Julian Mahan knows the feeling all too well.
Two straight sectional finals, two straight losses.
“It’s been terrible,” the Timber Creek High School senior linebacker said. “We know that we didn’t leave it all on the field. We made mistakes, silly mistakes, but they were mistakes that Shawnee capitalized on.”
For the third consecutive year, the Chargers will face Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 final at Rowan University. The game also marks the fifth straight time Timber Creek has played in a sectional final, winning Group 4 in 2012 and Group 3 in 2011.
Mahan was a freshman on the last team to win, so he also knows the feeling of walking off the turf a winner.
“Celebrating, jumping around … It was great,” he said.
No public-school team has played in five straight title games since Paulsboro completed its run of six consecutive championships from 1992-1997. Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson says it all starts with the youth organizations producing winning teams and those players coming into high school with a championship mentality.
“Guys are accustomed to winning,” he said. “We really stress winning and they don’t want to lose. We’re bringing in kids that know what it takes to be successful.
“They take it upon themselves not to be the group that doesn’t reach that level of success.”
The Chargers (8-3) come into this final having experienced a few bumps along the way. Back-to-back losses early in the season were a cause for concern, but they’ve won six of their last seven and avenged an overtime loss to Hammonton by knocking off the Blue Devils in the sectional semifinals.
“They obviously bought into it and felt this was there place at the end of the season,” Hinson said.
“They’re pretty pumped up, but the big thing is not to lose sight of the game itself. The opponent is who it is, but the most important thing is what we do. It’s not who we’re playing. It’s about executing and doing what we’re supposed to do to have a chance at winning.”
Mahan believes his team isn’t satisfied reaching another final.
“The goal has always been to win, not just get there,” he said. “We’ve been motivated all season. No matter what our record is as long as we get to the championship and win it, that’s all that matters.
“We’ve been humbled by a team that’s beat us twice. We have to limit our mistakes and be in the right positions to make plays. We need to do our jobs. That’s really all it takes. We have to practice what we preach and not overthink the game.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a football game. It’s a championship game, but it’s just football. We just have to play ball and do what we do.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
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