With his team huddled around him, wind whipping, rain still pouring down, Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan tried to put this season in perspective.
"Every championship is special," he said. "But this one is extra special."
After a 3-3 start, some were doubting whether the Chiefs would even make the playoffs. But here they were, kneeling on the slick turf at Rowan University as South Jersey Group 5 football champions for the second year in a row.
Cherokee topped Rancocas Valley, 30-10, Saturday night, sealing one of the more improbable of the program's 10 championships.
"We could have let this season go south," Mehigan said. "But these guys would have never let that happen.
"I'm so impressed. They never quit. They never questioned. They just kept working."
Quarterback Evan Powell was the catalyst of a methodical second half in which Cherokee outscored RV, 20-0.
The Chiefs (9-3) established tempo and momentum during the first drive of the third quarter.
The 13-play, 60-yard march took 6 minutes, 46 seconds and ended with an 11-yard touchdown run by Marc Woodard.
A 67-yard TD run by Powell on his team's first offensive play of the fourth quarter put Cherokee firmly in control. And Woodard's second touchdown, a 5-yard run with 1:36 left, put the game out of reach for RV (9-3).
Powell finished with 17 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring run on Cherokee's second offensive play in the first quarter.
"I have to thank my line. There were huge holes," said Powell, who, because of his important role as a linebacker, sat out several offensive series. "When I was on the field on offense, I just went 100 percent. I knew I needed to make plays."
Powell was countered by RV quarterback Collin Wilson.
Wilson rushed 17 times for 120 yards and a touchdown in a first half that ended with the teams tied at 10. He finished with 26 carries for 164 yards.
Despite Wilson's strong play, RV's offense was ultimately stifled by Cherokee's defense and was shut out over the final three quarters.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," said Powell, a junior. "All I have to say is I'm ready for a third next year."
Cherokee 7 3 7 13 - 30
Rancocas Valley 10 0 0 0 - 10
C: Evan Powell 50 run (Jesse Streb kick)
RV: Collin Wilson 5 run (Elia Palmese kick)
RV: FG Palmese 23
C: FG Streb 23
C: Marc Woodard 11 run (Streb kick)
C: Powell 67 run (Streb kick)
C: Woodard 5 run (kick failed)