Shawnee earns a victory over Cherokee on Friday night. The Renegades topped the Chiefs, 17-6, at the William H. Foltz Stadium. Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Their stomachs could be on the verge of explosion, but neither Tom nor Matt Papa will budge when they’re at the dinner table.
Pizza, chicken parmesan, it doesn’t matter. The fraternal twins are determined to prove to the other they can eat more.
“We’re not going to give up,” Tom said. “Our uncle makes these waffles, we’re trying to compete who can eat the most at a time. We get to 10 or 12 and we’re like sitting there, oh my god, but we don’t want to give up.”
Competition brings out the best in the Shawnee High School seniors, and a new showdown has emerged this season.
Tom recovered a fumble right near the goal line last week for an easy touchdown in a win over Rancocas Valley, but Matt got the upper hand Friday, returning a strip by Cole Catalano 75 yards to pay dirt during a 17-6 triumph over Cherokee at William H. Foltz Stadium.
“It was always eating at me,” Matt said of Tom’s score from last week. “I always want to one up my brother, so picking it up and running it felt great, scoring for the team.”
Tom, who has the faster 40 time of the two, was impressed with his brother’s speed on the TD.
“When he’s running scared, he runs fast,” he said with a laugh.
The jokes are just brotherly love though. The two always have each other’s back.
“At the end of the day it’s another touchdown for the Papa household,” said Tom, who had a fourth-quarter sack in the triumph. “It benefited the team and we love it.”
Head coach Tim Gushue gushes over the twins whenever he can.
“They are just the hardest working guys,” he said. “I mean, our whole team is, but Tommy and Matt, they’re really quiet, they’re humble to a fault and really, they could walk around with their chest out because they’re playmakers. They’re game changers.”
Constantly pushing each other tends to do that.
In the weight room, Tom leads the way, but Matt made a big push in the winter to catch up.
When it comes to other sports, Matt has the edge – he’s the pickup basketball king between the two.
And when it comes to food?
“It’s usually a tie,” Matt said.
As far as the latest competition, both brothers admit Matt has the lead with his latest touchdown.
“I ran for like forever,” Matt said.
That just means opponents better pay attention to No. 10 moving forward. Tom, who’s older by a minute, isn’t just trying to help his team win now. He wants to get back on the plus side of his brother.
Frigiola seals it
Shawnee’s pass defense didn’t have the best night, but it made two huge plays in key situations.
Safety Jason Blemlek had an interception on the Renegades’ own 5-yard line when the Chiefs were driving and up 6-0 in the second quarter, and Dom Frigiola made one at the 9 in the final minutes to seal the triumph.
“Actually, my spot’s the flat, but they ran three verts, so I just dropped with him and I was lucky enough to cut inside,” Frigiola said.
Cherokee’s passing game was very effective otherwise as quarterback Billy Osborn competed 15-of-22 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown.
“Their quarterback played well,” Gushue said. “I thought he had a great night. Some of the throws on the outside, my coaches are getting worked up, I’m like listen, that’s a great throw. Nobody defends that. … It was super to see us just hang in, hang in.”
► Shawnee quarterback Matt Welsey had a big night himself, completing 11-of-13 passes for 150 yards, and in the fourth quarter he had four runs for 47 yards, which helped put the game away.
“He’s so savvy and his football IQ is so good,” Gushue said.
Frigiola led the receivers, catching five passes for 70 yards.
► Shawnee kicker Oliver Stern had one of the plays of the night when he knocked in a 33-yard field goal with 4:44 left to make it 17-6.
“That was absolutely huge,” Gushue said.
► Shawnee’s other score was a 5-yard touchdown run by Jake Barnett in the second quarter.
► Cherokee opened the scoring with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Osborn to Zach Litty.
“I wish we could go against these guys every game this season. I’m pretty sure they feel the same way. They’re a great team. I like to think we’re a great team. This atmosphere, you can’t beat it. This field, it’s probably the best in the state. It’s awesome. Their students care, obviously ours care, it doesn’t get better than this. It means so much. All week, a lot of buildup in school, so much buzz and just to come out and execute, I know we’re going to have a good time tonight for sure with all the guys.”
– Frigiola on what the win meant to him.
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Josh Friedman has produced award-winning South Jersey sports coverage for the Courier Post and The Daily Journal for more than a decade. If you have or know of an interesting story to tell, reach out on Twitter at @JFriedman57 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism with a Courier Post subscription.