East Football beats Princeton making it their first win of the season

Cherry Hill East Cougars running out to start their senior day game against Princeton high school.

Contributed by Philadelphia Inquirer

Cherry Hill East Cougar’s running out to start their senior day game against Princeton high school.

Nerve-racking. That is one way to describe the Cougars 28-21 victory over the Princeton Tigers. Coming into Saturday morning, both of these teams were winless but the Cougars were able to turn their fortunes around on senior day.

The Cougar’s defense got off to a very fast start. On the first play from scrimmage, Isaiah Donaldson (25’) got his first career interception to set the Cougars up at the Princeton 35-yard line. On Princeton’s next offensive possession, they drove all the way down to the Cougars 1-yard line but they were stopped when Ethan Haddock (23’) intercepted the quarterback’s pass to give the ball back to the offense. These 2 big defensive plays gave the Cougars a lot of confidence for the rest of the game.

“It was huge”, Coach Daley said after the game. “Our defense did a good job of setting us up in a good position early. Isaiah Donaldson made the pick on the first play of the game which was big for us. However, we need to do a better job of capitalizing when we get those types of plays.”

The Cougar’s offense would eventually capitalize on the next drive. The series started off with a 15-yard facemask penalty to set the Cougars up at their own 20-yard line. Then on 3rd down, quarterback Ben Cohen (24’) launched the ball downfield to Mark Hendri (22’) who made a spectacular diving catch to the Cougars 48-yard line. On the next play, Cohen threw it deep to Haddock who was wide open for a 52-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and the Cougars were leading 7-0.

Cohen, who threw for 232 yards on 10 of 16 passing, felt that it was imperative that the Cougars scored early after many slow starts this season. “I felt that the early score gave the entire team a sense of energy”, Cohen said. “It definitely boosted our confidence for the rest of the game.” 

The defense on the next drive forced a punt so the offense went back to work. The Cougars were set up on the Tigers 26-yard line on 1st and 15. Cohen handed the ball off to Mo Sample (24’) who broke multiple tackles and escaped a pile of Tiger defenders and went all the way into the endzone for a touchdown. It was an amazing run that extended the lead to 14-0.

“It felt good to get out there and score with the boys”, Sample said when talking about his run. “We needed to keep momentum so I put my head down and just ran hard.”

Princeton would score a touchdown of their own to make it a 14-7 game at halftime. This was the first time this season that the Cougars had the lead at the half and they were determined to close the game out. 

The 3rd quarter did not go the Cougar’s way. They opened the half by fumbling on the 3rd play of the drive which gave the Tigers a lot of momentum. They would end up scoring on their next 2 drives and very suddenly, the Cougars were down 21-14. The crowd was shocked as the Cougars were winning for so much of the game.

However, the 4th quarter was when the Cougars turned things back around. The defense started it off by forcing a punt that set the offense up at the Tiger’s 44-yard line. Then on the first play of the drive, Cohen threw a screen pass to Haddock who took it all the way to the house. It was the second time during the game that the two connected for a touchdown. The extra point was no good so the Cougars were still trailing 21-20.

The defense got yet another stop which gave the offense a chance to take the lead. On the 2nd play of the drive, Cohen threw an 18-yard screen pass to Donaldson to set the offense up at the Tiger’s 47-yard line. After a 2 yard loss, Cohen connected with Hendri for an 18-yard pass and the Cougars were really moving the ball well. A few plays later, the Cougars had 1st and goal at the 3 when Cohen ran the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. With the Cougars up 5, they went for the 2-point conversion and Cohen ran it in again on the quarterback draw which made the score 28-21.

The Cougar’s defense needed 1 final stop to win the game. The Tigers completed a 10-yard pass for a first down to start the drive. However, the next 2 plays resulted in incomplete passes which made it 3rd and 10. On the following play, the quarterback rushed up the middle for a gain of 8 which set up 4th and 2 which could decide the game. Then on 4th down, Gabe Cohen (22’) stripped the ball from the quarterback and the Cougars went on to win 28-21.

“Over the last 2 weeks, these guys have shown a lot of fight”, Daley said on the win. “Today we were up early, and then we were down, and we stayed in the game and rallied back and won. “I was telling the team that in my four years here, it’s the first time I think we have overcome a 4th quarter deficit and won the game. We still have a lot of work to do, but the program is heading in the right direction.”

The Cougars are back in action on October 1st at Atlantic City at 6:00. The team will look to win 2 in a row which they have not done since they beat Princeton and Cumberland back in 2019.