By AUBRIE GEORGE
It was a banner year for the Cherokee Chiefs varsity football team — their second consecutive run as state champs and their first undefeated season in 25 years.
Their most recent 33–6 state championship win over Oakcrest gave the Chiefs the South Jersey Group 4 title and ended their first perfect season since 1985.
The Chiefs went into the state championship game as West Jersey Football Conference American Division Champs with an undefeated record.
Since their home opener at Lenape High School, the Chiefs shot down all 12 of the opponents they went up against, marking the first 12-game winning streak in Cherokee High School history.
Head Coach PJ Mehigan has coached the team for nine years and was one time a Cherokee player himself. He attributed a season of success to the players’ talent, work ethic, and commitment to practice.
“I think we had a really good group of players, first and foremost,” Mehigan said. “They’re not only a talented group, they’re also very hard working.”
So much talent in one place often causes problems for teams, but not for the Chiefs. Mehigan said players didn’t let individual accomplishments or goals go to their heads. Instead, they remained focused on a team effort to win.
“When you have a collection of talent like we had, sometimes you run into egos or selfishness, and we didn’t have any of that,” Mehigan said. “These guys didn’t care about their own stats, they just wanted to win.”
Win is exactly what they did all the way to the state championships, bringing home their second state title in two years. Last year, the Chiefs ended an 11–1 season in a state championship win over Egg Harbor Township. Their only loss last season came from a 14 to 7 defeat from Seneca on Thanksgiving.
Mehigan said he saw the potential for the Chiefs to go all the way mid-season when games against tough opponents produced hard-earned victories.
Of note, he said the team’s 27–7 win over number 3 ranked Williamstown and a 29–15 win over rival Lenape Regional High School district team Shawnee, also a playoff team, were indicators that the team was headed toward success.
“Those two games, mid-season, really give us an indication that we had the potential to do really well,” Mehigan said.