It was a sequence that summed up a strange season and also explained how the Haddonfield football team has reached the South Jersey Group 2 final as a No. 6 seed.
On a day when the Bulldawgs committed five turnovers — an absolute death knell for most teams in most playoff games in most seasons — three of the miscues came in rapid-fire succession at the start of the third quarter.
Interception. Interception. Lost fumble on a punt return.
"Normally, you can't win doing that," Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano said.
But this has been no normal season for the Bulldawgs, and Saturday's 35-8 victory over Cinnaminson in the sectional semifinals at Cherry Hill West was proof positive.
After each turnover, the Haddonfield defensive players bowed their necks, shook their heads and denied the Pirates' efforts to take advantage of the field position and sudden change of possession.
It was the same resilience that has marked the team's reaction to the adversity of a long and difficult season.
"The feeling was, we weren't going to let down," Haddonfield senior linebacker Will Ciemny said. "We weren't going to give in."
Led by Ciemny, senior linemen Matt Jaros and Mark Troiani, junior linebacker Gabe Klaus, and junior cornerback Davis Smith, Haddonfield's defense punched the team's ticket to the Dec. 3 South Jersey Group 2 final.
Haddonfield (7-3) will face arch-rival West Deptford (9-1) in the sectional title game for the fourth time since 2010.
The longtime division rivals met in the regular season Oct. 20 in West Deptford, with the host Eagles taking a 17-14 overtime victory.
"They stole that one from us," said Haddonfield senior Nick Patrizi.
Patrizi, whose uncle Mario Patrizi is Cinnaminson's head coach, carried 16 times for 101 yards and the team's final touchdown.
Haddonfield junior quarterback Jay Foley made several big plays, firing touchdown passes of 43 yards to his twin brother, John, and 45 yards to Smith, and also running 44 yards for a score.
"I can't give enough credit to my O-line," Foley said. "Everyone around me is so good."
Cinnaminson (7-3), the No. 7 seed, took an 8-7 lead early in the second quarter on a 26-yard touchdown run by senior Kevin Schoch and sophomore Shawn Ruffin's two-point conversion pass to junior Rashad Raymond.
"Give Haddonfield credit," Mario Patrizi said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage. … If you told me after losing 23 seniors last year, and starting 1-2 this year, that we're be playing in the semifinals, I would have signed up for that."
It's been a tough year for Haddonfield. The Bulldawgs lost several key players to season-ending injuries. They lost three games in a row before the start of the playoffs, in increasingly decisive fashion, and all to teams that were part of the South Jersey Group 2 field.
And they've been without a locker room or a home field, thanks to construction at the school.
But the Bulldogs are headed back to Rowan for their sixth appearance in the sectional title game since 2009. They won the crown in 2010, '13, and '14.
"Our defense, the way they played in the third quarter, that exemplifies our team," DeLano said. "With all the obstacles we've faced, all the adversity this team has gone through, they just don't give in. That was them, right there: 'Just put the ball down and let's play.'"
Cinnaminson 0 8 0 0 — 8
Haddonfield 0 14 0 21 — 35
H: John Foley 43 pass from Jay Foley (Henry Grozier kick)
C: Kevin Schoch 26 run (Rashad Raymond pass from Shawn Ruffin)
H: Davis Smith 45 pass from Jay Foley (Grozier kick)
H: Gabe Klaus 2 run (Grozier kick)
H: Jay Foley 44 run (Grozier kick)