EGG HARBOR CITY — Two weeks ago, the Cedar Creek football team got pushed around on its home turf by Pleasantville in a 38-22 throttling at the hands of the Greyhounds. It took all of 14 seconds on Saturday for the Pirates to let visiting Oakcrest know that wasn't about to happen again.
Quarterback Louie Barrios connected with a wide open JoJo Bermudez for a 60-yard scoring strike on the first play from scrimmage, and Cedar Creek never looked back on its way to a convincing 40-14 win over the Falcons. The Pirates looked sharp coming out of their bye week, and looked like a team that was hungry to make a push toward a state playoff berth.
"This win was crucial for us. We needed to bring back the juice. Going into that bye week with two losses was pretty hard, so we just wanted to bring our mojo back and get everybody excited again," said Pirates quarterback Louie Barrios, who threw three touchdown passes and caught another.
"Coming off that tough loss against Pleasantville, we had a couple weeks to get our minds right and figure out what type of team we want to be," added senior running back and defensive lineman Kamaal Reed. "A rivalry game was perfect, we knew we had to come out and play fast and physical, a lot of juice and energy. It's just a great team win."
Cedar Creek (3-3) sprinted out to a 20-0 lead before a Keevon Berry 1-yard run cut the deficit to 20-7, and a quarterback sneak from the 1 by Trey Sayers with four seconds left in the second quarter shaved the lead down to 23-14 at halftime, but the Cedar Creek defense held Oakcrest (3-3) off the scoreboard throughout the second half while the offense tacked on three more scores in the fourth quarter.
BRINGING THE JUICE: Barrios said the Pirates were intent on a fast start after suffering blowout losses to Pleasantville and Woodrow Wilson in the weeks before last weekend's bye, and Cedar Creek didn't disappoint. After punting on their second possession, the Pirates went up 13-0 when Barrios connected with Aidan Richardson on a fade in the corner of the end zone. Then, early in the second quarter — while facing fourth-and-11 at the 21-yard line, Barrios was flushed out of the pocket and heaved one into the end zone that senior wideout Russell Riek came down with in traffic. That gave Cedar Creek a 20-0 lead with 9:02 still left to play in the first half.
"We practiced that all week," Barrios said of the 60-yard strike on the game's first play, to Bermudez, a freshman. "We were ready to start off with a bang because we needed (a fast start). Pleasantville came in and gave it to us good, and we were flat in that game, so we knew coming into this game that we needed some juice. We were ready and focused when we came out."
"We talked about that play all week, we worked on it a lot and we made sure we got it down pat because that was the first play we were going to run," Reed added.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a bunch of times in the first quarter but we came out and played well in the second quarter and started to right the ship," said Oakcrest head coach Eric Anderson. "After halftime, we were focused on getting the ball back and putting together a good drive and open up (the third quarter) with a score, but things didn't go our way and a couple times we shot ourselves in the foot again."
After a sluggish third quarter from both teams, Riek capped off a 60-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run that stretched the lead to 30-14 with 4:57 left. Cedar Creek then turned to a little razzle-dazzle on its next possession, as receiver Max Melton tossed a touchdown pass to a wide-open Barrios on a halfback option. Sophomore kicker Taylor Manning added field goals of 21 and 28 yards, and also was 4-for-5 on PATs.
"I've experienced some touchdowns throwing them, but catching that one, that felt pretty good," Barrios said.
STEPPING UP: With linebacker George Ramp out because of concussion protocol, Cedar Creek needed guys on the defensive side to step up. Reed, who never really played much defense prior to his senior season, had an outstanding game at his defensive line position, as did linebacker Lamar Fisher, another senior.
"I knew coming into my senior year I was going to have to come in and play some roles I had never played before. They needed me on D-line, so I stepped up and played it. It's a team game, it's not all on me, and my brothers have my back," Reed said. "We're going to use this to figure out what type of team we're going to be, like I said. We have a tough game against Delsea next week and we're ready to fight against them. They just beat Woodrow Wilson, we heard, so we'll be ready to play."
RIVALRY RENEWED: Pirates and Falcons players grow up playing with and against each other on youth teams such as the Mays Landing Lakers and Egg Harbor City Crusaders, so they know each other well and this game always features some bragging rights.
"It's pretty cool, we've been playing since taxi ball with everybody, going against the (Mays Landing) Lakers and all of that," Barrios said. "It's cool seeing how everybody is. When we're on the field, we're not friends, but off the field those (Oakcrest players) are my boys. Oakcrest has a good team this year and it was good competing against them."
"They all know each other, they all play other sports against each other and they grew up together, so it's a fun rivalry to be a part of," coach Anderson added. "Especially being inter-district schools, and Absegami coming out to watch, too. It's definitely a good day. It's not fun to come out on the losing side, but hats off to (Cedar Creek)."
WHAT'S NEXT: Cedar Creek travels to Delsea on Oct. 19 then returns home on Oct. 27 to take on Camden Catholic.
"Right now, we're just taking it one game at a time and every game is the most important game for us. We're just trying to come out with juice every day because we know we need these wins if we're going to do what we want to do. The thing with us is, we just keep practicing and practicing and guys are making plays. It all starts in practice. We win games in practice, it doesn't just happen on Saturdays," Barrios said.
Oakcrest still has plenty to play for. The Falcons have a shot at the state playoffs and also still are in the hunt for the West Jersey Football League's Independence Division title. If the Falcons can beat Ocean City on the road on Friday night and Absegami at home on Thanksgiving Eve — and if Ocean City beats Mainland on Oct. 26 — there will be a three-way tie for the division title between Oakcrest, Ocean City and Mainland.
"That's the focus. It's a one-game season for us because our bye week is in two weeks at the end of the regular season," Anderson said. "We have one game left (before the state playoff cutoff date), and everything is on the line, and they need to realize that. We need to get ready. We have a short week to game plan for Ocean City, so the game planning starts in about an hour for me."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays