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Brooks’ big-play ability helps Millville capture WJFL American Division crown

MILLVILLE (N.J.) - Lotzeir Brooks' talent is undeniable.

The Millville High School sophomore isn't a man of many words, but his elusiveness on the gridiron speaks for itself.

Brooks reeled in six catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns as the Thunderbolts downed Cherokee, 31-20, in a West Jersey Football League American Division showdown on Friday night.

The sophomore currently holds offers from Georgia, Oregon, Penn State, Texas A&M, Syracuse and Kentucky, among others.

"He's an amazing athlete, Millville coach Humberto Ayala said. "We're fortunate to have a player like him as well as all the others. We have a ton of playmakers all over the place."

The Thunderbolts' victory, paired with Lenape's 17-10 setback to St. Augustine, brought home an outright WJFL American Division title on Friday.

Brooks hauled in his second touchdown of the contest on a 44-yard strike in double coverage to give the Bolts a 21-14 advantage with 3:04 left in the third quarter.

It marked the first time Millville established a lead and ensured it would never trail again.

"I saw they were two (safeties) high," Millville quarterback Jacob Zamot said. "I think they were in cover two. I drop back, I see the safeties just stalling, just taking a normal drop like they're in cover four. I know Brooks is a dude, (so) I just aired it out. I know he'll go make a play."

"In that moment, we took advantage of what they were giving us," Ayala said. "I don't understand why teams keep putting corners on an island like that with no help over top. They did it and we took advantage of it."

Millville reeled off 24 unanswered points in the second half.

Following a four-yard rushing score courtesy of Na'eem Sharp and Brooks' second trip to pay dirt, the Bolts added a 27-yard field goal from Jayden Sokolov to build a 10-point lead.

A five-yard rushing score from Thomas Smith III following a forced fumble solidified a 31-14 lead with 10:11 left to play.

The Chiefs were the first to strike, orchestrating a 12-play, 70-yard opening drive to take a 7-0 lead with 6:57 left in the first quarter. A pair of jet sweeps by Cameron Burti helped set up a one-yard rushing score by quarterback Luke Brown.

"We were flat in the first half," Ayala said. "Then (Cherokee) put together, what, a five-and-half-minute drive. We're a high tempo team, so what do teams want to do? They want to control the clock, time of possession. They did that very well and it kind of throw us out of sync."

Evidently, the second half garnered a different outcome.

"We got our playmakers the ball and they did what they're supposed to do," Ayala said.

Cherokee (3-5 record) tallied 140 rushing yards and led by as much as seven points on two separate occasions.

On the contrary, the Chiefs committed six turnovers. They were without starting quarterback Ryan Bender and All-State running back Brandon "Bam" Boria due to injuries.

"We battled," Chiefs coach Brian Glatz said. "We lost the turnover battle. That's a killer when you turn the ball over. Hopefully next week we'll get a little bit healthier and get some guys back in positions. Hopefully we can get something going."

Millville, the defending South Jersey Group 4 regional champion, begins its quest towards a state championship next week. Their opponent remains to be determined, but the Bolts know the steps necessary to lift additional hardware.

And Friday night's victory against Cherokee offered a playoff-like setting to remind them of what to avoid in the postseason.

"We just had a slow start. Can't have that in playoffs," Brooks said. "Teams was doubting us. Now they see what's real. We wanted this win. (Going forward), we all got to come together as one."

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