EVESHAM TOWNSHIP - There was no suspense, no turning point and no controversy.
Top-seeded and defending champ Cherokee High School put on a command performance in a dominating 35-14 victory over eighth-seeded Absegami in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals Friday.
The Braves just didn't have enough for Cherokee's machine-like offensive attack, featuring the strong arm and strength of quarterback Andrew Martin, the speed and size of receiver Drake Rodgers and the power and quickness of back Michael Zeuli.
"They're good, sound everywhere, and they do a great job of coaching," Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi said after the Chiefs improved to 29-3 since 2008.
"You don't win as many games as they've won in the last three years without being well-coached. They force you to defend a lot of different things, but I think the quarterback is the major difference. They're balanced, they can run the ball and they have those two 6-foot-3 receivers. They're a very good football team."
The Chiefs (9-0), ranked No. 3 in The Press' Elite 11, held a 14-0 first-half lead and appeared in complete control, especially as they were putting the clamps on Absegami standout back Ben Martin, who finished with 25 yards on 10 carries.
But late in the first half, stellar Braves sophomore quarterback Rashad Kinlaw emerged and almost single-handedly kept Absegami (4-5) within reach.
Kinlaw's 41-yard scamper highlighted an impressive 11-play, 91-yard drive that the QB capped with an 11-yard spurt up the middle to pull the Braves within 14-7 with 1 minute, 7 seconds left in the first half.
But the Chiefs, who seemed to raise the level of their game whenever needed, sliced the Absegami defense on their ensuing possession, marching 68 yards in a minute to retake a 14-point lead, 21-7, and take the momentum heading into the locker room.
"Right before the half we give up a touchdown and it's a backbreaker," Scuderi said.
To their credit, the Braves didn't fold.
Kinlaw took Absegami down the field on its opening possession of the second half, passing for 17 yards and running for 13, including a 6-yard touchdown, on an eight-play, 46-yard scoring drive that brought the Braves within 21-14 with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
But, once again, Cherokee's offense turned it up a notch and the Braves simply had no answer. A 40-yard Zeuli run and a 28-yard Rodgers reception from Martin capped the scoring and an impressive night for the Chiefs.
Martin finished with 120 yards, completing 8-of-11 passes, Rodgers caught three passes for 74 yards and Zeuli led a balanced Cherokee ground game with 85 yards on five carries.
"They've done this week in and week out," Scuderi said. "They grind you out. They're huge up front and have three or four backs that grind you out. But the major difference is the quarterback."
Absegami opponents likely will be muttering those words about the Braves' signal-caller in the next two years, at least if Kinlaw's performance Friday night is any indication.
"I felt real good," Kinlaw said after running for 94 yards on 18 carries and throwing for 35 yards, going 7-for-17. "I was banged up and had marks on me, but I blocked that out and played football."
He spoke afterward as blood leaked from a gash on his right wrist, the result of a fourth-quarter hit.
Tough indeed. And talented, too.
"He's a special player. He's 15 years old. You get one of him a lifetime," Scuderi said. "This is a great learning experience for him, being in this environment. To be honest with you, there were points in this game where I thought he was the best player on the field. We're fortunate to have him, and we know what we have the next couple of years."
Absegami 0 7 7 0-14
Cherokee 7 14 7 7-35
C-Rodgers 34 pass from Andrew Martin (Coyle kick)
C-Zeuli 5 pass from Andrew Martin (Coyle kick)
A-Kinlaw 11 run (Loveland kick)
C-Zeuli 14 run (Coyle kick)
A-Kinlaw 6 run (Loveland kick)
C-Zeuli 40 run (Coyle kick)
C-Rodgers 28 pass from Andrew Martin (Coyle kick)
First downs 9 14
Rushing Yards 155 232
Passing Yards 35 120
Turnovers 2 2
Rushing-Absegami, Kinlaw 18-94, Chance 3-32, Ben Martin 10-25, Bing 3-4. Cherokee, Zeuli 5-85, Bonilla 16-76, Gale 5-34, Andrew Martin 3-23, Williams 6-14.
Passing-Absegami, Kinlaw 7-17-0-35. Cherokee, Andrew Martin 8-11-0-120.
Receiving-Absegami, Bing 4-27, Schrading 1-5, Collazo 1-5, Martin 1-(-2). Cherokee, Rodgers 3-74, Miller 2-23, Zeuli 2-13, Bryne 1-10.
Records-Absegami 4-5; Cherokee 9-0.