HAMMONTON — It came down to one snap. A season of twists and turns from August practice to season openers with just one loss on Hammonton High School’s side and a few agonizing ones on Timber Creek’s. It came down to a single play.
At the 10-yard line, Blue Devils’ quarterback Josh Bevan took the ball with 10.4 seconds left and rolled out. He needed a touchdown with Timber Creek ahead by six points in Friday’s South Jersey Group 4 semifinal.
Bevan made his dash left outside the pocket, turned and lobbed a pass that ascended over the head of any receiver.
Game over: Timber Creek 30, Hammonton 24.
“He rolls out and (senior defensive end Tyreek Williams) falls and I’m like, ‘holy crap,’ ” Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said. “I told (the defense) it’s on you guys today.”
The unit came through. In a split-second, the cavalcade of Chargers hit the field-length sprint as if the lightning bolts on their helmets. Soon after, they met with Hinson. Then, to the parking lots. Then, to their adoring friends and families. Then, on the yellow Gloucester Township school buses that rang out in song.
“We’re going to the ’ship! We’re going to the ’ship! We’re going to the ’ship!”
The No. 4 seed, Timber Creek (7-3) will meet No. 2 Shawnee, a winner over No. 3 Bridgeton in Friday’s other semifinal, for the sectional title.
In a game made for men – hard hitting, intense, powerful – it was a 16-year-old sophomore who proved one of the toughest.
Chargers’ quarterback Devin Leary came up huge after a 7-0 early deficit. For a team that lacked fast starts – including a 17-0 hole by halftime in an overtime loss two weeks prior to top-seeded Hammonton (9-2) – Leary woke them up.
He hit star wideout and Michigan State recruit Cameron Chambers for a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter to draw the Chargers closer.
Completions of 14, 12 and 11 yards on the next drive led to a field goal that made it 10-7 at intermission.
“I felt very good,” Leary said. “Coach did a good job getting me confidence. … I think my line gave me the pocket to find those guys.”
Leary went 10-of-11 through the air in the first 24 minutes for 115 yards and a score. He got hit more in the second half, threw a 91-yard pick-six to speedy Blue Devil Izick Flores, but made several big throws.
Chambers and Ezrah Archie caught all but one of them in the final two quarters.
“Devin is a great quarterback,” said Chambers, who finished with 11 catches for 141 yards and a score. “He’s young, but he made some big boy decisions today.”
Hinson knew from those humid summer workouts that his club would ride the right arm of the super sophomore.
“He’s tough. He’s tougher than people think,” Hinson said. “We told Devin when the season started, ‘We’re only going as far as you can take us.’ ”
He finished 20-of-26 for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Harold Coleman at tailback helped finish two late touchdown drives, including the game-winner with a 13-yard run before the Blue Devils’ last attempt.
Leary helped drive the team to the final but couldn’t help them after the game. While he has quite an arm, the kid doesn’t have a license or a learner’s permit.
“This is amazing right now,” Leary said. “This shows what I can do no matter what age I am.”
Mark Trible; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
TIMBER CREEK 30
•Player of the game: Timber Creek sophomore QB Devin Leary, who went 20-of-26 for 218 yards and two TDs.
•Play of the game: On the game’s final snap, the Chargers’ defense forced an incompletion on Josh Bevan’s pass attempt in the red zone.
•Well said: “He’s young, but he made some big boy decisions today.” — Timber Creek WR Cameron Chambers on Leary.