BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - A new Thanksgiving rivalry is born.
Cedar Creek High School (8-2, 7-1 in Cape-Atlantic League National Conference) evened up its Thanksgiving series, 1-1, with a 33-0 win over St. Augustine Prep (8-3, 7-1) on Thursday.
Not only did the Pirates get bragging rights for the year, but they earned a share of the CAL National title with the win.
Cedar Creek, St. Augustine and Bridgeton all finish 7-1 in the conference. St. Augustine Prep is ranked No. 11 in The Press Elite 11.
The tension between the two teams was evident on the field all game. Tempers were high after a season-long war of words on Twitter and Facebook between the two teams and Cedar Creek made the final statement.
"There was a lot of animosity, as you could see," Cedar Creek junior defensive back Karl Reik said. "Over social media, they were coming at us and we were coming at them a bit.
"There was just a lot of animosity and they had been chirping with us all year. We just came here and left our hearts on the field."
For the second straight year, the schools played their Thanksgiving game with the CAL National title on the line. Last season, the Prep won 41-40 in an overtime thriller at Cedar Creek.
Creek's win this year will allow the school to hang its first football banner in the gymnasium.
"Our seniors wanted it bad after that tough loss to Camden (in the South Jersey Group II playoffs on Nov. 16)," Reik said. "We needed it. We weren't leaving without it."
Reik led a strong effort by the Pirates' defense, which held the Hermits to just 128 yards of total offense. Reik had two of the Pirates' three interceptions on Prep quarterback Jose Tabora. Reik returned his second 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I can't put my finger on anything at all about what a poor performance it was today," St. Augustine coach Mark Reardon said. "We obviously didn't play the way we wanted to play."
On offense for the Pirates, sophomore Ahmir Mitchell used his play-making abilities to give Cedar Creek a 12-0 lead going into halftime. He broke loose for touchdown runs of 53 and 55 yards in the first and second quarter, respectively.
In the third, Mitchell caught a wide open 35-yard touchdown catch from freshman Bo Melton off of the reverse, completely fooling the Hermits defense to make it 19-0. Just more than five minutes later, senior Keith Alston scored on a 3-yard run to make it 26-0.
"This was a good environment to be around," Mitchell said. "We came out here and we wanted to leave it out on the field.
"This was the last game of our season. Our seniors will never play with us again and we just did it for the seniors, and the offensive line made it happen on offense."
It was a nice way to finish a year in which Cedar Creek had to answer a lot of questions with a young team. An 8-2 record and a share of the CAL National title will give the sophomores and juniors something to build on next season.
"We're very young and we struggled at times with our confidence, but being able to come out and do it the way that we did it and get something to hang our hats on, is huge," Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson said.
"I would have hated for this group - this is our first four-year seniors - and I'd hate to see them not leave here feeling like they put something concrete on the wall in terms of hanging a banner."
Contact John Russo:
Cedar Creek 6 6 0 21 33
St. Augustine 0 0 0 0 0
CC-Mitchell 53 run (kick failed)
CC-Mitchell 55 run (run failed)
CC-Mitchell 35 pass from Melton (Moran kick)
CC-Alston 3 run (Neder kick)
CC-Reik 75 interception return (Moran kick)
Rushing- Mitchell 5-114, Reik 4-50, Willis 10-46, Burrell 9-37, Alston 1-3, Pauls 3-2, Milza 4-1 CC; Harris 26-83, Phillips 1-2, Tabora 1-2, Outlaw 1-(-4) SAP.
Passing- Milza 5-11-26-0, Melton 1-1 -35-0, Pauls 0-1-0-0 CC; Tabora 7-21-45-3 SAP.
Receiving- Mitchell 3-45, Newman 1-11, Dunkley 1-3, Burrell 1-2 CC; Harris 4-18, Phillips 2-26, Penny 1-1 SAP.
Records- Cedar Creek 8-2, St. Augustine 8-3.