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Cherokee senior captain Andrew Cardinali after blocking extra point in overtime for win over Shawnee.

Cardinali's blocks lift Cherokee over Shawnee in OT

09/09/2017, 2:00am EDT
By Kevin Callahan, SJSD

The senior captain blocked an extra point attempt in OT and opened the hole for the Chiefs score in overime.

EVESHAM – In a pulsating football game filled with big-time playmakers and even larger hearts, Andrew Cardinali made the biggest play while spilling the most grit.

The Cherokee High School senior earned his captain strips and showed why he is so respected by his teammates as well as the Chiefs’ coaching staff when he dusted off exhaustion and busted through the Shawnee line to block an extra point attempt in overtime.

Cardinali’s heroic effort - after playing both ways in the season opener with barely a break - enabled Cherokee to tie the game in OT on a Jack Walters 1-yard plunge and win the thriller 42-41 on Ethan McCarren’s poised extra point.

“I bull-rushed him,” Cardinali explained about his technique to beat the blocker. “I pushed-pulled him and rushed and put my hands up … and the ball hit me in the face.”

After realizing he had indeed blocked his first career extra point and what it meant, Cardinali said, “It was the best feeling ever.”

Friday night’s matchup between the fierce, but friendly school district rivals was a delight to watch for the overflow crowd that stood on the grass hill wrapped around the fabled bowl at Cherokee. The West Jersey Football League American Division game was so well played and contested that it could’ve been confused with a sectional title game.

“We treat this as a big game, it is Marlton vs. Medford, which are the same towns almost,” said Shawnee senior running back Ryan Parris after rushing for two touchdowns and catching another. “It could’ve been a playoff game.”

As if the dramatic win could have been any better for Cherokee, the victory was even sweeter for the Chiefs since Shawnee had won the last three meetings, including 16-13 last year.

Understandably, the Cherokee seniors shuttered at the thought of being the first class to lose all four games to the Renegades.

“That was our biggest motivation,” Cardinali admitted about the determination not to be swept by Shawnee. “We told ourselves that we weren’t leaving school not beating Shawnee.”

Cardinali, a left guard on offense, also opened the hole for Walters to tie the game on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line in OT after Shawnee struck first in the extra session when wide receiver Daevon Robinson took a short crossing pass from quarterback Colin Wetterau for a 22-yard score.

“Before that play, I said to Andrew that I would follow him,” explained Walters, a senior captain who rushed for five touchdowns, on the OT touchdown.

Like Walters following Cardinali into the end zone, Cherokee undoubtedly followed their senior captains, which include Pat McKenna and Tyler Ludwikowski, when Shawnee scored 28 unanswered points.

“I told the team before the game in a speech that this is the last time we would play them,” Ludwikowski said with passion.

The game will be remembered for so many big plays, too.

Cherokee senior Tymere Bennett started the talent show on the first play from scrimmage when he stepped in front of a short sideline pass and sprinted 22 yards for the touchdown.

“I was just playing my zone and grabbed it,” said Bennett, who also snared a sensational one-handed catch, “and ran it in.”

Along with rushing for five TDs and 67 yards on 26 tough carries, Walters completed 15-of-26 passes for 222 yards.

Meanwhile, the talented Wetterau kept the Renegades in position to win by completing 16-of-26 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns.

Afterwards, the always-classy Shawnee coach Tim Gushue smiled and said, “It was entertaining.”

“We talk about having a short memory and making the next play the best play and we try to build ourselves up for the fourth quarter,” Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan said, “and tonight we did.”

Mehigan added, “Shawnee was a great team.”

“They are a heck of a football team,” Parris reciprocated about Cherokee. “They can play.”

Yes, Shawnee is a heck of a football team, too. True, the Renegades also can play.

The difference, though, was one play by a player with a heart that the size of the Lenape School District.

“He was in almost every down, he is a great kid, with great enthusiasm and great energy,” Mehigan rattled off with admiration about Cardinali, who is also a defensive tackle. “He never gets down.”

As a result, Cardinali gave his teammates the biggest and best lift to start the season.

WEST JERSEY FOOTBALL LEAGUE

AMERICAN DIVISION

CHEROKEE 42, SHAWNEE 41

Shawnee  7   14    7     7   6  --  41

Cherokee  14   7    0   14   7  --  42

C - Tymere Bennett 22 interception return (Ethan McCarren kick)

S - Ryan Parris 23 pass from Colin Wetterau (Joe Dalsey kick)

C – Jack Walters 1 run (McCarren kick)

C – Jack Walters 1 run (McCarren kick)

S - Parris 1 run (Dalsey kick)

S - Parris 1 run (Dalsey kick)

S – Nazier Powell 1 run (Dalsey kick)

S - Ethan Rieger 6 pass from Wetterau (Dalsey kick)

C – Jack Walters 6 run (McCarren kick)

C – Jack Walters 1 run (McCarren kick)

S - Daevon Robinson 22 pass from Wetterau (kick blocked)

C – Jack Walters 1 run (McCarren kick)

Kara Heck with her younger sister Ryleigh in front of the Doug Flutie statue at Boston College.
Lenape coach Tim McAneney talking to his team after winning 100th career game .

Tag(s): Home  Schools  Olympic Conference  Cherokee  Shawnee