Shawnee's upset closes championship day in style

Shawnee's Rhett Saltiel tackles Timber Creek's Adonis Jennings during the Renegades' upset of the defending champions in the Group 4 final.
Shawnee's Rhett Saltiel tackles Timber Creek's Adonis Jennings during the Renegades' upset of the defending champions in the Group 4 final. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 10, 2013

Call it White Jersey Weekend.

Call it a lesson in the value of perseverance, too.

There were five South Jersey championship football games at Rowan and the lower-seeded, white-jersey-wearing team won all five - Cherokee in Group 5, Glassboro in Group 1, Haddonfield in Group 2, Delsea in Group 3, and Shawnee in Group 4.

The first four were lopsided with the "visitors" winning by a combined score of 134-9.

The last game was a near-classic, as sixth-seeded Shawnee beat top-seeded and two-time defending champion Timber Creek by 31-22 in the nightcap of a long day of football at Richard Wackar Stadium.

Shawnee built leads of 10-0, 17-6, and 24-14, but Timber Creek battled back time and again behind quarterback Dan Williams and wide receivers Adonis Jennings and Cameron Chambers.

Shawnee senior Anthony DiOrio's toughness and determination spread through his team like an antidote for the doubt that could have gripped the Renegades in the face of the Chargers' speed, athleticism, and reputation.

The best thing about the game was the way both teams battled to the bitter end, with Williams bouncing off the turf to make throw after throw, with Jennings reaching back in traffic to make great catches, with Shawnee's defense making one final stand and its offensive line clearing the way for one final drive that sealed the victory.

Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson was all class after the game, complimenting Shawnee for a "great game plan" and noting that the Renegades "deserved to win."

Shawnee coach Tim Gushue has been around the block a few thousand times but still seemed overwhelmed by the ability of his players to rally from a 3-3 record in midseason (after consecutive losses to Clearview and Cherokee, the latter by a 31-0 score) to capture the fifth South Jersey title in the program's history.

That's why Shawnee's victory was such a fitting end to White Jersey Weekend.

Shawnee was .500 after six games and also faced a 24-0 halftime deficit in the semifinals at Toms River South.

Not a problem.

Glassboro was 2-5 in early November.

Not a problem.

Haddonfield was 4-2 with losses to Sterling and West Deptford.

Not a problem.

Delsea was 2-2 with losses to Camden and Kingsway.

Not a problem.

"We started practicing better," Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. said. "That was the key."

These seasons always turn on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in practice sessions and film study and in the locker room - when the players, especially the seniors, look at each other and decide that they aren't going out this way.

That's what happened at Shawnee, Delsea, Haddonfield, and Glassboro.

To an extent, that's also what happened at Cherokee, as the Chiefs were devastated after a 13-10 loss to Williamstown dropped their record to 2-1 and raised questions about their ability to recapture the glory of one of South Jersey's most decorated programs.

The Chiefs ended up winning their final nine games and knocked off top-seeded Eastern in a Friday night game that set the tone for the weekend.

"These kids are believers," Gushue said, speaking of Shawnee's athletes but also for everybody in a white jersey at Rowan last weekend.


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

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