By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Cherry Hill West senior quarterback Andrew Valentin threw the football with full force and full conviction.
"I never had a doubt one of my guys was going to catch it," Valentin said.
Cherry Hill West senior wide receiver Quincy Jenkins stood in the back of the end zone, with three defenders around him, with his heels dangerously close to the out-of-bounds line.
"There was no room," Jenkins said. "No room."
Cherry Hill West coach Brian Wright stood on the sideline, watching Valentin's pass sail through a cool, clear Thanksgiving Eve lit by a full moon and those rare Wednesday Night Lights.
"Just like we drew it up," Wright said with a smile. "We never worked on that, I can tell you that."
Jenkins outjumped three Cherry Hill East defenders to the football, the remarkable 20-yard catch serving as both the final reception of his career and the signature moment of perhaps the most memorable game in the history of the cross-town rivalry.
Jenkins' touchdown on the final play of regulation forced overtime, and Cherry Hill West won the game by 26-20 in the extra session on a five-yard scoring run by junior fullback Lorenzo Hernandez.
"This has to be the craziest game played all year," Cherry Hill West senior linebacker Henry Ensley said. "It's the craziest game I ever played in."
Cherry Hill West rallied in dramatic fashion to capture "The Boot" -- the Al DiBart Memorial Trophy, which spends the year with the winning team -- for the third year in a row.
The victory in the game with likely the wildest finish in the 47-year history of the rivalry ended the season for the Lions with a 4-6 record.
"To win this way, it means a lot," Wright said. "It means a lot for these kids, this school, people on this side of town."
Cherry Hill East (2-8) had possession at its own 12 with a 20-14 lead with 0:46 on the clock.
But Cherry Hill West's defense forced its third straight three-and-out of the final eight minutes, using all three of its timeouts to save some clock for a desperation drive from its offense.
The Lions took possession after a punt at the East 42 with 0:24 on the clock.
On second down, Valentin hit junior Harrison Hand on a cross pattern for 22 yards to the 20.
After a spike, the Lions came to the line with 0:04 on the clock.
Valentin took the snap, rolled right, rolled some more and danced away from one final rusher before reaching the sideline.
He reared back and fired a pass that appeared, at first, destined to sail out of the end zone.
"I knew everything was on the line," Valentin said. "I knew my teammates need me to make a play."
Jenkins said he broke off his pattern when Valentin started to scramble and just "followed" his quarterback.
The wide receiver knew he was in heavy traffic as the pass descended his way.
"But they (his opponents) didn't have the same will to go up and get it that I did," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he never caught a pass like that at the end of regulation in any game.
"But everybody dreams about making that kind of catch," Jenkins said.
In overtime, West's defense got a big sack from Hernandez and an interception from Hand to end East's possession.
The Lions took over and went backward on three plays. But on fourth-and-12, Valentin fired a 22-yard pass to Hand, who towed a tackler for the final seven yards to the 5.
"I wasn't going to let the seniors down and I wasn't going to let my coaches down," Hand said.
Hernandez bulled into the end zone on the next play, popping the cork on a wide celebration, with West students charging the field.
"A rivalry game, at some point it turns into backyard football," Wright said. "That's what happened here. These kids, they just kept playing. They never gave up."
Cherry Hill East 6 6 8 0 0 -- 20
Cherry Hill West 0 7 13 6 -- 26
CHE: Jake Babroff 5 run (kick fail)
CHE: MJ Frazier 35 pass from Vinny Guckin (pass fail)
CHW: Andrew Valentin 8 run (George Vyzaniaris kick)
CHE: Guckin 43 run (kick fail)
CHW: Lorenzo Hernandez 1 run (Vyzaniaris kick)
CHW: Quincy Jenkins 20 pass from Valentin (kick fail)
CHW: Hernandez 5 run (no attempt)
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org