With his team holding just a six-point lead, Timber Creek Regional High School quarterback Calvin Lowe dropped back and delivered the prettiest pass of his Chargers career. The ball sailed more than 60 yards in the air and fell right into the waiting hands of Bryce Shade, who took the few remaining steps necessary to reach the end zone.
Simply put, the pass was perfect.
And a little over an hour later, so were the Chargers.
No. 1 Timber Creek capped off its undefeated season with a 33-7 demolition of No. 2 Hammonton in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 finals at Rowan University Saturday afternoon.
Lowe was handed the championship trophy after the game, a fitting gesture considering he threw for 170 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another in a nearly flawless effort.
“It’s probably one of the best feelings you can have in your entire life,” said Lowe, a senior. “Going through all those practices in the summer and coming out 12-0 and a state champ—that has to be the best feeling you can have as a young high school student.”
Lowe was hardly alone in his accomplishments. As has been the case throughout the season, the Timber Creek defense played inspired, determined football. The Chargers forced the Blue Devils into four turnovers and didn’t let them inside the 20 after giving up a first-quarter touchdown.
“It’s a wonderful moment,” said senior linebacker Quanzell Lambert. “I have never won a championship. I am honored and blessed to have my first one here with these guys, because these are the guys I fought with my entire life and they got me to where I am now.”
“This is the greatest feeling I have ever had my whole life,” echoed running back Khalil Pierce, who battled through a leg injury to pick up 120 yards on 13 carries. “I had to (tough it out). I couldn’t let my team down. It’s the championship game and I had to go all-out.”
Timber Creek looked like it would be in for a battle in the early stages of the game as Hammonton marched 55 yards on the opening possession and took a 7-0 lead on a David Williams 10-yard touchdown run.
The Chargers' offense could not get anything going on its first two possessions, but it was jump-started by the defense when Lambert recovered a fumble on the Hammonton 27 with 10:59 left in the second quarter.
A few plays later—including a fourth-and-inches quarterback sneak—Lowe found DaJaun Drennon in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown (extra point failed).
The Timber Creek defense followed with a three-and-out and Lowe gave the Chargers the lead for good with a 8-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession with 3:08 left in the half.
The game really turned in Timber Creek's favor a couple of possessions later when a Hammonton punt returner fumbled the catch and Isaiah Austin fell on it, giving the Chargers the ball on its own 39 with 56 seconds left.
Lowe wasted no time making the Blue Devils pay, as he dropped back and delivered the bomb to Shade.
“My quarterback coach, Coach (Eric) Williams, always tells me to look the safety off, so I looked the safety off and just aired it out to Bryce. He told me, ‘Air it out and I will go get it.’”
“That gave us the momentum,” Shade said of the muffed punt return. “After we seen that, we took over and we knew we could put it on them and take it down the field and score.”
The score was a bit of a back-breaker for Hammonton as the Blue Devils went into the locker room down 20-7 after playing well for much of the first half.
Hammonton tried to move the ball through the air in the second half, but that led to quarterback Christian Mortellite throwing interceptions to Pierce, Bill Burton and Andre Brown.
Meanwhile, the Timber Creek offense kept piling up yards and points. Shade scored again on an 8-yard run and Lowe hit Kevin Casey on a 75-yard pass play that led to a Kevin Potter 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
“They’ve been playing like this all year,” said Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson. “Our guys have been doing this all year, selling their bodies out, giving it all they have.”
Greg Webb, who transferred from Paul IV prior to the season, was a force on the defensive side of the ball all night for Timber Creek. He said the season put forth by the Chargers was beyond his wildest expectations.
“Actually, I dreamed of just meeting good people and being part of a great team,” said Webb. “This place met my expectations and more.”
Even in the midst of a championship celebration, Lambert was able to pour out some perspective on the achievement. He pointed to the sticker on the back of his helmet that was a tribute to Mainland Regional, which lost four members of its football team in a tragic preseason car crash.
“We didn’t just do this for ourselves, we did it for them,” Lambert said. “They would love to come out here and play for this. We don’t play for ourselves at Timber Creek; we play for everybody.”