Bad things happen to good teams.
The best ones bounce back.
Pennsauken turned adversity to its advantage, responding to its first loss of the season with perhaps its best performance of the season.
Quarterback Manny Cortez fired three more touchdown passes and ran for 174 yards as Pennsauken rolled to a 40-8 victory over Washington Township in a West Jersey Football League interdivision game on Sunday.
Senior running back Marques Thornton ran for two touchdowns, and Anthony Sweet caught six passes for 85 yards, kicked four extra points, and made an acrobatic interception for Pennsauken (6-1), the No. 4 team in The Inquirer Top 10.
"We put that last game behind us," Cortez said of Pennsauken's 42-35 loss to Camden Catholic on Oct. 21. "We try to treat every game the same and play as hard as we can."
Sweet, a senior who transferred to Pennsauken from Camden Catholic before the school year, admitted the loss created extra motivation for the Indians.
"It's like we wanted to retaliate," Sweet said. "That game is behind us, but it's still there in the back of our minds because we hate to lose so much. But all we can do is go forward."
Cortez ran for 174 yards on 13 carries and passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, as Pennsauken burst to a 27-0 lead. When the Indians added a pair of scores on their first two possessions of the third quarter, it was 40-0.
"We just didn't play very good football," Washington Township coach Mark Wechter said. "We were off for 16 days [because of a bye], and that's not good for a high school team. But Pennsauken just made plays and we didn't."
Quarterback Tom Hildebrand ran for 33 yards and a touchdown in the second half for Washington Township (5-2), which hosts Shawnee (5-2) Friday in a likely must-win game for both teams in terms of qualifying for the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
Pennsauken still has a chance to earn a top four seed and host a first-round game in South Jersey 4.
"We haven't had a home playoff game here for a while," said Pennsauken coach Clint Tabb, whose team plays at Eastern (2-5) Friday in the final game before the playoff cutoff.
Cortez finished 12-for-24 passing for 228 yards and three touchdowns. He has 1,830 yards and 25 touchdown passes.
"I have to give it up to the O-line," said Cortez, who showed no effects from a knee injury sustained in gym class last Monday.
Thornton scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards, Tyrik Thomas broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown run, and Amar Williams caught a 43-yard touchdown pass as Pennsauken scored more than 30 points for the seventh straight game.
"In the North-South [all-star] game, their skill guys should be the South offense," Wechter said.
Pennsauken's defense held Washington Township to two first downs in the first half. Linebacker Tyrik West recovered a fumble and Sweet made a leaping, one-handed interception.
"Nobody let up this week," Sweet said. "We got stronger as the game went by."
Washington Twp. 0008 – 8
Pennsauken 027130 – 40
P: Marques Thornton 1 run (Anthony Sweet kick)
P: Sweet 10 pass from Manny Cortez (Sweet kick)
P: Amar Williams 43 pass from Cortez (Sweet kick)
P: Justin Anderson-Copes 24 pass from Cortez (kick failed)
P: Thornton 10 run (kick failed)
P: Tyrik Thomas 48 run (Sweet kick)
WT: Tom Hildebrand 10 run (Julian Allen pass from Hildebrand)