Phil Anastasia: Wild win for Cherry Hill East
The football playoffs can be a magical place filled with endless possibilities.
Sometimes, the regular season can be like that, too.
Or even better.
Sometimes, the regular season can feature a game with two unstoppable offenses, two irresistible running backs, 16 touchdowns, 113 points, one daring decision, and a fittingly fantastic finish.
"This was our playoff game," Cherry Hill East senior quarterback Jesse Gold said. "I'll take it."
Cherry Hill East (5-3) won't make the playoffs this season. But the Cougars can't complain too much.
The playoffs are great and all, and Cherry Hill East might have been able to make some noise in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament. But the Cougars will just have to live with the afterglow from a 57-56 victory over Cherokee on Saturday.
That's right - 57-56.
In double overtime.
On Gold's two-point conversion run after the Cougars' eighth touchdown of the game.
"Best game I've ever been a part of," said Cherry Hill East senior wide receiver Rob Taylor, who scored on a 66-yard run and 14-yard reception and also had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
It was a video game sprung to life on a sunny fall afternoon, two Group 4 teams burning that soft grass on the Cougars' home field to a crisp with big play after big play, with touchdown after touchdown after touchdown.
Cherokee junior Zaire Williams, who spent his freshman year at Cherry Hill East before moving to Marlton, carried 42 times for 385 yards and six touchdowns. His rushing total is the fourth-highest in South Jersey history.
Cherry Hill East senior Brian Regan carried 37 times for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
"That was some display of rushing offense," said Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan, whose team dropped to 5-3 and was eliminated from playoff contention.
It was an injury to Regan in the second overtime that moved Cherry Hill East coach Tom Coen to go for the two-point conversion after the Cougars had pulled to within 56-55 on Daishi Goto's 5-yard touchdown run. Up until then, Cherry Hill East kicker Mike Suli was 7 for 7 on placements.
But Coen didn't want to play a third overtime without Regan, who was helped off the field with a leg injury. So the coach decided to settle the game on one play.
Gold took the snap in a shotgun formation, ran right, squirmed past a couple of tacklers, and dived into the end zone.
The Cougars poured on the field in celebration. The big crowd on senior day went wild in the stands. The players snuck up behind Coen a few minutes later and emptied a Gatorade bucket on the coach.
It was like a playoff game.
"I feel like I was in a dream," Frazier said.
Cherokee 14 7 14 7 7 7 – 56
Cherry Hill East 7 14 7 14 7 8 – 57
C: Williams 6 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Taylor 66 run (Suli kick)
C: Williams 20 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Regan 17 run (Suli kick)
C: Williams 43 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Regan 13 run (Suli kick)
CHE: Taylor 14 pass from Gold (Suli kick)
C: Williams 68 run (Ravel kick)
C: Williams 4 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Frazier 13 run (Suli kick)
C: Joseph 2 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Frazier 89 pass from Gold (Suli kick)
CHE: Regan 25 run (Suli kick)
C: Williams 3 run (Ravel kick)
C: Follet 25 run (Ravel kick)
CHE: Goto 5 run (Gold run)