Cedar Creek learns tough but valuable lessons in 42-28 loss in sectional final
GLASSBORO - Forget the scoreboard.
The look of disappointment on the faces of players on the Cedar Creek High School football team told the story of the South Jersey Group II final at Rowan University on Saturday.
The Pirates never let the idea of losing the game slip into their minds until the game was over and they had to accept it.
Gerald Owens led top seed West Deptford's potent ground game with 200 yards and five touchdowns as the Eagles beat Cedar Creek 42-28 to repeat as sectional champions.
West Deptford (12-0), which is ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, made its ninth appearance in the sectional final in the last 11 years, winning its sixth title.
Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson and his staff had to console players following the game, particularly this year's group of seniors, the first in the three-year history of the school.
"Inside I am so, so proud of these guys and what they've been able to do," Watson said. "Obviously it hurts, but to lose to a program like West Deptford allows us to get a little peek at what a great program is and what it takes to get to that level."
Uncharacteristic mistakes doomed the Pirates, who are 11th in the Elite 11.
They gave West Deptford a pair of first downs on fourth-and-less-than-5 plays with two key penalties in the first half.
Cedar Creek quarterback Damon Mitchell ran for 103 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw for 190 yards but tossed four interceptions, three coming in West Deptford's end zone to end long drives.
"We had to play a smarter football game," Mitchell said. "We started off slow in the first half. We got rolling, but we couldn't get good stops and hold them on offense."
An Owens touchdown run midway through the second quarter just about summed up the game.
Cedar Creek's Lasana Toure sacked West Deptford quarterback Alex Hilbmann to force third-and-19. Hilbmann, who did not complete a single pass on Saturday, turned and handed to Owens.
A 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior, Owens burst through the line, broke a pair of tackles and won a foot race to the end zone from 37 yards out for a touchdown and a 28-12 lead.
The long touchdown run was Owens' fourth in a row on consecutive West Deptford possessions during the first and second quarters.
"It's unfortunate that our guys didn't go out playing their best football, but at the same time it's not too early for me to recognize how far we've come.
"All these guys are going to be connected forever for what they have done to build this foundation for Cedar Creek football."
Joe Diaco had three of West Deptford's four interceptions as well as the team's only touchdown not scored by Owens.
Connor Smith ran for 143 yards on 13 carries and Josh Cornelius 77 yards on 12 carries as the Eagles totaled 420 yards on the ground out of their hybrid Wing-T offense.
"We're obviously not a big throwing team," said West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom, a Mainland Regional graduate. "We knew coming into this particular game that we needed to control the football and try to give them as few possessions as possible.
"To score this many points without throwing the ball is a credit to our kids."
West Deptford did a nice job of containing Cedar Creek standout back Gary Melton. Having entered the game with 25 touchdowns, Melton was limited to 35 yards on 10 carries and one catch for 10 yards.
"Getting to where we are today is a good feeling," Mitchell said. "Especially knowing how hard we have worked the last couple of years."
: Folsom graduated from Mainland in 1975 and is in his 23rd year as head coach of West Deptford. …West Deptford has now won 21 games in a row. …Cedar Creek finishes the season with a 10-2 record.
Contact John O'Kane:
Cedar Creek 6 14 0 8-28
West Deptford 14 14 7 7-42
WD-Owens 19 run (kick failed)
CC-Mitchell 6 run (conversion failed)
WD-Owens 5 run (conversion good)
WD-Owens 64 run (Cornelius kick)
CC-Mitchell 66 run (conversion failed)
WD-Owens 37 run (Cornelius kick)
CC-Mitchell 5 run (conversion good)
WD-Diaco 11 run (conversion good)
CC-Mitchell 5 run (conversion good)
WD-Owens 4 run (Cornelius kick)
Team stats CC WD
Rushing 135 420
Passing 190 0
First downs 20 22
Penalties 7-40 3-15
Turnovers 4 0
Rushing-Cedar Creek, Mitchell 21-103, Melton 10-35, Graves 1-(-3). West Deptford, Owens 26-200, Smith 13-143, Cornelius 12-77, Diaco 1-11, Bates 1-(-2), Hilbmann 1-(-9).
Passing-Cedar Creek, Mitchell 13-19-190-4, Graves 0-1-0-0. West Deptford, Hilbmann 0-1-0-0.
Receiving-Cedar Creek, Graves 6-74, Mitchell 2-48, Seward 3-42, Newman 1-16, Melton 1 -10. West Deptford, Not available.
Records-Cedar Creek 10-2; West Deptford 12-0.