VINELAND - The Atlantic City High School football team faced its biggest challenge so far this season Friday night.

The Vikings, ranked ninth in The Press Elite 11, trailed Vineland heading into the fourth quarter and knew they had to make something happen.

Senior Yahsin Cheeks was told to look for a chance to strip the ball.

He got it.

As Vineland running back Brian Winchester seemed headed for a touchdown that would have put the Fighting Clan up two scores, Cheeks reached in and forced a fumble on the Vikings' 15-yard line.

Then Cheeks recovered the fumble.

"If he scores, the game is over," Atlantic City coach Thomas Kelly said. "That was the game right there."

The Vikings then drove 85 yards to score their only offensive touchdown in a 15-12 win that improved their record to 6-0.

Atlantic City quarterback Jamal Anderson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard run and converted a 2-point conversion pass to Orris Gallagher with 5 minutes, 45 seconds left.

"One thing you can say about this team is that they are resilient," Kelly said. "They never give up. They were that way from Game 1 and now six weeks later they are the same."

Cheeks' forced fumble put Atlantic City in position to score.

However, the Vikings had struggled offensively all game.

Starting on the 15-yard line didn't bode well, and the Vikings had been in bad field position throughout the game.

Cheeks had jumped on the Vineland fumble after quickly debating whether he should pick it up and run with it.

He took the safe route.

Cheeks said he had seen something when Winchester was running that made him go for the ball.

"I saw him running wild all night, so my coaches told me to try and strip the ball," Cheeks said.

The Vikings had problems moving the ball against Vineland (3-3). Atlantic City had 81 rushing yards and its receivers were covered throughout the game.

"We had a good game plan," Vineland coach Josh Hedgeman said. "We had guys execute. We made some big stops."

But Atlantic City looked like a different team in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings ran 11 plays on their winning drive with a big run coming from junior Jelani Adderly. He bounced to the outside and ran up the right sideline for 28 yards to Atlantic City across midfield.

Anderson connected on 4-of-5 passes for 33 yards on the drive. He finished 10-for-25 for 121 yards.

"For some reason in the fourth quarter this season, this team has sensed that desperation," Kelly said. "As a coach, you don't want to see them wait until the fourth quarter, but it's good to see that they never give up."

Vineland fell in a quick hole. Adderly scored on a 65-yard punt return early in the first quarter to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.

But the Fighting Clan bounced back. They pounded the ball with Winchester. With 1:56 left in the first quarter, he broke off a 72-yard touchdown run, but Vineland failed to convert the 2-point conversion.

Winchester finished with 135 yards on 15 carries.

Vineland kept getting good field position, starting at or around midfield throughout the second half.

When the Fighting Clan got closer, they made Atlantic City pay for it. Vineland started on the Vikings' 37-yard line after a punt that only went 18 yards.

Two plays later, Vikings were in the end zone. Marcus Nelson scored on a 30-yard run, but the Fighting Clan failed to convert the 2-point conversion again, which made it 12-7 with 4:21 to go in the third.

"We missed some opportunities tonight," Hedgeman said. "We left some plays out there."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:

609-272-7187

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