MOORESTOWN – When Steve Everette returned to his alma mater as the head football coach, he was a man on a mission.
His intention was to build the Willingboro High School football team into a championship program.
Everettte and his players accomplished that goal on Friday night.
The Chimeras won their first football sectional title since 1985 when they annexed the Central Jersey Group 1 crown with a 22-14 win over Paulsboro in a game played at Moorestown High School.
“I’m a proud Willingboro Alum and I came back home to help us be champs again,” Everette said. “People have down-talked us for so long and we have great young people.
“This is just the culmination of hard work by our kids, by our community and by our school district who put their faith in me. There is no more than I can say – we’re champs.”
The Chimeras won their last title in South Jersey Group 3. This one came over a legendary Group 1 program in Paulsboro. Coach Glenn Howard’s teams seem to make perennial trips to the finals, albeit usually in the South Jersey section where they were three-time defending champions.
En route to the victory, Willingboro took the lead for good in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis plunged one yard for score and Chris Long added a 2-point conversion run.
The Chimeras led only 8-6 going into the fourth quarter but got an 18-yard scoring sweep from Zaire Clements and a 29-yard touchdown pass completion from Davis to Long to break out a to commanding 22-6 lead.
Davis was nearly flawless for the Chimeras in guiding three touchdown drives, while using his running backs to control the tempo of the game.
“He was struggling a little bit toward the end of the season,” said Everette, who also used Nasir Murray in certain situations as a wildcat quarterback. “But he’s been grinding and working hard. We knew he could be this kind of player so we’re glad he showed up in the sectional championship game.”
Davis said the players were able to execute the game-plan just the way it was delivered to them by the coaching staff in preparation for the game.
“We played perfectly,” he said. “The offensive line did what they do, the running backs did what they do and the wide receivers did what they do. It was a good game for all of us.”
Davis threw only sparingly, but he was effective when he put the ball in the air. He helped deliver first downs on clutch passes throughout the game.
“He got it there,” said Murray. “He threw the ball well. He made the right reads. He did good.”
But where Willingboro seemed to have the real advantage was in the ground game. Long and Murray both had effective runs for long gains.
“We knew they were very experienced, so we knew we had to come out ready to play,” Murray said. “We came out a little flat, but we picked it up in the second half.”
However, the ball mostly went to Demie Sumo, who helped the Chimeras control time of possession and the game-clock as he continually ripped off runs for positive yards.
“That man is a `dog’” said Murray. “Whenever we needed something we put the ball in his hands.”
The Chimeras were equally adept on defense. Paulsboro was effective offensively only on their two scoring drives – one on their first series of the game and one on their last series.
The Willingboro defense forced two turnovers, via interceptions, one by Khalieb McCray in the first quarter and one by Zaire Harkins in the fourth quarter.
Harkins’ pick set up the Chimera’s clinchng 49-yard touchdown drive, culminating with the pass to Long.
The Chimeras had to rally from an early 6-0 deficit the Red Raiders achieved the first time they touched the ball.
Paulsboro took the game’s opening kickoff and moved 71-yards for a score, capped by a 3-yard run by Jeff Robinson .
But it would not be until the closing minutes that the Red Raiders would fine the end zone again. Bhayshul Tuten provided the touchdown with a 3-yard run and then he added the 2-point conversion.
But Willingboro took over with 3:25 to play in the game and was able to run out the rest of the clock.
C..J. Group 1 Championship
Paulsboro 6 0 0 8 -14
Willingboro 0 8 0 14-22
P-Jeff Robinson 3 run (KF)
W-Ah-Shaun Davis 1 run (Chris Long run)
W-Zaire Clements 18 run (Long pass from Davis)
W-Long 29 pass from Davis (PF)