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Shawnee wins Group 3 football title

There was very little deception but plenty of execution. Some might call Shawnee's football team methodical.

There was very little deception but plenty of execution. Some might call Shawnee's football team methodical.

The best phrase is actually two-time sectional champion after Shawnee defeated Hammonton, 28-7, in tonight's South Jersey Group 3 championship.

Ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer since the preseason, Shawnee (12-0) won its second straight Group 3 title and extended its winning streak to 19 games.

And while at times Shawnee may appear to be a team without much sizzle, the Renegades have a habit of wearing teams down.

And their No. 1 steamroller is senior Chris LaPierre, who rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.

"Chris didn't have to carry the whole thing on his back," Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said. "That kept him a lot more relaxed."

Senior quarterback Kody Smith, a third-year starter, was a difference-maker. He completed 8 of 10 passes for 126 yards and bought himself time against Hammonton's pass rush.

And then there was the defense, which proved difficult to penetrate. Shawnee was led defensively by lineman Dashawn Cassell, who often inhaled ballcarriers, and linebacker Justin Miller, who became the school's all-time leader in tackles.

"You have to play a perfect game, and we knew that coming in," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "We drove the ball well in spurts and didn't finish, and you can't do that against a team like that."

For obvious reasons.

"They are too good," Lancetta said.

LaPierre scored the game's first three touchdowns on runs of 2, 2 and 78 yards, but Hammonton's Ian Evans caught a 9-yard scoring pass from Nick Crescenzo with 9 seconds left in the first half. On the 48-yard scoring drive, 39 of the yards came courtesy of Shawnee penalities.

LaPierre's 3-yard fourth-quarter TD ended the scoring.

This was not a textbook performance by either team in what was a penalty-filled affair.

Both teams were chirping at each other, and Hammonton wasn't pleased that Shawnee was still throwing the ball with less than two minutes left in the game.

"No comment," Lancetta said when asked about the late passing attack.

Hammonton (9-3) is the only team that has played Shawnee and No. 2 Mainland (11-0), which meets Southern Regional in today's Group 4 final.

Any comparison between Shawnee and Mainland?

"No comment," said Lancetta, whose team lost, 31-0, to Mainland. "But I would buy a ticket to see the game."

LaPierre was worth the price of admission throughout his career. He set the state single-season records with 44 touchdowns and 272 points. Last night, all he was worried about was winning that final game.

"They are a big physical team and have seven starters going both ways," LaPierre said. "We eventually knew we could wear them down, and it paid off."

Hammonton   0 7 0 0 - 7

Shawnee   7 14 0 7 - 28

S: LaPierre 2 run (Bono kick)

S: LaPierre 2 run (Bono kick)

S: LaPierre 78 run (Bono kick)

H: Evans 9 pass from N. Crescenzo (Sandoval kick)

S: LaPierre 3 run (Bono kick)