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High School Football:
Eastern Finally Can Display The South Jersey Group IV Trophy In Their School

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

By Jerome Michaels
SJSports Special Correspondent

The news around the league traveled fast when Eastern upset the number one seeded team during the first round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. An eighth seeded team had done something that usually never happens. When the Vikings traveled to Cherokee and put 50 points on the scoreboard to advance to the finals with their double overtime thriller, nothing was impossible in their minds when they stepped onto the field against Washington Township. Quarterback Anthony Orio engineered two impressive scoring drives against a swarming Minutemen defense to jump out to what seemed a comfortable lead. It would be the Vikings defense that finally held off Township’s last attempt to tie the game and preserve their 14-7 victory. Eastern would celebrate it’s first group championship.

From the opening kick-off, Washington Township looked to have the slight advantage moving the ball down field. The Minutemen would march into Vikings territory, but only to turn the ball over on downs. The same would hold for Eastern…that is until late in the first quarter. Orio and running back Jahre Cheeseman were winning those small battles setting up the game’s first points. After completing a pass to Cheeseman inside Township’s end of the field, Eastern would capitalize at the start of the second quarter. Right from the sideline and into position, the offensive line gave Orio plenty of time to find a wide-open David Kellum in the back left corner of the endzone. That score gave Eastern not only a 7-0 lead, but started to warm up their visiting fans that later flowed through the team.

After both teams had time to warm up during halftime, Eastern took full advantage of their first possession. Orio tossed a nice pass to Cheeseman who then ran past the secondary and scored the 38-yard touchdown. Township would respond late in the quarter when quarterback Sal Calaciura’s keeper from 7 yards out closed the gap to 14-7. The Vikings would survive several Township attempts to tie the game during in the final minutes. The last defensive play of the game gave Eastern plenty to cheer about as their fans joined in with the celebrations.

For two seasons in a row, the Minutemen have been denied being crown champs after hosting the game on their own field. And both times they have given way for a school to capture their first group title in school’s history to the lower seed. Last year it was Shawnee who had the momentum through the playoffs surprising those who did not believe. Eastern followed suit this year to overcome all odds of the lowest seed in a bracket to win it all.

Photos by Art Redd

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