East football comes up just short in thrilling game vs. Pemberton

East Cougars Football faced the Pemberton Hornets in a tough match

Eastside Athletics Twitter

East Cougars Football faced the Pemberton Hornets in a tough match

Andrew Abate, Eastside Staff

The Cherry Hill East Cougars were defeated at home by the Pemberton Township High School Hornets on Saturday by a final score of 28-24.

The final result dropped the Cougars record to 0-5 while Pemberton improved to 3-3 on the season.

The action began early with East defensive back Isaac Jean-Baptiste (‘19) scooping up a Pemberton fumble and returning it for a touchdown to open up the scoring. Kicker Ben Greenberg (‘19) missed the extra point, but the Cougars still possessed their first lead of the season, 6-0.

Pemberton responded with multiple long passing plays to get them downfield quickly, and then capped it off with a rush TD from the goal line. The Hornets opted to go for 2, in which quarterback Octaveous Sharkey (‘20) took it himself on a keeper for the 2 point conversion to make it 8-6 late in the first quarter.

East fumbled on the following possession, and Pemberton quickly got the ball back at the Cougar 30 yard line to finish out the first quarter.

After a drive that included two encroachment penalties from East, the Cougars stopped Pemberton on third down to make it fourth down and two. The Hornets, however, continued their aggressive approach to this game by attempting and converting the fourth down. Pemberton running back Desmond Manigault (‘19) ran in for a touchdown shortly thereafter. Pemberton went for two again, but an illegal block in the back nullified the conversion, and the score remained 14-6 in favor of the Hornets.

East fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return to give Pemberton the ball again, but then the Hornets fumbled on a third and ten screen pass, giving the ball right back to the Cougars. This was the first time East had possessed the ball in the second quarter, nearly seven minutes into it.

East running back Dante Gazzola (‘19) took control of the next drive with several successful runs to get them in the red zone late in the first half. The Cougars, however, were unable to punch it into the end zone, and Greenberg missed a 31 yard field goal to end the first half. Pemberton lead 14-6 at halftime.

During the intermission, Cherry Hill East employee Ed Hall was honored for working 25 years of East-related events. He is retiring after this month.

On the first play of the second half, Sharkey threw an interception to East linebacker Nick Gazzola (‘19). On the following drive, the Cougars went for it on fourth and one and drew an encroachment penalty to pick up the first down. Quarterback Mike Wheeler (‘20) then took it himself for a touchdown. The score remained 14-12 after Greenberg missed his second extra point of the game.

Following two great run stuffs by East and a Pemberton false start, the Hornets were in a tough third and twenty, but ran a great passing play to pick it up. On the same drive, however, Pemberton went for it on fourth and inches and got stopped on a running play for a turnover on downs.

In a wild series of events, East fumbled two plays later on the ensuing drive, but defensive back Marc Andre (‘19) picked off Sharkey on the very next play. The third quarter ended with East possessing the ball down 14-12.

East would punt to open the fourth quarter, and a Cougar personal foul put the ball in East territory to open the Pemberton possession. A long pass put the Hornets in the red zone, then a 20 yard passing touchdown with a failed two point conversion made it 20-12 Pemberton.

On the following East possession, they fumbled, but forced a Pemberton fumble three plays later. Wheeler threw an interception on the next play, but it got called back due to a roughing the passer penalty that left Wheeler shaken up. He would have to leave the game, and Nick Gazzola came in to play quarterback in his place.

Nick Gazzola ran for 28 yards on a keeper on his first play as quarterback. Wheeler would re-enter the game a few plays later to drive East all the way downfield. The possession was capped off by a quarterback sneak touchdown with a failed two point conversion to make the score 20-18.

With 2:40 to go in the game, Pemberton recovered the onside kick, but on their first play East linebacker James Roberts (‘19) recovered a fumble and took it back for a go-ahead touchdown. After another failed two point conversion, East lead 24-20 with 2:30 left to play.

Pemberton responded by driving down the field in slightly over a minute for a touchdown and two point conversion. They led 28-24 with 1:24 to go.

East tried to throw downfield to quickly get the touchdown back, but would ultimately fumble. Pemberton knelt on the ball to win 28-24 in what was a thrilling yet heartbreaking game nonetheless.

East will travel to Clearview High School next Friday, October 20, to take on the 0-5 Pioneers.