Egg Harbor Township PAL has seen a lot of success in its eight years fielding teams in the Cape May County Junior Football League, having made five championship appearances in the league's four age levels before this year.
But in these five trips to the championship, the Enforcers had five losses. For all the team's regular season success, the big game win had proven just out of reach - until now.
Capping off an 8-0 regular season in which the team posted four shutout wins, the PAL Enforcers (11-0) finally took some hardware back to Egg Harbor Township with a 26-15 victory over Upper Township (9-2) in the Peewee title game Nov. 24.
"We pulled together as a family," said assistant coach Pat Smith, whose son, Patrick "Cheeks," was a running back and linebacker. "They went out and fought, day in and day out. They went hard in practice."
The Enforcers had little trouble dispatching their opponents this year, finishing within a field goal of their opposition just once, and in the season opener at that.
By playoff time, the Enforcers were rolling, led by their elite running backs, Smith and Ahmad Brock.
"Ahmad and Cheeks are athletes. Ahmad gets done playing football, and he goes and plays soccer games afterwards," said head coach Kurt Driscoll, calling Smith by his nickname. "I call them the two-headed monster, because when one carries the ball, the other blocks for him. They just cleared house all the way down the field."
While Ahmad and Smith were the standout individuals on the team, Driscoll credited much of his backs' success to his imposing offensive line. The team's defense, which allowed fewer than 60 points on the season, was also impressive.
In addition to Brock and Smith, teammates Joseph Glynn, Angel Camargo, Shamar Gonzalez and Nick Shallcross were named league all-stars. All six boys are two-way players.
Despite having a considerable individual impact on the Enforcers' season, Smith was quick to credit his teammates in the win.
"There's no I in team," he said. "If you work as a team, you'll win the game."
This season marks the last for offensive coordinator John Defazio, who retired after having spent more than three decades coaching youth sports in the area.
Defazio's leadership was a big part of the Enforcers' success this season, Driscoll said.
"He was an incredible coach, and I learned a lot from him the last two years," said Driscoll, who worked with Defazio since taking over the Peewee team last season.
While Smith, Brock and the rest of the championship team's all stars will be in fifth grade and at the league's Junior Varsity level next year, Driscoll said, the precedent they set this year should keep PAL in the hunt next year and beyond.
Couple that with a few returners from this year's team and the addition of rising studs from the PAL's Taxi-level team, and the team's 2013 looks bright.
"I think next year we should be pretty good," Driscoll said. "We had a lot of third-graders playing this year. They played in key positions. We do lose those six kids I talked about, but there are some kids coming up in Taxi who are very knowledgeable about football."
Contact Braden Campbell: