D2 Sports Network's latest series, "A Student's Perspective," offers an inside look at a sideline reporting standpoint from the eyes of a high school student. This week, Jacob Girnius, a student at Cherokee High School, provides his thoughts on Thursday's high school football matchup between Cherokee and Hammonton at Cherokee High School in Evesham, New Jersey.
The Cherokee High School football team enters its stadium ahead of its matchup against Hammonton at Cherokee High School in Evesham, New Jersey on Thursday, August 31, 2023. Jake Girnuis/D2 Sports Network
EVESHAM (N.J.) - This matchup pitted the Cherokee Chiefs against the Hammonton Blue Devils. A wavering number of Chiefs fans packed "The Bowl" to root on their team as Senior Night festivities began. All seniors and family members of seniors were recognized in a heart-warming ceremony.
Hammonton received the opening kick, but the first quarter went scoreless.
Early in the second quarter, Blue Devils running back Kenny Smith ran in a touchdown to make the score 7-0.
The Chiefs quickly responded by getting in good field position to allow kicker Tommy Pajic to nail a 31-yard field goal, to cut the deficit to 7-3. After receiving an onside kick with minimal time left in the opening half, Cherokee relied on Pajic again to kick a 35-yard field goal. The host Chiefs trailed Hammonton, 7-6, at halftime.
As the Cherokee student section grew rowdier and rambunctious, the boys in orange and white on the field came out with a new fire in their eyes when exiting the locker room after halftime.
Cherokee put its foot on the gas from the moment the second half started. Just 12 seconds into the third quarter, Chiefs quarterback Ryan Bender ran the ball for a 74-yard touchdown, making the score 12-7 in favor of Cherokee. The fans were electric after such a game-changing play as they responded with endless "RYAN BENDER" chants.
Bender's touchdown proved to be the turning point of the game for the Chiefs and served as a sign of things to come.
Only three minutes later, running back Murad Campfield turned a 16-yard run into a touchdown to give Cherokee a 19-7 lead. The student section went absolutely ballistic, setting off confetti cannons and enjoying the success of its team.
Following the touchdown, the ball was fumbled on the return by Hammonton and scooped up by Johnny Phillips. Only a minute and 26 seconds separated Cherokee's two scores as wide receiver Luke Brown caught a 16-yard pass from Bender to give the Chiefs a 25-7 lead just five minutes into the third quarter.
"I've kind of been all over the field on both sides of the ball this season," Brown said. "I go where coach tells me, and I try my best to succeed and excel wherever I play. ... They didn't believe in us, God did."
Hammonton's second possession of the half resulted in Chiefs linebacker Leo Bluestein recovering a fumble for a 66-yard touchdown to build a 33-7 lead.
"We made some good second half adjustments," Bluestein said, "stuck to the script, and ran away with it."
Cherokee wasn't finished.
Cornerback Evan Bryfogle made an acrobatic interception which allowed Campfield to run the ball 90 yards for a touchdown on the next play from scrimmage to build a 40-7 lead.
After establishing a massive lead in the fourth quarter, Cherokee inserted second string quarterback Cooper Burti and the freshman proved he belonged. On his first drive, Burti scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown to make the score 47-7.
"He's a freshman" chants erupted from the student section.
Freshman Cooper Burti celebrates his 21-yard rushing touchdown in Cherokee's 47-7 win over Hammonton in the football game played at Cherokee High School in Evesham, New Jersey on Thursday, August 31, 2023. Jake Girnuis/D2 Sports Network
The dominating win improved Cherokee's record to 2-0.
"This is a statement," captain Trent Osbourne said.