Timber Creek in December was different than Timber Creek in September.
But remarkably similar to Timber Creek in August.
That was the team that was No. 1 in The Inquirer preseason rankings and regarded as a supremely talented and explosive squad that could overwhelm even the toughest of opponents.
Ultimately, that was the team that won the South Jersey Group 4 title Saturday night with a 57-27 tour de force against Kingsway.
"We had guys making plays all over the field," Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said.
Kingsway had gone 8-2 since opening night, losing only to No. 4 Delsea (21-19) and No. 1 Williamstown (20-16) and beating previously undefeated Lacey Township in the sectional semifinals.
But the Dragons couldn't keep pace with the Chargers on a misty night on Rowan's artificial turf.
That was the Timber Creek team that many folks expected to see in September, when the Chargers instead went 2-2, losing to Camden Catholic and Williamstown.
"Entitlement," Hinson said of the root of his team's early-season struggles. "They were used to winning. They thought they could just show up and win. I needed to do a better job of getting these guys prepared."
In the end, the preseason buzz about Timber Creek was correct: They were sensational in the state tournament, dominant in December.
They just needed to get out of September.
Special title. West Deptford has won six South Jersey Group 2 titles in the last 11 seasons.
But veteran coach Clyde Folsom said this latest one was something special.
"I don't think I've ever been prouder of a team of mine," Folsom said after a 42-28 win over Cedar Creek in the sectional final Saturday at Rowan. "The journey, the work ethic, the commitment, it's unsurpassed."
Folsom noted the Eagles have an undersized offensive line and were physically overmatched at several positions against Cedar Creek.
"It's all about the team aspect of it," said Folsom, whose team finished with a 12-0 record. "This team got better and better as a team during the course of the season. The last four or five weeks, our leadership took over."
Red Devil redux? Penns Grove loses several top players from this year's 12-0 team that captured the program's first sectional title: Nick Elmer, Jabrail Murray, and Sam Harvey, among many others.
But Red Devils coach Kemp Carr believes his club will be back for more in 2013.
"We're not going anywhere," Carr said.
Penns Grove will return junior defensive ends Isaiah Coppage and RaeQuan Norman, who were major factors in the tournament.
Coppage returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown in the sectional final against Woodbury, and Norman had six sacks in the semifinals against Paulsboro and four more in the final.
Junior running back Anthony Robertson, who was banged up a bit in the final, ran for 27 touchdowns this season.
"We've got a lot of guys back," Carr said. "We'll be back."
Big play. Overlooked a bit in the euphoria of a 43-20 win over Southern in the South Jersey Group 5 title game on Friday night was a tackle made by Williamstown senior Arkeem Graves late in the first quarter.
Southern had a 6-0 lead and was looking at a fourth and 10 from the Williamstown 13. A screen pass to the Rams' Abe Gonzales looked like a sure touchdown.
Who knows how the game would have unfolded if Williamstown was down 12-0 or 14-0 after one quarter?
But Graves shed a blocker and made a crisp tackle on Gonzales in the open field. Two plays later, Williamstown's Marques Little went 88 yards for a touchdown, and the Braves were on their way to their first sectional title.
"I saw it coming," Graves said. "I knew I had to make the tackle. Big-time players make big-time plays."
In a rush. Kingsway junior Ray Lawry ran for 164 yards in Saturday night's 57-27 loss to Timber Creek to finish the season with 2,221 yards.
The 2,200-yard mark has been topped just seven times in South Jersey history - and four of them have been in the last two seasons.
Glassboro's Corey Clement ran for 2,510 last season and 2,323 this season. Millville's Alquann Jones ran for 2,286 last season.
Others on the list include Kingsway's Gary Fauntleroy (2,286 in 1994), Clayton's Rob Marshall (2,235 in 1991), and Paulsboro's Isaac Redman (2,213 in 2002).
Class acts. Hats off to three big-time players who handled defeat with big-time poise.
Clement, who has committed to Wisconsin, was gracious in defeat after Glassboro lost to Woodbury in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals on Dec. 1.
The same goes for two terrific players who ended their careers with losses on Saturday at Rowan University.
Woodbury's Anthony Averett, who has committed to Alabama, was complimentary of Penns Grove, and especially Red Devils quarterback Nick Elmer, after the Group 1 final.
Cedar Creek's Damon Mitchell, who has committed to Georgia Tech, praised West Deptford and its deep tradition after the Group 2 final.
20-20 club. Mitchell, who ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns in the title game, became just the second player in South Jersey history to generate 20 or more rushing touchdowns and 20 or more passing touchdowns in a season.
Mitchell passed for 22 touchdowns and ran for 21. Mainland's Brent Caprio passed for 27 and ran for 21 in 2008, according to South Jersey football historian Chuck Langerman.