EGG HARBOR CITY — Most football teams try everything they can to turn up the intensity heading into the fourth quarter of a tight game.
Not Cedar Creek High School.
The Pirates prefer to get loose.
On Saturday, nearly the entire team gathered together on the sideline to jump around and dance to the music blaring through the public-address system in preparation for the fourth quarter.
Then the team played its best football when it mattered the most in a 21-7 win against intradistrict rival Oakcrest.
“Most teams put up the four fingers,” Mitchell said. “We used to do the crossbones last year. This year, our thing is, ‘All the way cranked up.’ Win or lose we are going to do that dance and we’re going to do it proud with our heads held high.”
Mitchell chased Oakcrest’s Danny Smith down from behind and stripped the football in the backfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Nine plays and six minutes later, Mitchell took a snap and scampered into the end zone off the left tackle from 5 yards out to take a two-touchdown lead.
“We spend some time and we’ll visualize how we’re going to respond in the fourth quarter,” Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson said. “I tell the guys I don’t care what the score is, when that song comes on I want the guys dancing and having fun knowing that it’s time to turn it up.
“That just comes along with the mentality we want to cement that the game is never over. Up by 50, down by 50 you go hard, show effort, play with attitude and play as tenacious as possible.”
Cedar Creek (3-0) came out strong on Saturday in front of a packed house.
The Pirates started at their own 20 on their first drive after a touchback and went 80 yards on seven plays.
Mitchell completed all three passes he threw on the drive — to different receivers — and finished with a 28-yard touchdown strike to Nolan Seward.
But the offenses slowed from there.
Neither team was able to mount a drive until the Falcons took over at their own 16-yard-line midway through the second quarter.
Oakcrest quarterback Quaashie Jetter led the team on an 84-yard drive to tie the game at 7-7 with 36 seconds left in the half.
Jetter completed 5-of-6 passes on the drive and powered through the line for a 5-yard touchdown on third-and-short.
Mitchell, who has verbally committed to Georgia Tech University, completed 9-of-11 passes in the game for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 84 yards and a touchdown. But Mitchell made some uncharacteristic mistakes with two fumbles and an interception.
Oakcrest’s John Bernard intercepted Mitchell early in the third quarter.
A fumbled snap pinned the Falcons back at their own 1-yard line.
Jetter took a quick drop and tried to throw into coverage but Cedar Creek’s Caleb Graves picked off the pass and returned it 11 yards for the go-ahead score.
“Our first two games people may have doubted us,” said Mitchell, who attended Oakcrest as a freshman before Cedar Creek opened. “But going against a program that was in the (South Jersey Group IV) championship two years ago and to be able to come out with a win felt pretty good. It showed us that we can compete with anybody.”
Seward caught four passes for 79 yards and his Cape-Atlantic League best fourth receiving touchdown.
Oakcrest’s defense played well on Saturday thanks in part to the return of Brandon Bell.
Bell, who has verbally committed to play at Penn State, sat out last week after dealing with issues stemming from dehydration.
Oakcrest (0-3) will host Atlantic City on Friday looking for its first win of the season. Cedar Creek will play at Buena Regional (3-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in a game that may could help decide the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title.
Contact John O’Kane:
Oakcrest 0 7 0 0—7
Cedar Creek 7 0 7 7—21
CC-Seward 28 pass by Mitchell (Kruger kick)
O-Jetter 5 run (Hess kick)
CC-Graves 11 interception return (Kruger kick)
CC-Mitchell 5 run (Kruger kick)
TEAM STATS O CC
Rushing 64 122
Passing 101 141
First downs 10 12
Penalties 3-15 6-55
Turnovers 2 3
Rushing-Oakcrest: Jetter 13-33, T. Smith 10-27, Bell 4-18, D. Smith 2-(-14); Cedar Creek: Mitchell 13-84, Melton 7-35, Burrell 6-5, Pauls 2-(-2).
Passing-Oakcrest: Jetter 14-21-101-1; Cedar Creek: Mitchell 9-11-141-1.
Receiving-Oakcrest: D. Smith 4-36, Dixon 3-20, Roberson 3-14, Hess 1-14, Stokes 1-10, Bush 1-8, T. Smith 1-(-1); Cedar Creek: Seward 4-79, Melton 2-35, Graves 2-25, Newman 1-2.
Records-Oakcrest 0-3; Cedar Creek 3-0.