EGG HARBOR CITY - The Cedar Creek High School football team began the season anew with a victory Saturday afternoon.
The Pirates scored two defensive touchdowns and beat St. Joseph-Met-uchen of Middle-sex County 26-0. The win keeps Cedar Creek (2-3) in contention for the South Jersey Group I playoffs. The Pirates were off last week.
"We talked that after the bye week it was a new season," Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson said, "so we're 1-0. The kids have been enthusiastic even when we were 1-3. It's a very good, young group."
Saturday's game matched a pair of first-year varsity programs. St. Joe (2-4) played two seasons of junior varsity before this year and featured some seniors. Cedar Creek played one year of junior varsity and has no seniors.
St. Joe committed six turnovers. Cedar Creek made the most of them.
"We have a lot of pride and determination in our defense," Cedar Creek running back and defensive back Gary Melton said. "We're a new program, but we have so much pride in our defense. When (big-time defensive plays happen), we come together."
The Pirates' first defensive touchdown came in the second quarter. Cedar Creek led 7-0, but St. Joe had the ball at the Pirates' 5-yard line and appeared on the verge of tying the game.
St. Joe fumbled on a third-down running play. Cedar Creek defensive back Damon Mitchell emerged from the pile with the ball. He ran for 10 yards and, just as he was about to be tackled, pitched the ball to teammate Shamal Harvey, who ran untouched for the touchdown to put the Pirates ahead 14-0.
The Cedar Creek defense dominated the second half, holding St. Joe-Metuchen to 33 yards of offense in the third and fourth quarters.
Pirates lineman Ralph Collazo recovered a fumble. C.J. Sandfort and Mike Carter tackled St. Joe ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage.
Melton scored Cedar Creek's second defensive touchdown.
Sandfort hit the St. Joe quarterback as he threw. The pass came right to Melton, who sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown to give the Pirates a 20-0 lead with 11 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game.
"There was nothing but green in front of me," Melton said. "It was like the Red Sea parted."
Mitchell sparked the Pirates' offense with a 5-yard touchdown run and a 57-yard touchdown pass.
The victory was Cedar Creek's first home varsity win. The Pirates' other victory came at Pleasantville 35-26 on Sept. 23. Cedar Creek plays at Montclair Kimberley Academy (4-1) next Saturday.
"I think you saw flashes (Saturday) of what we see everyday in practice," Watson said. "We want to get our guys into the idea of expecting to make big plays. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling and make a run in Group I."
Contact Michael McGarry:
St. Joseph Metuchen 0 0 0 0-0
Cedar Creek 7 7 0 12 – 26
CC-Mosley 57 pass from Mitchell (Kruger kick)
CC-Harvey 95 fumble return (Kruger kick)
CC-Melton 51 int. return (kick missed)
CC-Mitchell 5 run (kick missed)
Rushing-St. Joseph, Olivo 23-102. Cedar Creek, Melton 5-49.
Passing-St. Joseph, Campbell 0-8-1-0. Cedar Creek, Mitchell 5-15-1-121.
Receiving-Cedar Creek, Mosley 1-57.
Records-St. Joe-Metuchen 2-4; Cedar Creek 2-3