Cedar Creek Advances in G2 Football Playoffs
EGG HARBOR CITY — Bernards came into the Central Jersey Group 2 quarterfinals sporting an 8-1 record, but host Cedar Creek hasn’t been scared of anybody on this season’s “Greatness Getback” tour.
The Pirates steamrolled the Mountaineers, scoring early and often, building up a 35-10 halftime lead to cruise into the sectional championship game after a 50-10 victory. When and where that championship game will be played remains unknown, as Cedar Creek will face either Pleasantville or Camden. Those two teams were in the third quarter on Friday night when shots rang out and several people were injured, prompting a suspension of the game.
Cedar Creek quarterback Louie Barrios said he was shaken up last night after hearing the news because some of his teammates had gone to the game on a scouting mission. But the senior calmed his nerves before kickoff and turned in another masterful performance during his breakout season, rushing for three touchdowns as the Pirates built up an insurmountable 28-0 lead after just one quarter of play.
Back in 2016 the Pirates went 12-2 and made a championship game appearance, losing 19-13 to West Deptford. The following year, Cedar Creek went 8-3 but lost in the second round of the state playoffs, and last year Creek was 4-5 and got blasted, 57-0, by Pleasantville in the opening round of states. Head coach Tim Watson believed his team had lost its hunger, and the gave rise to “The Greatness Getback” theme for this year. He wanted his boys to start playing championship-caliber football again.
“That drives us every day in practice, the weight room, watching film — whatever we have to do. We know that last year was something we never want to feel again. But we still have two more games,” Barrios said.
“We’ve been grinding all year. We’ve had a lot of adversity throughout the year and our two losses really built us for this game right here, and next week. We’re built for this,” added fellow senior Malachi “Max” Melton, whose brother, Bo, was on that 2016 team and now plays receiver at Rutgers. “We talked to the guys before the game and said we’re not going out bad, we can’t do it. We came out here and got the job done.”
The first quarter featured a 5-yard touchdown run from sophomore JoJo Bermudez, a Jamal Chapman interception return for a touchdown, and two scoring runs from Barrios. Melton added a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Cedar Creek (9-2) held a 25-point lead heading into the break. Jeremy Taylor added a touchdown run in the second half along with Barrios’ third score of the game, and kicker Taylor Manning connected on a 32-yard field goal.
“We put up the points and (the defense) stops them from scoring, but today they did it all. They scored points, stopped them, they did everything, so credit to our defense,” Barrios said. “This is one of the best feelings I’ve had. My freshman year we made it (to the final) and ended up losing, and I told myself I have to get us back there one day.”
Melton said getting off to a quick start — something of an Achilles heel for the Pirates all year long — was a big focus against Bernards.
“We preached that all week. Usually, our offense will start out slowly, or our defense will, and we have to come back in the second half. But that wasn’t the case today,” he said. “We preached (a fast start) all week, our guys bought into it and came out strong. We had 35 points midway through the second quarter, so we got the job done.”
Barrios has been putting up video game numbers this year, including five games in which he’s passed for five touchdowns, and also has a number of rushing touchdowns.
“Last year, I wasn’t as confident as I can be, but this year and this offseason I really put in a lot of hard work, got a good relationship with my coaches, and I really trust the system and my players,” he said. “It’s easy to get the guys the ball because it all starts up front, my offensive line does a phenomenal job. We just try to get guys in space and let them do their thing.
Melton said this group of seniors is determined to walk away from their high school careers with a trophy in hand.
“I’m not going out of here without a championship. We’re not done,” he said. “We’re happy to be back (in the title game) but we still have a lot to do.”