Last Thanksgiving, the Timber Creek Chargers traveled to Triton and were thoroughly beaten by the Mustangs in a 36-14 rout.
It’s worth mentioning because they haven’t lost since.
In the 10th installment of what is becoming an increasingly intense Thanksgiving Day rivalry, Timber Creek (11-0) overcame a sluggish start and a gritty Triton defense that forced three turnovers on its way to a 13-3 win to remain unbeaten and capture the West Jersey Football League Royal Division crown.
Despite a date with Hammonton on Dec. 3 in the South Jersey Group III Championship looming, Timber Creek head coach Rob Hinson talked after the game about the importance of beating Triton.
“As a coaching staff we want to focus on Hammonton, but we also didn’t want to look past Triton,” he said. “They are a really good team, this is for the conference title, and probably this is the biggest team we’ve played all season. We just had to keep stressing to the kids that this game meant just as much as next week.”
Triton (8-3), coming off a loss to Pennsauken in the South Jersey Group IV Semifinals last week, dominated play in the early going, but failed to capitalize.
On their second possession, Triton quarterback Brian Keller converted a fourth-and-11 with a bruising 18-yard dash to drive his team to the doorstep of the end zone.
With the Mustangs facing another crucial fourth down at the Timber Creek 5-yard line, the Chargers forced a Keller fumble which was recovered by Myles Nash to thwart the drive. It was the first of many mistakes committed by Triton on the day.
“I mean, they were in a position to win this game. They fumbled down here a couple of times, but I’m happy that my guys eventually woke up in time and pulled it out,” said Hinson.
With the game still scoreless midway through the second quarter, Timber Creek quarterback Calvin Lowe connected with junior receiver Kevin Casey on a 40-yard catch and run, but the Triton defense held when three plays later cornerback Kristopher Baylor made a terrific interception in the back of the end zone.
Triton broke the scoreless tie early in the third when kicker Dean Cowley connected on a 30-yard field goal to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
It appeared the Chargers would finally get on the board late in the third quarter as they drove deep into Triton territory, but Lowe, who struggled for much of the first three quarters, was picked off in the end zone by cornerback Alan Richards to preserve the Triton lead.
But with time ticking away on his team’s perfect season, Lowe responded in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives to seal the win.
“We were moving the ball on them all day, so we knew it just going to pop eventually,” Lowe said. “We turned the switch on and just said enough of this playing around. We need to put the ball in the end zone and put the game away.”
Lowe scored on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line to put his team up early in the fourth and then found sophomore running back Isaiah Austin on fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line to clinch it for the Chargers.
“He’s an enigma, man. He’s ultra-talented, ultra-athletic, experienced,” Hinson said. “You never know when it’s all going to come together for him, but I’m just happy to have him on my team.”
Editor's note: Check back with GT Patch Friday for more photos from the Timber Creek-Triton Thanksgiving Day game.