PENNSAUKEN (N.J.) - The Pennsauken High School football team found itself down 16 points to Cherry Hill West with just under nine minutes left to play.
The Indians didn't tremble at the sight of adversity.
A pair of touchdown passes from Dante Viccharelli to Boston College commit Kahlil Ali cut the deficit to three points with 3:12 left in regulation.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cherry Hill West was unable to establish possession and Pennsauken set up shop at the Lions' four-yard line.
It took only one play to turn the tide as Viccharelli punched in a four-yard rushing touchdown to give the Indians a 34-30 lead with 3:05 left to play. 'Code Red' added a pair of interception return touchdowns by Ali and Elijah Jennings to secure a 47-30 victory over Cherry Hill West in a West Jersey Football League matchup on Thursday night.
Pennsauken outscored the Lions 33-8 in the final stanza and scored 26 unanswered points in less than seven minutes of action.
"It all started with Coach Tabb giving us a speech telling us to calm down," Viccharelli said. "That's all we needed to do. I believed in us. It was just simple mistakes we had to fix. It was just (going to take) a lot of energy. We knew we could come back. Once we saw we could come back, the energy was high. We just kept going from there."
The junior scored four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and accumulated 116 passing yards with a 50% completion rate (7-for-14). He also tallied eight rushes for 73 yards.
Ali finished with five receptions for 95 yards, a pair of receiving touchdowns, and a defensive touchdown via an interception. Jennings rushed eight times for 126 yards and a score. The junior currently holds offers from Ole Miss, Boston College and Temple, among others.
"Hats off to Cherry Hill West," Pennsauken coach Clinton Tabb said. "They're tougher than they looked on tape. They can run the ball (and) they're gonna win some football games. Hats off to them right away.
"You could tell it was our first game," Tabb added. "We had over 12 penalties. Just shooting ourselves in the foot at the wrong times. They didn't quit. Three minutes left I think we scored three touchdowns. They kept fighting, kept fighting, and hopefully this will propel us to go do some things that we want to do."
Wood-Ridge transfer Gary Rowe powered Cherry Hill West with 97 rushing yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Kevin Rorke ran for a pair of touchdowns and accumulated 123 yards on the ground prior to an injury that sidelined the senior for the remainder of Thursday night's contest.
"We got a little banged up in there, but young guys were trying to give it the best they could," Cherry Hill West coach Justin Arabia said. "We tried to keep rolling with what we were doing. I know these guys resolve. I know that they'll battle back, they'll come back and get a little extra rest and be ready to go for next week. I'm damn proud of them for everything that they put out there tonight."
The Lions fell to 1-1 and will host Paul VI in a WJFL National Division showdown on September 9.
On the contrary, the Indians improved their record to 1-0 and will visit neighboring rival Camden Eastside on September 10.
Pennsauken is hoping its resilience shown against Cherry Hill West will pave the way for success in the future.
"These guys are probably the strongest group we've had in a long time," Tabb said. "They didn't miss any lifts in the summertime, didn't miss any runs. And that's probably why I was really upset. They had been doing everything that was asked of them and it didn't (immediately) translate tonight. And then in the end they kept fighting, they kept clawing. They started poking their chests out and we came out on the other side of it."