EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — They were down, 20-0.
They didn't blink.
They were down, 26-6.
They didn't flinch.
"That was nothing for us," Penns Grove senior Tyreke Brown said. "We face adversity all the time. It's all about battling. There's four quarters of football.
"We just keep grinding hard until that clock hits zero."
When that clocked finally winked to 0:00 at the end of a long and eventual Group 1 South/Central Bowl Game on Saturday at MetLife Stadium, the Penns Grove football team had made history.
The Red Devils beat Willingboro, 35-26, to finish the season as the first 13-0 team in South Jersey history.
"It's hard to win every game," Penns Grove coach John Emel said. "You usually have a hiccup along the way. But these kids, all they do is fight."
Brown, a Sacred Heart recruit and one of just three seniors on the roster, scored two touchdowns and led a dominant defensive effort in the second half from his linebacker position.
The Red Devils registered four sacks in the second half and won going away, scoring the game's final 29 points.
"I thought our defensive line in the second half was the difference in the game," Emel said. "We just put so much pressure on their quarterback."
Nasir Murray scored three touchdowns in his final game for Willingboro (7-6), the Central Jersey champion.
Penns Grove, the South Jersey champion, finally took the lead when junior kicker Jared McNair made a 30-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
McNair is a converted soccer player. This is his first season of football. He was recruited out of an Advanced Placement history class by Emel.
"Jared McNair, it ain't fair," Brown said.
McNair wasn't flustered by the fact that the goalposts in MetLife Stadium are just 18 feet, 6 inches wide, compared with 23 feet, 4 inches on a standard high school field.
McNair's kick gave Penns Grove a 27-26 lead.
"I didn't even think about it," McNair said. "It was just a 30-yard field goal like in practice. I just had to kick it down the middle."
This was a wild game, two sectional champions playing their final game with no inhibitions and no fear.
Willingboro set the tone on the first play. The Chimeras took a 6-0 lead 11 seconds into the game as Au-Shaun Davis threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Chris Long on a flea-flicker.
The Chimeras dominated the first nine minutes. Demie Sumo blocked a punt and that set up Davis' second touchdown pass, a 17-yard strike to Murray.
Murray made it 20-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run, and the Central Jersey champions appeared in command.
But Penns Grove battled back. Brown completed a 23-yard pass to Torvon Ransome on fourth-and 6, then bulled into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to make it 20-6.
The Red Devils were alive. But the Chimeras weren't finished. Murray scored his third touchdown, making a diving catch in the end zone of an 8-yard pass from Davis, who scrambled away from pass-rush pressure.
That made it 26-6 in favor of Willingboro early in the second quarter.
The Red Devils responded. Nasir Robinson took a screen pass from Kavon Lewis, got a block in the secondary and raced 60 yards for a touchdown.
Moments later, Robinson was in the end zone again, this time rushing 25 yards for a score on a trap. With 5:51 left in the half, the Red Devils were down, 26-18.
The Red Devils dominated the second half, with their offensive line clearing the way for running backs Robinson and Jayon Carter, while Brown converted three first downs with end-arounds from his tight-end position.
"This team just never quits," McNair said, wearing an old-school 1974 Penns Grove jacket, courtesy of his neighbor in the small Salem County town. "Just being part of it, I realize how much these guys love to play and never give up."
Penns Grove 6 12 6 11 — 35
Willingboro 20 6 0 0 — 26
W: Chris Long 80 pass from Au-Shaun Davis (run fail)
W: Nasir Murray 17 pass from Davis (Demie Sumo run)
W: Murray 5 run (pass fail)
P: Tyreke Brown 1 run (pass fail)
W: Murray 8 pass from Davis (pass fail)
P: Nasir Robinson 60 pass from Kavon Lewis (kick fail)
P: Robinson 25 run (pass fail)
P: Jayon Carter 38 run (pass fail)
P: Jared McNair 30 FG
P: Brown 1 run (Torvon Ransome pass from Lewis)