Eastern Football dominates Cherry Hill East in home opener

Coming off of a tough loss in their first game, the Eastern Vikings rebounded in a big way.


Andrew Shinkle '22

Eastern’s varsity football team celebrates near the sideline following a touchdown. The Vikings romped their way to a 58-6 victory over Cherry Hill East.

 You didn’t need to remind anyone at Eastern about the home opener. On a calm Friday evening, the Eastern student body was bursting at the seams with enthusiasm; eager to watch their team rebound from a 52-15 blowout at the hands of Holy Spirit. Facing a storied rival in Cherry Hill East, the stage was set for a commanding showing of power.

  It’s safe to say that the Vikings achieved their goal.

  In the first home game of the year, Eastern demolished Cherry Hill East by a score of 58-6 in a thrilling offensive performance.

  Clouds streaked across the dusk September sky as the nearly-sold-out home crowd settled into their seats. From the visiting side, it looked like a sea of midnight; the blackout was in full effect. It had been over eleven months since a varsity football game had been played at McAleer Stadium, and everyone couldn’t be more ready.

 With a jolt, the 2019 Eastern Vikings sprinted out onto the field, and the season was now underway. With five minutes left in the first quarter, Eastern running back Mike Suarez raced into the end zone for a two-yard rushing touchdown. The Vikings’ first scoring play of the season put them ahead early, 6-0. 

  However, a failed fourth down conversion on Eastern’s next drive gave the Cougars possession, and Cherry Hill East running back Michael Wheeler wasn’t about to let the opportunity get away. With a head of steam, Wheeler found a hole in the Vikings’ defense, and sprinted through the uninhabited sea of green for a thrilling 65-yard touchdown. 

  However, those were the only points Cherry Hill East would be able to scratch across in the game, as the ensuing two-point conversion attempt was intercepted. 

  Just thirteen seconds later, Eastern quarterback Connor Stafford completed a pass to wide receiver Justin Moore, and he was off to the races for a 65-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, Stafford and Moore would complete what was arguably the defining play of the game. 

  The Vikings were pinned on their own 7-yard line on a third and long, and Moore caught a short pass from Stafford. Not much seemed to be there, and it seemed that Eastern would have to punt the ball away. To the exhilaration of everyone in the stadium, he pulled off a few jukes and spin moves, and suddenly found himself torching down the field. With an exclamation point, Moore completed the 93-yard touchdown, and Eastern was now leading 18-6. 

  Suarez would drive home another Vikings touchdown with 3:37 left in the second quarter, and Stafford would find tight end Michael Wall to record the two-point conversion. By this point, with Eastern winning 26-6, it was becoming increasingly likely that Eastern would come home with the victory. The enthusiastic student section began jeering “Go home, freshmen!” following Wall’s conversion.

  If the defense didn’t play its role exceptionally well, Eastern could have never won by such a gigantic margin. Linebacker Amiel Davis caught and returned a 36-yard pick-6 in the second quarter, and the Voyager’s own cornerback Allan Belizaire would recover a muffed return on the ensuing kickoff and bring it home to make it 38-6 Eastern by halftime. 

  The second half was more of the same. Suarez would score another rushing touchdown with 10:43 left in the third quarter to make it 44-6, and the Vikings entered cruise control. By the end of the third quarter, most of the varsity players had been rested, and JV players received some time in the spotlight. 

  Sophomore running back Justin Rivera, who rushed for two touchdowns, certainly made his mark on the scorecard. Freshman quarterback Walter Clymer also impressed, showcasing his superb mobility in and out of the pocket with three rushes of ten or more yards. Following a Danny Franseone extra point which made it 58-6, Eastern had scored its 52nd unanswered point of the game. 

  A near-perfect performance from the Vikings’ offense and defense culminated with a fourth-down stop in the Cougars’ final drive, and the game would wrap up with a final score of Eastern 58, Cherry Hill East 6.

  As the final seconds ticked away at McAleer Stadium, the Vikings players hooted and hollered on the sideline, proud of their dominating victory over arch-rival Cherry Hill East. After a sloppy first game, the Vikings rebounded spectacularly, and showed that they are a force to be reckoned with. 

  As with all sports teams, complacency is not an option. Eastern has a few short days to dwell on their performance from their first home game under the lights, but will shift their focus to the next game: a trek to Gloucester County for a showdown with the Minutemen from Washington Township.