A team that everyone counted out heading into the playoffs. That had to face the top three seeded teams in the bracket. That faced a 24–0 deficit in the state semifinals before storming back to win 28–24. Sounds like something out of a Disney movie. It’s actually the story of the Shawnee High School Renegade football team and its path to a Group IV state championship.
The sixth-seeded Renegades defeated the top-seeded Chargers of Timber Creek, 31–22, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV final on a frigid Dec 7 night at Rowan University. The win capped one of the unlikeliest championship runs in state history.
“This team is special because, even after losses, they kept their work ethic up and their appreciation for the game,” head coach Tim Gushue said. “They believed in one another and they knew they could do it.”
After opening the season 3–3, the Renegades went on a six-game winning streak to finish the season 9–3. Shawnee’s 4–1 division record tied it for the West Jersey Football League National Division title with Kingsway.
“We talked about making each game a playoff game and taking it one game at a time, one play at a time,’’ Gushue said. “We told the guys not to worry about the big picture, but to do their job to the best of their ability. Keep believing and good things will happen when you do those things.’’
Throughout the six-game winning streak, Shawnee defeated its opponents by an average score of 27–11.
Third-seeded Hammonton High School provided the first challenge for the Renegades, as a field goal proved to be the difference with Shawnee winning, 10–7. That sent the Renegades to the №2 seed, Toms River High School South. Despite trailing 24–0 in the second quarter, Shawnee scored 28 unanswered points to steal the victory away from the Indians.
“That was an incredible effort,” Gushue said. “It spoke to the toughness of our team.”
In the championship game, the Renegades took down two-time defending sectional champion Timber Creek, regarded as one of the top teams in South Jersey. The sectional title was Shawnee’s fifth in school history.
“We were fortunate enough to have some great young men. Without those players and without their dedication, hard work and perseverance, none of this is ever possible,’’ Gushue said.