C.H. West inches closer to playoff spot

Posted: October 27, 2012

Like every single player who has worn a Cherry Hill West football uniform for the last 38 years, Connor Moloney doesn't know what it's like to make the playoffs.

He has an idea, though.

"It would be like going to Disney World," Moloney said.

Cherry Hill West hasn't punched its ticket to the Magic Kingdom. But the Lions are thinking about packing a bag.

Cherry Hill West moved to the brink of the program's first playoff berth since the creation of the state tournament in 1974, with a 20-14 victory over visiting Bishop Eustace on Friday night.

The Lions (4-3) almost certainly would clinch a spot in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament with a victory over Camden Catholic next Friday. Even with a loss, Cherry Hill West could qualify with help.

"It's a dream come true," Cherry Hill West senior linebacker Nick Millardi said.

Cherry Hill West has a talented group of juniors and sophomores, and that bodes well for the future of the program.

Junior all-purpose player Rodney Williams broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown run, and junior Jaquan Gonzales-Pratt carried the football 20 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Sophomore Joey Argentina was 6-for-10 passing for 60 yards, and junior Geronimo Santana caught three passes for 36 yards and grabbed an interception.

But first-year coach Brian Wright said the program's resurgence has been fueled by the senior class.

"Those guys have been clutch for me since I got here," said Wright, who was hired in March after 10 years as a Rowan assistant. "They bought in. Everything I needed, they made sure it happened. I'm so proud of those guys and so happy for them."

Cherry Hill West has been a soft spot on a lot of schedules for a lot of years. The Lions have managed just one .500 season since 1997, and have won five or more games just four times since Cherry Hill East began playing football in 1969.

But look at the Lions now: Playing meaningful games in November.

"I'll be honest. At first I didn't think Coach Wright could do it," Millardi said. "He came in that first meeting and said we were going to compete for a state championship and I'm looking around the room and thinking, 'Is this guy crazy?'

"But it's happened just like he said it would."

Cherry Hill West's defense, which was led by Moloney and Millardi as well as by junior linebacker John Bendig and sophomore lineman Ryan Wimmer, rose up to stop Bishop Eustace on downs late in the fourth quarter.

Moments later, the Lions were celebrating their second consecutive victory.

The Lions' home field wasn't quite the happiest place on earth. But it felt as if it was in the neighborhood.

"It's a magical feeling," Moloney said.

Bishop Eustace   0 7 0 7 – 14

Cherry Hill West   0 13 7 0 – 20

CHW: Rodney Williams 27 run (kick failed)

BE: Conner Bor 4 run (Bor kick)

CHW: Jaquan Gonzales-Pratt 25 run (Matt Becker kick)

CHW: Gonzales-Pratt 8 run (Becker kick)

BE: Bor 1 run (Bor kick)

Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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