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A Student’s Perspective: NJSIAA public state semifinals at Cherokee

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 last Saturday's NJSIAA public state semifinals at Cherokee High School in Evesham, New Jersey. Three teams punched their tickets to their respective state championships.

As Girnius puts it: "Boy, is there a lot to talk about. This past Saturday was huge for New Jersey playoff football."

Woodbury's Ja'Bron Solomon looks to run upfield against Salem in the NJSIAA Group 1 state semifinals at Cherokee High School in Evesham, New Jersey on Saturday, November 19, 2022. Kiersten Cowgill/D2 Sports Network

Salem vs. Woodbury

The first matchup of the day pitted Salem (8-4 record) against traditional Group 1 rival Woodbury (10-2). A large portion of the Thundering Herd community positioned themselves atop the hill around the perimeter of "The Bowl."

Salem's loyal fan base also flooded the stands and lined up along the fence on the press box side to watch its hometown program look to advance to the first-ever Group 1 state championship.

The wind was blistering. Media members shuffled the sidelines in their coats, gloves and hats.

And both teams went to work.

The Herd came out hungry as running back Anthony Reagan, Jr. punched it in on the opening drive to make the score 7-0. This continued to be the story for Woodbury in the first half as Reagan, Jr. slammed his way into the end zone for his second touchdown in the second quarter.

Salem looked to retaliate but was denied multiple times. Woodbury's Marquis Taylor came up with a huge interception. The Thundering Herd decided to set their sails in the wind as quarterback Bryan Johnson delivered a 42-yard touchdown pass through the air to Ja'Bron Solomon.

Now bring on Salem’s offense with crowds roaring on both sides and tensions high. With 15 seconds left in the half, Rams quarterback Jahki Coates walked the tightrope on a keeper to cut the deficit to 22-7.

Woodbury drained the clock for a majority of the second half to avenge its loss to Salem earlier in the regular season. A 22-7 victory sent the Thundering Herd to the state final.

Camden vs. Delsea

Fast forward to kickoff No. 2 at Cherokee High School. As the winds blew faster and the "real-feel" temperature sank lower, players, fans, and media members grew miserable as the cold became more unbearable. Yet, the rallying fans and players still managed to bring the hype and overcome the frigid temperatures through the joy of football.

This highly anticipated matchup between two fan favorites pitted Camden (10-1 record) against undefeated Delsea.

The Crusaders won the coin toss and differed, and it proved to be a wise decision.

In the second quarter, Camden’s freshman backup quarterback Jaythan Candelario located Terron Davis in the end zone for the first score of the game. After a blocked punt positioned Camden in the red zone, Candelario connected with an open D’hani Cobbs for the Panthers' second touchdown.

Delsea walked into halftime looking at a 14-point deficit.

But don't count out the Crusaders.

In the third quarter, Delsea put its first points on the board with a rushing touchdown by senior Jared Schoppe to cut the deficit to 14-8.

Fast forward to the fourth and final period.

With the Crusaders driving in the red zone, the intimidating James Heard, Jr. came steaming in to spoil the party and force a fumble to give help Camden regain possession.

The Panthers' next drive didn’t last long, as on the very next play Delsea’s Luke Maxwell came up big with an interception. The Crusaders capitalized on fourth down in the red zone as Wayne Adair smoked through the Camden defense for a touchdown. After a blocked extra point attempt, the score was level at 14 all.

Camden looked to the air again, but Delsea’s Dom Teti came up with the interception.

The Crusaders used the strength of their offensive front on the one-yard line as their line pushed quarterback Jimmy Reardon in for the game winning score with 16 seconds left.

After the 14-point comeback was capped by a game-winning touchdown, the Franklinville fans grew ecstatic as the players looked up to the stands in celebration with their supporters. The Crusaders advanced to the Group 3 state final at Rutgers University.

Edison vs. Toms River North

The final kickoff matched up Edison (9-3 record) and top-seeded Toms River North (12-0 record).

The winds were at their fastest with many people, including myself, begining to feel the agonizing pain of wind burn.

Toms River North quarterback Micah Ford put on a show.

Ford scored on a 51-yard run to put the Mariners up 6-0. His second touchdown put up Toms River North 14-0.

Edison quickly turned to a passing approach. Quarterback Matt Yascko dropped into the pocket and Toms River North's Ja’eylne Matthews intercepted a tipped pass.

Ford responded with his third and fourth touchdowns of the night to give Toms River North 28-0.

The Eagles struggled to find their footing as they turned the ball over on the first drive of the second half. Ford responded with a touchdown pass to Tareq Council to increase the lead to five touchdowns.

The Eagles managed to get going offensively as Yascko connected with Michael Stratchen for a 32-yard touchdown. Yascko added a rushing touchdown to cut the Mariners' lead to 35-14.

After two consecutive unanswered scores, the Toms River North offense sealed the deal with Ford's sixth touchdown.

The Mariners fans were pleased to see their team stay undefeated. Toms River North will travel to SHI Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey for the Group 5 state final.

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