By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR CITY — The Cedar Creek High School football team had to believe that Ocean City was going to give everything it had coming off a bye week and looking to improve to 2-0. The Red Raiders didn’t disappoint.
Ocean City forced four fumbles and carried a 13-12 lead into the fourth quarter on an unusually hot September Saturday afternoon, but the Pirates hung around long enough with some strong defense of their own and made enough plays in the final frame to rally for a 22-13 win that kept them undefeated. Cedar Creek (3-0) lost last Friday night to Delsea Regional, but the Crusaders were forced to forfeit that victory after using an ineligible player. Ocean City, meanwhile, fell to 1-1. The Red Raiders beat Oakcrest convincingly in the season opener before a bye in Week 2.
The Pirates trailed until junior Clay Olley nailed a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, giving Cedar Creek a 15-13 lead, and quarterback Louie Barrios capped off a long drive with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown with just 1:13 remaining to give the Pirates some breathing room.
“My teammates have my back, so I knew I could step up there with confidence. We just have to push hard. We have a tough game with Camden next weekend,” said Olley, who is taking over for the graduated Pat Moran — the best kicker so far in Cedar Creek’s brief history. “(Delsea) may have forfeited that game, but they won it and they are a great football team. We caught a bit of a break there, but we have to step up next week. We can’t have as many turnovers as we had today. We’ll grind it out and figure it out.”
The Pirates said they were impressed with the effort Ocean City put forth, and admitted the Red Raiders were tougher than they expected.
“We started off kind of slowly, made some mistakes on defense and we were a little slow on offense, but by the end of the game, we got the ‘W’,” said defensive back Dom Simmons. “They play in South Jersey Group 3, and that’s a good team. They played their hearts out, they just fell a little short. But good luck to them the rest of the season.”
“We were having some miscommunication, but we came together, communicated and executed. It came down to toughness. I thought we might blow them out, but they really played a tough game. I have a lot of respect for them. They are tough,” added senior left guard Kenneth Tillar. “We just had to stay in it mentally, support everybody and stay positive. We’ve been grinding together. Last year we had guys like Bo Melton and Isaiah Watson, and people were sleeping on us who were coming up. But we’re showing what we can do now.”
Ocean City took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Isaac Robertson found Brandon Lashley for a 74-yard score on a halfback option pass. Lashley hauled the pass in, broke a tackle and was off to the races. Cedar Creek answered with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Barrios to George Ramp and a 1-yard plunge from Barrios to take a 12-7 lead, but Ocean City responded late in the first half by taking advantage of Cedar Creek’s fourth fumble.
Facing third-and-5 from the Pirates’ 9-yard line, quarterback Harry Pfeifle rolled to his right and found Lashley in the front corner of the end zone to give the Red Raiders a 13-12 lead heading into halftime.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter before a couple of big runs by Kamaal Reed helped set up Olley’s field goal with 11:13 left in the game.
“The team had my back the whole time, especially our long snapper, Julian (Connerton), and Malachi (Melton), my holder. I knew it was going to be a good snap and a good hold. They helped me out tremendously and, stepping up to make that kick, they made it easy for me,” Olley said. “I have some big shoes to fill, but my teammates reminded me that they need me, especially with punting. I kicked with Pat a couple times, and he helped me out a lot, especially with punting. I didn’t really start punting until July, so I’m still working on that and he’s been helping me out.”
Ocean City had an opportunity to take the lead midway through the fourth quarter, driving down to Cedar Creek’s 25-yard line, but Trevor Brown broke up a fourth-down pass intended for Robertson. The Pirates then got a big boost from Isaiah Davis, who picked up a couple of first downs that allowed Cedar Creek to chew up more than five minutes of clock before Barrios’ second touchdown run late in the game.
Cedar Creek hosts Camden next Saturday, while Ocean City looks to rebound on Thursday with a home game against West Windsor-Plainsboro South.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays