For players like Khalil Pierce and Greg Webb, Friday night’s Group 4 football semifinal between Timber Creek and Shawnee represents a chance to once again show their skills on the biggest stage.
For players like Dan Williams and Zaire Williams, the game represents an opportunity to taste what the varsity members of the 2011 team got to enjoy.
Whether the desire to win a first championship or a second, the hunger is the same throughout the huddle of Chargers players as they prepare for Friday's semifinal.
“We have to be playing our best; it’s the playoffs,” Pierce, a senior running back, said. “Our coaches have stepped their game up and we need to step ours up. We have to keep it rolling.”
Earlier this season, Williams talked about his desire to reach the top of the mountain.
“It’s great to be in the playoffs again,” said Williams, who last reached the postseason in 2010 while at Cherokee. “That’s what it is all about. This team wants the championship.”
The Chargers opened the playoffs with a convincing 37-6 win over Hammonton in a rematch of last year’s Group 3 final.
The Chargers are two wins away from repeating as state champions—this time in Group 4 in a reshaped high-school football landscape—but standing in their way is No. 5 Shawnee.
The Renegades are coming off of a first-round landslide victory of their own. Shawnee got a career-high 150 yards rushing from senior tailback Robby DiOrio in a 43-18 victory over Clearview. The game demonstrated how much the Renegades have improved during the course of the season. Clearview defeated Shawnee, 20-14, back on Oct. 5.
The Renegades had been rolling—winners of three straight—prior to their Thanksgiving contest with rival Lenape. Shawnee’s offense was held in check in a 21-14 loss. That marked the first time the Renegades had failed to score at least 24 points since the loss to Clearview.
Timber Creek and Shawnee shared four common opponents during the regular season: Seneca, Williamstown Lenape and Triton. The Chargers defeated Seneca (19-6), Lenape (28-14) and Triton (34-7), while losing to Williamstown (26-18). The Renegades beat Seneca (13-0) and Triton (44-6), but lost to Lenape (17-14) and Williamstown (39-0).
The two teams last met on Oct. 16, 2009, with Shawnee claiming a 31-12 victory.
Timber Creek has two losses on its record, but both came in September against top competition. The Chargers have won six straight and appear to be playing their best at the perfect time.
Junior quarterback Dan Williams has been particularly sharp since taking over as the starting signal-caller late in the season. He has accounted for seven touchdowns—six passing—in the Chargers’ last two games. Williams said he feels good about his play, but cautioned that there is still room for improvement.
“There’s always things to work on and there are always things you want to do a little better, but we are getting there,” said Williams.
Timber Creek head coach Rob Hinson has praised his team’s efforts over the course of the season and their ability to bounce back from a slower-than-expected beginning. At this point of the season it is all about putting the players in the right spots to make plays, he said.
“The kids play so hard and work so hard,” said Hinson. “Our job as coaches is to try and maximize their abilities, take the thinking out of it and let them play.”