It's not too often that a high school boys soccer team starts a season 0-3 -- losing all three games at home, to boot -- yet still wins a South Jersey championship. One would venture to say that's a real understatement.
Yet that's what the Hammonton Blue Devils accomplished Thursday with a 1-0 win over host Timber Creek in Erial, Glocester Township. As a No. 5 seed in Group III, the Cape-Atlantic League school was seen by many observers as a huge underdog against the Olympic-conference-based Chargers.
But Hammonton coach Dave Thompshon never allowed his team to buy into the mindset that CAL teams are in any way weaker than their counterparts throughout the rest of southern New Jersey. And with that kind of leadership from the top, the Blue Devils players went out and took the game to Timber Creek from the opening whistle.
It also helped significantly that hundreds of Hammonton students made the trip to the game, complete with vuvuzelas and drums in hand. Their non-stop cheering lifted their fellow classmates on the field, and when sophomore Jimmy Lamp'l scored on a header with less than three minutes left, it set off a celebration rarely seen at scholastic soccer matches.
Hammonton athletic director Mike Gatley was beaming afterward, and with good reason. His student body had shown tons of school spirit, and his boys soccer players -- and their coach -- were in the midst of collecting a sectional trophy.
All in all, a great day for Hammonton High School.