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Football: The lessons of White Jersey Weekend

By Phil Anastasia

Call it White Jersey Weekend.

Call it a lesson, too.

There were five South Jersey championship football games at Rowan University this weekend and the lower-seeded, white-jersey-wearing team won all five -- Cherokee in Group 5, Glassboro in Group 1, Haddonfield in Group 2, Delsea in Group 3 and Shawnee in Group 4.

The first four were routs, with the lower seeds winning by a combined score of 134-9.

The last game was an instant classic, as sixth-seeded Shawnee beat top-seeded and two-time defending champion Timber Creek by a 31-22 score in the nightcap of a long day of football at Richard Wackar Stadium.

Shawnee builts leads of 10-0, 17-6 and 24-14 but Timber Creek battled back again and again behind quarterback Dan Williams and wide receivers Adonis Jennings and Cameron Chambers.

Shawnee senior RB/LB Anthony DiOrio (26 carries, 140 yards) was "possessed," according to Renegades coach Tim Gushue.

DiOrio's toughness and determination spread through his team like a antidote for the doubt that might have gripped the Renegades in the face of the Chargers' speed and athleticism.

The best thing about the game was the way both teams battled to the bitter end, with Williams bouncing off the turf to make throw after throws, with Jennings reaching back in traffic to make great catches, with Shawnee's defense making one final stand and its offensive line clearing the way for one final drive that sealed the victory.

Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson was all class after the game, compimenting Shawnee for a "great game plan" and noting that the Renegades played "their best game" and "deserved to win."

Gushue's been around the block a few thousands times but still seemed overwhelmed by the ability his players to rally from a 3-3 record in mideason (after consecutive losses to Clearview and Cherokee, the later by a 31-0 score) to capture the fifth South Jersey title in the program's history.

That's why Shawnee's victory was such a fitting end to White Jersey Weekend.

Shawnee was 3-3 at one point and also faced a 24-0 halftime deficit in its semifinal game at Toms River South.

Not a problem.

Glassboro was 2-5 in early November.

Not a problem.

Haddonfield was 4-2 with losses to Sterling and West Deptford.

Not a problem.

Delsea was 2-2 with losses to Camden and Kingsway.

Not a problem.

"We started practicing better," Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. said. "That was the key."

These seasons always turn on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in practice sessions and film study and maybe in the locker room -- when the players (seniors especially) look at each other and decide that they aren't going out this way.

That's what happened at Shawnee, Delsea, Haddonfield and Glasssboro.

To an extent, that's what happened at Cherokee, too, as the Chiefs were devastated after a 13-10 loss to Williamstown dropped their record to 2-1 and raised questions about their ability to recapture the glory of one of South Jersey's most decorated programs.

The Chiefs ended up winning their final nine games, and not off top-seeded Eastern by a 38-2 score in a Friday night title game that set the tone for the entire weekend.

"These kids are believers," Gushue said, speaking of Shawnee's athletes but also for everybody in a white jersey.

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