After a month of saying it, the West Deptford High School football team came out and did.
The Eagles exorcised their recent demons against Haddonfield and by doing so, staked their claim as the best Group 2 team in South Jersey.
Gerald Towns capped off his breakthrough season by rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and the dominant Eagles defense forced four turnovers in ’s 22-14 win over Haddonfield. The teams played in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 finals at Rowan University Saturday afternoon.
“This is absolutely the best feeling I have ever had,” said senior quarterback Jake Hannan. “Playing through the midget program in West Deptford, we never won anything. We made it to like one playoff game. For this group of players that I have been with for so long to finally come together and get this thing done, it’s unbelievable.”
“This is awesome," echoed senior Tom Jakubowski, who had two interceptions. “Last year we won a state championship in baseball and this is also a great feeling. We can’t go any further so this is considered our state championship. It’s one of the best feelings in the world coming back and beating the team that beat us earlier in the year.”
Towns was again the horse for the Eagles, carrying the ball 22 times, and wearing down the Bulldawgs defense along the way. He finished the season with 1,500 yards rushing and established himself as one of the most complete backs in South Jersey—as a sophomore.
“I was feeling happiness and sadness because the great senior class is leaving,” said Towns of his emotions during the final kneel down. “It felt great. It felt amazing. Hopefully I can do it again for the next two years I am here.”
As expected, the win didn’t come easy. West Deptford could not celebrate the win until Alex Oldt intercepted Dan Ciemniecki on a fourth-down pass with just over a minute left. The interception was the third of the game for Ciemniecki and ended any hopes of a Haddonfield comeback.
It was no surprise that it was the defense making a huge play as the unit has been phenomenal all season, running off a string of 24 scoreless quarters at one point during the season.
“We were just acting like a bunch of animals out there, and that’s what brought us here,” said senior lineman Jamil Pollard.
West Deptford wasted no time establishing the offensive tempo of the game as Towns broke off a 42-yard run down to the Haddonfield 29 on the second play of the Eagles’ second drive. One play later he racked up those 29 yards, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead with six seconds left in the first quarter.
Haddonfield moved the ball well on its ensuing possession, but Jakubowski recorded his first pick of the game at the Eagles’ 20-yard line.
The lead stayed at 7-0 until the opening drive of the third quarter when Towns broke off a 52-yard run down to the Haddonfield 19-yard line. After Josh Cornelius carried the ball 18 yards to the 1, Towns plowed forward for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 13-0 advantage with 10:51 left in the third.
The game really turned one play after Haddonfield’s ensuing kickoff return when Cornelius got to Ciemniecki with a sack and knocked the ball loose. Phil Fisher fell on it on the 1-yard line, giving the ball back to the offense. Towns punched it in on the next play to give West Deptford a 19-0 lead and set a new South Jersey scoring record in the process.
Haddonfield showed a bit of life a couple of drives later, as Robert Perkins scored on a 19-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 19-7 with 1:49 left in the third.
West Deptford was able to effectively work the clock in its next drive, converting a trio of third-down plays, including a 25-yard pass play from Hannan to Jakubowski on third-and-14.
It was only Hannan’s second pass attempt of the game. What made the play impressive was factoring in that Hannan was playing with an injured shoulder.
“I didn’t want to tell many people, but I banged my shoulder a little bit, so we were hesitant to throw. But coach asked me, and like I said before the game, I would do anything to win this game. I would get carted off in a stretcher if I needed to.’”
The drive resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Cornelius that gave the Eagles a 22-7 lead.
“It just makes us happy that all the hard work we did in the summer, all the work during practice, and the lifting—that showed late in the game,“ said Pollard. “The linemen coach said it would show, and it showed.”
Haddonfield looked to make it a one-score game on its next possession, but Jakubowski intercepted a pass on the goal line with five minutes left in the game.
“(Ciemniecki) looked right at me and threw it short,” Jakubowski said. “I just jumped on it and took it.”
Even after the interception, Haddonfield refused to back down. After forcing a punt Haddonfield got the big play it needed when Matt Bhaya caught a quick slant, broke a tackle and tight-roped the near sideline for a 77-yard touchdown that made the score 22-14 with 3:16 left.
“They started to wear down, but I give them everything, because they always fight back,” Towns said. “They are a great football program.”
The Bulldawgs got the ball back once more, but Ciemniecki’s desperation fourth-down pass attempt was intercepted, allowing the Eagles to celebrate their South Jersey title win.
“Our kids were confident coming in,” said West Deptford coach Folsom. “Certainly not overconfident, but confident. This is a team win. We won because of defense.”
The Eagles won for a lot of reasons, the biggest being that they were the better team.
The players mobbed each other after the final whistle, passed around the trophy and shared a thought shouted by an exuberant Pollard.
“Feels great,” Pollard yelled. “This is the best feeling in my life.”
Check out photos from the game at .