As was his team, Dajaun Drennon was off his game in September.
But unlike his team, Drennon had an excuse.
Drennon missed two games and "wasn't quite himself" in a third, Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said. That was because an auto accident on the way to school on the morning of Sept. 13 sent the senior athlete to a hospital and resulted in 11 stitches in his scalp.
Once Drennon got healthy, the Chargers did, too.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end played his best football in the biggest games, leading Timber Creek to the South Jersey Group 4 championship and the No. 2 ranking in The Inquirer's final Top 10.
"I wanted to play my best football when it mattered the most," said Drennon, The Inquirer's South Jersey Defensive Player of the Year. "That's what you need to do if you want to be considered a big-time player, step up at the biggest times."
Drennon, a North Carolina recruit, registered 73 tackles and 15 sacks in 10 games. He helped the Chargers win their last eight games, finish 10-2, and capture their second consecutive sectional title.
But it was Drennon's play in the most important games of the season that most impressed Hinson.
"He had a couple games where he was only good and I guess I was disappointed because I expected him to be great every game," Hinson said. "But that's how he played down the stretch of the season.
"We played Hammonton in the tournament, and he played great. We played Shawnee in the tournament, and I told him, 'I'm not moving you around. I want you matched up with their big linemen.'
"He was like, 'Coach, whatever you need.' He was great again.
"And the same thing in the final."
In the South Jersey Group 4 title game, Drennon had three sacks and forced a fumble. He set the tone for the Chargers' 57-27 victory with a sack on the third play of the game.
Drennon was a constant for a Timber Creek defense that spent most of the season without injured tackle Greg Webb, a senior who also has committed to North Carolina.
And unlike some defensive ends, Drennon was more than just a pass rusher. Hinson said Drennon lined up mostly on the "strong side" of the offense's alignment and was a top run defender.
Drennon said 2012 was a lot different from 2011 for Timber Creek. In his junior season, the team went 12-0 and cruised to its first sectional title.
But this season, the Chargers needed to battle back from that 2-2 start. They seemed to hit their stride as soon as Drennon returned to full strength.
"We faced some adversity this season," Drennon said. "But to me, that only made us stronger. Sometimes, that's what it takes to prove you are a champion."