EGG HARBOR CITY - Ralph Collazo picked up a new nickname in Cedar Creek High School's 34-7 win against Cinnaminson on Saturday.
Collazo and the Cedar Creek defense continued their stingy play in the school's first-ever playoff football game.
Collazo, a 6-foot, 250-pound defensive tackle had two key sacks and was in on a handful of tackles, leading announcer Ed Martino to start calling him "Wreck-it Ralphie" in reference to the movie character.
"I just heard it today," Collazo said with a smile. "I don't mind the nickname. I like it. It was a good movie."
Cedar Creek (9-0) is the No. 11 team in The Press' Elite 11. The second-seeded Pirates will host third-seeded Willingboro on Dec. 1 in a South Jersey Group II semifinal.
It's understandable that the team's defense is often overlooked and perhaps a bit underrated.
Quarterback Damon Mitchell had three 1-yard rushing touchdowns on Saturday and two passing touchdowns. Mitchell is verbally committed to play at Georgia Tech.
Versatile running back Gary Melton had 57 yards rushing and caught five passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receivers Nolan Seward and Caleb Graves are big+-time threats on the outside.
But the Pirates' defense hasn't allowed more than 14 points in a game all season and has let up seven points or fewer in seven of their nine games.
"We practice how we play," Collazo said. "We fly around the all and try to swarm."
Cinnaminson (also the Pirates) is a power rushing team. Quarterback Nick Thevanayagan completed just 2-of-5 passes for six yards. The team relies on the dual running threat of Tom Donnelly and Marty McDonald.
Donnelly ran for 92 yards and a touchdown and McDonald 142 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 win against Bordentown last week.
On Saturday, Cedar Creek held Donnelly to 26 yards on eight carries and McDonald to just 14 yards on four carries.
Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson called Collazo the "heart and soul of the defensive line and one of the leaders of the defense."
Collazo and fellow junior Keith Alston (5-foot-10, 228 pounds) are joined on the front in the team's 3-4 scheme by sophomore Felton Blackwell (6-foot-2, 332 pounds).
"We have a tough defense," Watson said. "They get after it and more than anything they are defined by our team motto which is E.A.T.
"That is effort, attitude and tenacity."
Cedar Creek was called for a delay-of-game penalty on its first-ever offensive play in a postseason game. But 10 plays later, Mitchell pushed his way through the line for the first of his three touchdown runs.
"You have to get the nerves out that first play and see what your opponent is like," Mitchell said. "Once we got a feel for them it was a wrap."
After forcing Cinnaminson into a three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Mitchell hit Melton in the flat and he beat everyone down the field for a 78-yard touchdown.
"Speed," Cinnaminson coach Mario Patrizi said simply. "They have tremendous players with great speed and they're well coached.
"Any time you see a team with speed, you can't give up the big play. We did and it kind of bit us a little bit."
Thevanayagan kept his team in it with an impressive 59-yard touchdown run midway through the second, but it was all Cedar Creek from there.
Willingboro may be the most athletic team Cedar Creek has seen all season. The Pirates aren't worried.
"We're hungry," Collazo said. "We're hungry and we're ready to EAT."
Cedar Creek will host St. Augustine Prep on Thursday in a game that will decide the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title.
Mitchell likes the team's chances against St. Augustine and beyond.
"All we have to do is not shoot ourselves in the foot and do what we do best on both sides of the ball," Mitchell said.
Contact John O'Kane:
Cinnaminson 0 7 0 0-7
Cedar Creek 13 7 7 7-34
CC-Mitchell 1 run (kick failed)
CC-Melton 78 pass by Mitchell (Kruger kick)
C-Thevanayagan 59 run (Jones kick)
CC-Mitchell 1 run (Kruger kick)
CC-Seward 9 pass by Mitchell (Kruger kick)
CC-Mitchell 1 run (Kruger kick)
Team stats C CC
Rushing 125 121
Passing 6 219
First downs 6 13
Penalties 3-25 3-30
Turnovers 1 0
Rushing-Cinnaminson: Thevanayagan 18-78, Donnelly 8-26, McDonald 4-14, Hawthorne 2-7, Wilson 1-0; Cedar Creek: Melton 13-57, Mitchell 13-55, Pauls 2-6, Riek 1-4, Burrell 4-1, Willis 1-(-2).
Passing-Cinnaminson: Thevanayagan 2-5-6-0; Cedar Creek: Mitchell 10-13-219-0.
Receiving-Cinnaminson: Wilson 1-5, Donnelly 1-1; Cedar Creek: Melton 5-168, Seward 2-21, Graves 2-19, Toure 1-11.
Records-Cinnaminson 5-4; Cedar Creek 9-0.