For the second straight week, the Triton football team hosted one of South Jersey's premiere football teams. For the second straight week, they fell behind on their home turf. And for the second straight week, it simply did not matter.
Seven days after avenging last year's playoff ouster at the hands of 2011 Group 4 champion Pennsauken in a 22-14 comeback win, the Mustangs knocked off another perennial power as they outlasted Cherokee (1-1) in a dramatic 14-7 thriller.
After the game, Triton coach Pete Goetz talked about how his team has risen to the challenge through the season’s first two weeks.
“You could definitely say the schedule makers weren’t kind to us, but you know what? We thought we were going to be pretty good, too, this year,” he said. “Our guys just played their tails off and we just beat two of the best programs around. They’re both just great, great teams.”
The Mustangs improved to 2-0 on a night when it first appeared they might let key opportunities get away.
Although Triton spent much of the first half in Cherokee territory, they were unable to convert any of their drives into points. The Chiefs, conversely, struggled to move the football for the better part of the first half until they mounted an impressive 77-yard two-minute drill conducted by quarterback Trevor Osler to take a 7-0 lead into the half.
Cherokee had a chance to expand its lead late in the third, but elected to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal. The decision proved costly as the Triton defense made its first of two goal-line stands on the night.
With Triton still trailing by the same score early in the fourth quarter and its offense kept largely in check by the Cherokee defense, Goetz made a call that quickly shifted the game’s momentum.
With the Chiefs dialed in on talented Triton tailback Josh Woods and his team facing a third-and-12 on their own 11-yard-line, Goetz and his staff called for a tight end pass that had Cherokee reeling. Junior Isaiah Baylor found a wide open Dan Baker who secured the football and streaked down the field for an 89-yard touchdown reception to tie the game at 7-7.
“At the time, I thought we needed a spark. And I thought they felt they were just going to stop us on the run all night,” he said. “They weren’t playing tight out in the flat area, and I figured it was the right time to try it. We had confidence in Isaiah to make that play.”
From there, Triton seized the momentum and recovered the ensuing kickoff on Cherokee’s 37-yard-line. Baker, who had moments earlier tied the game with his touchdown reception, made the recovery.
“Dan Baker may have played the game of his life tonight, especially with those two plays,” Goetz said.
Triton capitalized on the recovery, mounting a scoring drive that was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Woods to give the Mustangs the lead for good.
Cherokee mounted a last-minute drive, highlighted by a fourth-down conversion from Osler to tight end Jake Powell inside the 10-yard-line. But once again Triton’s defense slammed the door shut, swatting away an Osler pass on fourth down to preserve the win.
And as for those schedule makers? It doesn’t get any easier for Triton next week when they will travel to Shawnee. Still, Goetz believes his team can once again meet the challenge.
“These guys might give the coaches heart attacks, but we’re finding ways to get it done. We can’t have any let up. They’re a great football team," he said. "It’s going to be a slugfest just like this one.”