P.J. Mehigan stood near midfield answering questions moments after his Cherokee team beat Oakcrest, 33-6, to clinch its second consecutive South Jersey Group 4 championship on Saturday afternoon.
Mehigan stood with his arms folded on a cold afternoon and complimented his team's work ethic. He talked about his philosophy on coaching football - run first, then again, and then again, because when November and December roll around, it's running that wins games. That and, of course, defense, two things the Chiefs, who completed the first 12-0 season in program history, did almost to perfection while dismantling the season's Cinderella story in Oakcrest.
As Mehigan spoke, several players made their way from the home bench with a cooler filled with ice and, of course, Gatorade. Despite a warning that "they were coming," Mehigan continued to speak and then was showered with the icy chill of victory.
"I didn't know they had the Gatorade," Mehigan said with a smile. "I thought it was just parents coming up to us."
Over the past two seasons, in which the Chiefs were 23-1, there hasn't been much Mehigan didn't see coming. His team, the model of consistency, finished last season as the No. 1 team in the Daily News South Jersey Top 10 ranking, and currently sits behind only Holy Spirit (12-0), a 14-13 winner over St. Joe Montvale in the Non-Public Group 3 title game on Friday night.
So the dominant manner in which Cherokee handled Oakcrest came as little surprise.
"At the end of the game I was just looking to put points on the board and not bookend our season that way," said Oakcrest head coach Chuck Smith, whose team fell to Holy Spirit, 49-0, in its season opener. "You know, we got beat in every aspect of the game today. Offensively, defensively and special teams. They are a great football team and we knew that coming in."
What no one knew for sure was how good Cherokee would be coming into a season after graduating several key seniors. That said, quarterback Andy Martin claimed to have little doubts and, if possible, enjoyed this season a little more than last. Of course, that could be because this was his final campaign, but there was also a little bit of a different feel to this team.
"Both seasons were great, but I think this team - how do I put this - this team had a little more fun," said Martin, who completed just three of his five passes against Oakcrest, although all three went for touchdowns. "I think, last year, we were a little more all-business in our approach. We just had a little more fun this year."
Which leaves only one more question to ask: Which team, Holy Spirit or Cherokee, is the No. 1 team in South Jersey?
"I don't worry about that," Mehigan said. "That's for you guys to debate."
"They're both really great teams," said Smith, whose team and Absegami were the only ones to play both this year. "They have different styles but both are just great teams. I guess I should go with Holy Spirit since they're in our league."
* Group 1:
Glassboro 36, Paulsboro 9
Glassboro (10-2), as healthy as it has been all season, had little problem with Paulsboro in a win that gave the Bulldogs their third Group 1 title in four seasons. In a meeting of traditional Gloucester County powers, Paulsboro (9-3) failed to mount much offense; it was a common thread through its final three games in which it managed just 10 points.
* Group 3:
Lacey Township 56, Delsea 7