Kingsway big play offense outguns Cherokee in South Jersey Group 5 football semifinal

Kingsway big play offense outguns Cherokee in South Jersey Group 5 football semifinal

Matching Kingsway big play for big play is a losing strategy. The Dragons can put a playmaker in almost every spot on a football field.

Cherokee found that out the hard way as Kingsway won its NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South Jersey Group 5 semifinal 41-14. The No. 2 seed Kingsway will make a return trip to top seed Toms River North for the S.J. Group 5 title. Last year, the Dragons won 21-14.

Kingsway forced four turnovers and scored four touchdowns of at least 20 yards to keep the Chiefs at bay.

“We came in with a lot of energy,” Kingsway senior Darrell Brown said. “We knew we could beat them. We beat them one time but it’s hard to beat someone the second time.”

Kingsway got on top quickly, with senior quarterback Nate Maiers scoring on a one-yard, fourth-down sneak after the Dragons recovered a fumble at the Cherokee 5.

Cherokee responded with a good kickoff return and a highlight-film touchdown eleven plays later. Junior Kevin Pacan alertly pulled in a tipped pass from junior quarterback Ryan Bender at the back line of the end zone.

It was a perfect answer to falling behind. It didn’t last long, however.

It lasted just three plays. Maiers connected with senior receiver Benny Liles for an 86-yard touchdown pass.

“In practice, I was under-throwing Benny a little bit,” Maiers said. “After I underthrew him two times in a row, my coach jokingly said he wished he had a quarterback who could throw the ball. I said ‘All right, I will let the next one go.’”

The teams appeared to be trading scoring plays. Kingsway (7-3 record) would short-circuit the back-and forth.

Maiers got his second touchdown pass, a 40-yard connection with Brown, before Cherokee answered with a 68-yard Bender pass to Cameron Burti. Asa Moser added a 31-yard Kingsway field goal before the half.

The teams were trading big plays. Kingsway, though, managed to lead 24-14 at the half.

“These guys really work hard,” Liles said. “We know we can outwork all different kinds of teams out here. We are going to outwork people.”

Moser tacked on a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Brown broke free for a 34-yard run. Then, one play after a long interception return, Maiers and Liles connected on a 20-yard touchdown to close out the scoring.

“I thought we were pretty good today. I mean, 41 points,” Maiers said. “We did let up 14 points but one came on a big play. Next week, it’s going to a tough game at Toms River. We’ve been there before so the rematch should be a good one.”

Cherokee fell to 4-6 on the season with a Thanksgiving game left on the schedule against Central Jersey Group 3 finalist Seneca. The Chiefs had hopes of revering their 35-21 loss to Kingsway last month but knew they’d have to play an almost perfect game.

“They’re a really good team, definitely tough,” Burti said. “They have a lot of playmakers. We changed our game plan. We thought we had them but 3 (Liles) up today. No. 4 (Brown) stepped up. No. 1 (Maiers) is a dog. They have good guys everywhere.”

Cherokee was realistic about its chances. The team decided to go out swinging.

“This year has been awesome,” Burti said. “Our record may not be what we wanted, but there’s nothing like just like the bonds we built here. You know, when you are going through hell, going through thick and thin, these are all my brothers.”

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