The Cedar Creek High School football team will finally have a chance to compete for a Cape-Atlantic League title this season.

The Pirates are relishing the opportunity. Cedar Creek played a junior varsity schedule in 2010 and an independent varsity schedule last season. The Pirates will play in the CAL National Conference this year.

“We’ve been dreaming and waiting for this day,” said Pirates senior quarterback and defensive back Damon Mitchell, who is headed to Georgia Tech on a scholarship. “We finally got a chance and we’re going to make the best of it.”

There’s also another benefit to playing in the CAL for the Pirates. Cedar Creek played games in Staten Island, N.Y., and Essex County last year.

“We don’t have to travel as much,” Mitchell said.

Cedar Creek in Egg Harbor City opened in 2010 with just freshmen and sophomores attending.

The school has added a class each year. This is the school’s first senior class. The Pirates have grown up together.

“We’re pretty tight,” Mitchell said. “Something like this doesn’t occur every day. Here we got everything right.”

Cedar Creek also sees this season as a unique chance for success. The Pirates return 11 starters on offense and 10 on defense. Now that they have seniors, the Pirates may never again return so many starting players.

“We’re fired up,” Pirates coach Tim Watson said. “This is a great year for us. Guys know the system, know what we run and know what we expect.”

Cedar Creek’s strength is in its skill positions. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Mitchell rushed for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for 803 yards and six touchdowns.

The Pirates also will rely on running back Gary Melton, tight end C.J. Sandfort and wide receivers Nolan Seward and Caleb Graves.

Mitchell also excels at defensive back. He made 43 tackles and intercepted three passes last season.

The key to Cedar Creek’s season may be how well the offensive and defensive lines perform.

The Pirates started several freshmen upfront last year.

“They took their lumps last year but they hit the weight room in the offseason,” Watson said. “If those guys can mature and continue to get tougher, it’s going to give our offense a chance to flourish and do some exciting things.”

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