They had been behind before.

But just once and a long time ago.

"I was nervous, to be honest," Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said of his feelings after rival Shawnee took a five-point lead midway in the third quarter of Friday night's South Jersey Group 4 semifinal game.

Timber Creek had been a nearly unstoppable force this season, averaging almost 50 points while rolling to an undefeated record and the No. 1 spot in the Inquirer Top 25.

But this was a different kind of challenge for the Chargers.

This demanded something more than spectacular plays.

This called for a strong response to some serious adversity.

Led by junior quarterback Devin Leary and senior wide receiver/defensive back Dante Waugh-Hill, Timber Creek finished the game with 29 unanswered points for a 38-14 victory on a clear, cool night at the Ralph E. Ross athletic complex in Erial.

"It showed me we can overcome adversity," Leary said after one of more impressive games of his career.

The victory improved Timber Creek's record to 10-0. Timber Creek will meet 10-0 Lenape , the No. 3 team in the rankings, in the South Jersey Group 4 title game the weekend of Dec. 3-4 at Rowan University.

Emotions ran high in front of the Shawnee bench after the game, with arguments involving administrators from both sides.

Shawnee coach Tim Gushue said he was instructed by Shawnee officials not to have his players shake hands after many Timber Creek students stormed the field and celebrated near midfield with Chargers' players.

"I think it was a safety thing," Hinson said of Shawnee declining to line up for the postgame handshake. "Coach Gushue is Coach Gushue. You can't question anything he does."

Shawnee (8-2) was led by junior quarterback Colin Wetterau, whose passing and running fueled the Renegades' rally from a 9-0 halftime deficit.

"I couldn't be more proud of these kids," Gushue said.

Leary was 20 for 28 passing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He has 40 touchdown passes on the season, three shy of the South Jersey mark of 43 set by Pennsauken's Manny Cortez in 2011.

Even more impressively, Leary was 12 for 14 for 218 yards - and one of the incompletions was a drop of a perfectly-thrown deep ball - after Shawnee defensive lineman Neil Lynch intercepted a screen pass to set up the Renegades' go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

"When I was on the ground after making the tackle, I told myself I had to pick it up," Leary said. "I came to the sideline and my teammates were behind me."

Gushue said Leary's play after his team fell behind was no surprise.

"He responded the way you would expect someone in that class to respond," Gushue said of Leary.

Waugh-Hill caught nine passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half. He also lifted two interceptions and broke up a pass on a fourth-and-two play from the Timber Creek 13 with Shawnee trailing 17-14 early in the fourth quarter.

"Dante is the best cornerback I've ever seen," Leary said.

Waugh-Hill was part of a strong defensive effort for Timber Creek. The Chargers registered seven sacks, with senior end Tony Brown notching three.

"They've been underrated all year," Hinson said of the Timber Creek defense.

Shawnee took a 14-9 lead on Dan Wigley's one-yard touchdown run after Lynch's interception and 22-yard return to the Timber Creek 4.

Leary was 6 for 7 for 72 yards on the next drive as the Chargers re-took the lead on his 1-yard sneak for a touchdown.

Next possession: Leary to Waugh-Hill for a 24-yard touchdown.

Next: Leary to Blaine Shade, who made a twisting catch, for a 19-yard touchdown.

Next: Leary to Waugh-Hill again, for a 53-yard touchdown.

"He's the best quarterback in the state," Hinson said of Leary.

Timber Creek's only other deficit this season came in Week 2, when the Chargers rallied for a 28-21 win over Cherokee.

"That was a long time ago," Hinson said. "I knew we had it in us, but it was an unfamiliar feeling. I'm proud of the way these guys reacted."

Shawnee 0 0 14 0 - 14

Timber Creek 9 0 8 21 - 38

TC: Ezrah Archie 12 pass from Devin Leary (kick fail)

TC: Tyler Coluccio 36 FG

S: Jax Luzinski 5 pass from Colin Wetterau (Rich Demko kick)

S: Dan Wigley 1 run (Demko kick)

TC: Leary 1 run (De'Von Pierce pass from Leary)

TC: Waugh 24 pass from Leary (Coluccio kick)

TC: Blaine Shade 19 pass from Leary (Colucciuo kick)

TC: Waugh Hill 53 pass from Leary (Coluccio kick)

@PhilAnastasia