard run. Then a 32-yard pick-six. Then a 30-yard run.
Before the game, there was talk of West Deptford wanting to vindicate its loss in last year’s South Jersey Group 2 semifinals. The Eagles said the loss had haunted them since it happened.
So, if the goal was to vanquish a lingering ghost — then consider Friday night a full-on exorcism.
Led by Bookman’s performance for the ages, top-seeded West Deptford brushed aside No. 5 Delran, 56-17, at home in Friday night’s Group 2 South semifinals, advancing to next week’s championship game against second-seeded Hillside.
“It’s an honor [to be going to the championship]. We had a brilliant week of practice all week and we just wanted to come out here and grind,” said Bookman whose Eagles lost this game to Camden last season.
Bookman finished with 10 carries for 172 yards and rushing touchdowns of 20, 55 and 30 yards — all in the first half.
He also added one catch for 35 yards and, of course, his interception for a touchdown — a play Bookman said was his personal favorite of the night.
“I was just catching fire in the moment — I just let God do what he does best,” Bookman said. “I just tried to stay in the moment and let it happen.”
Fellow running back Kameron Dixon finished with three carries for 67 yards, and quarterback Aaron Graeber finished with four carries for 71 yards and two rushing touchdowns, including one from 40 yards in the second quarter during an outburst when it didn’t look like anyone on the Eagles could be tackled. They flat-out smothered Delran in every facet of the game.
Bookman had just one carry in the second half and Graeber didn’t have any.
All of West Deptford’s gaudy stats were accumulated in a first half in which the Eagles (9-1) outscored the Bears (8-2), 49-3.
“This whole team was in the weight room the Monday after [last year’s] loss to Camden, and from that point they’ve been working for this moment today — so I’m just super proud of them,” said Eagles coach Jason Morrell.
Delran’s field goal in the first quarter marked the first points West Deptford had allowed in four games since a 14-13 loss to St. Joseph on Oct. 18 .
The 30-yard kick was set up after Delran successfully converted a fake punt on a tough run by Eren Ibas on fourth-and-10. The Eagles were flagged 30 yards on two separate personal fouls on that one play, putting Delran in field-goal position.
Penalties, in fact, were the only blemish on the night for West Deptford — but it was mostly indicative of a hyper-aggressive approach to the game.
“We’re not happy letting our emotions get the best of us,” Morrell said. “But it’s hard to hold them back when they’re that excited to play.”
After Delran’s first scoring drive, the Bears did not cross into Eagles territory again until the fourth quarter when — with a running clock — the Bears starters managed two quick scores against the Eagles’ backup defense. Delran recovered an onside kick after a 1-yard score by Ibas and Michigan recruit RJ Moten finished the drive and, effectively, the game with a 6-yard score.
Moten, a senior, was quick to point out that this loss didn’t define this season or his career at Delran.
The Bears won eight games for the second straight season after winning just six combined in the previous two.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished,” Moten said. “We came through a lot over the years.”
Delran 3 0 0 14 — 17
West Deptford 14 35 7 0 — 56
WD: Tyshawn Bookman 20 run (Brandon Ratcliffe kick)
D: Eren Ibas 30 field goal
WD: Aaron Graeber 1 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Bookman 55 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Bookman 32 interception return (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Graeber 40 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Bookman 30 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Gavin Shields 6 run (Ratcliffe kick)
WD: Tion Cherry 14 run (Ratcliffe kick)
D: Ibas 1 run (Ibas kick)