Cherokee's 14-0 win Saturday over previously No. 1 Egg Harbor Township in the South Jersey Group 4 final ended any suspense about the No. 1 team in the final Inquirer South Jersey Top 10.
The Chiefs finished 11-1, losing to Seneca, 14-7 on Thanksgiving before bouncing back to hand EHT its only loss of the season.
Cherokee's closest win this season was a 24-21 overtime victory over Pennsauken. The Chiefs also won their second straight Burlco/Olympic American Division title.
Eight Cherokee players were named first-team all-conference - senior offensive linemen Justin Nykiel and Jeff Long, senior defensive lineman Anthony Alosi, senior running back Sean Farrell, junior quarterback Andy Martin, junior wide receiver Drake Rodgers, senior defensive back Tyler Powell, and junior defensive back/linebacker Mike Zeuli.
"Our main goal was to win the Group 4 title, but being ranked No. 1 is a nice honor for our team," Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan said.
Cherokee went 6-1 against teams that qualified for the postseason, including 3-0 in its three playoff games.
Glouco Group 1 dominance
. With Woodbury's 16-0 win over Paulsboro in the South Jersey Group 1 final, Gloucester County has now won 29 of the 35 sectional titles since the advent of Group 1 playoffs in 1975 (Groups 3 and 4 began playoffs the previous year in 1974.)
The championship was Woodbury's sixth. Glassboro has won seven. Paulsboro has captured 16.
Champs by county
. Gloucester County and Atlantic County have multiple sectional/state champions. Besides Woodbury, Delsea in Group 2 was Gloucester County's other champion.
Atlantic County had both champions from the city of Hammonton. St. Joseph was the Non-Public Group 2 state champ, and Hammonton captured the South Jersey Group 3 title.
Group 4 champ Cherokee hails from Burlington County.
More on the postseason
. With EHT in the Group 4 final, the Cape Atlantic American Conference has had teams in the last five championship games.
Illustrating how difficult it is to repeat as a champion, only two teams from the seven-county South Jersey area were in championship games this season after doing the same a year ago. Delsea won its second straight SJ Group 2 title, and Hammonton won in SJ Group 3 after falling to Shawnee, 28-7 in last year's championship
Stat of the season. All season, area historian and statistician Chuck Langerman has provided us with great historical information concerning South Jersey, but he may have outdone himself on the following tidbit.
Langerman reports that with EHT's loss to Cherokee, no team from the seven-county South Jersey area had a perfect record (no losses, no ties).
The last time that had happened was 1973, the final season before the NJSIAA playoffs began.
In 1973, Camden went 8-0-1, and Bishop Eustace was 7-0-2. Since then there has been at least one team with an unbeaten, untied mark until this season.
High-scoring teams. Langerman also points out that though Delsea set a single-season South Jersey record with 510 points this season, the 1995 Paulsboro team still holds the area per-game record with an average of 43.5 points. That season, Paulsboro scored 479 points in 11 games. The playoffs didn't expand until 1998.
Delsea averaged 42.5 points this year, still an awful lot of scoring.
Sad news. Longtime South Jersey football historian Bill Halkes Jr. died over the weekend at the age of 81. Mr. Halkes wrote South Jersey Scholastic Football Scores, which came out in 1996 and chronicled every known score year-by-year in South Jersey beginning in 1881. The book was one of the best purchases any sportswriter or fan could make.
Mr. Halkes was a great resource and a true gentleman.
Each year this reporter would send Mr. Halkes the South Jersey football schedules and in return, he would mail statistical information.
His passion for South Jersey football and its history was unmatched, and he will be truly missed.