By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Noah Ellison grabbed his quarterback before the game and told him to cut loose with his passes in the South Jersey Group 4 title game.
"He told me, 'Dev, throw it up and I'll go get it,'" Timber Creek sophomore quarterback Devin Leary said.
On the last drive of the last game of the long season, Leary threw the football high in the air.
Ellison went up and caught it.
The two clutch completions enabled Timber Creek to run out the clock and secure a 28-24 victory over arch-rival Shawnee in an instant classic of a sectional final at Rowan University.
"Words can't describe it," Ellison said after Timber Creek's emotional victory on a cold, clear Sunday night. "This is what we've been talking about since June -- beating Shawnee in this game."
The victory earned Timber Creek (9-3) its third sectional title since 2011. It also turned the tables on Shawnee, as the Renegades had beaten the Chargers in this game at this site in both 2013 and 2014.
"The better team won," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said. "They made some big plays when they needed to."
Down 28-9 in the third quarter, Shawnee (9-3) roared back behind senior quarterback Mike Welsh and sophomore Ryan Parris, who blocked a punt that teammate Colin Wetterau recovered for a touchdown to pull the Renegades within 28-24 with five minutes, 40 seconds to play.
Timber Creek took over at its own 37 and churned out three first downs to run out the clock and set off a wild celebration among the players, coaches and support staff.
The Chargers got some hard running during the course of the game from junior Harold Coleman and seniors Walter Lewis and Shane Pease, who combined for 173 yards.
But on the crucial final drive, Timber Creek converted a pair of third downs on passes from Leary to Ellison.
The first was a nine-yard gain on third-and-five, as Ellison jumped high in the air to make the catch along the right hash.
The second was a 22-yard gain on third-and-7, as Ellison made a leaping catch along the left sideline in front of the Shawnee bench.
"When he threw it, I thought it was out of bounds," Gushue said of Leary. "But that kid (Ellison) can go get it."
Leary showed remarkable poise for a sophomore, completing 15 of 22 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns.
Said Gushue of Leary: "He plays beyond his years."
Leary said Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson told him to step up on the big stage of his first sectional title game.
"Coach told me, 'Play your best and let the others follow you,'" Leary said, clutching the game ball under his arm. "I knew this would be a tough game physically and mentally. I knew I had to have the right mindset.
"I was confident I could lead my team. I had faith in my teammates."
Timber Creek took a 21-3 lead at halftime as Leary finished a 70-yard drive with a one-yard sneak for a score with 0:19 on the clock.
It was 28-9 after Leary fired a 44-yard touchdown pass to senior Cameron Chambers.
Shawnee battled back but Timber Creek locked down one of the more emotional victories in the history of the program thanks to that last drive, and those last two leaping catches by Ellison.
"I just went up and got them," Ellison said. "I told Devin to throw it up there and I would go get it. He put it right where I could get it.
"It feels amazing. We waited all year for a chance to play this game."
Timber Creek 14 7 7 0 -- 28
Shawnee 0 3 14 7 -- 24
TC: Jason Butler 27 pass from Devin Leary (Tyler Coluccio kick)
TC: Harold Coleman 7 run (Coluccio kick)
S: Rich Demko 30 FG
TC: Leary 1 run (Coluccio kick)
S: Mike Johnson 18 pass from Mike Welsh (kick fail)
TC: Cameron Chambers 44 pass from Leary (Coluccio kick)
S: Shawn Levondosky 53 pass from Welsh (Welsh run)
S: Colin Wettereau recovered blocked punt in end zone (Demko kick)
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com