Sunday, December 21, 2014

Football: New Top 10

Football: New Top 10

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By Phil Anastasia

Camden Catholic made the biggest move of a pretty stable week, jumping from No. 9 to No. 7 on the basis of a 28-21 win over Pope John XXIII in N-P 3 play on Saturday.

Eastern entered the rankings at No. 9, replacing then-No. 6 Washington Township. The Vikings beat TR North in the SJ 5 playoffs, while WT lost to Southern in the same tournament.

No. 2 Williamstown and No. 5 AC took steps toward a semifinal showdown in SJ 5, although both must first deal with tough road games against quality opponents on Thanksgiving morning.

Here's the new Top 10, as of Sunday, Nov. 18, with previous ranking in parentheses

1. St. Joseph (1) 8-0

Thanks to the storm and a bye in the first-round of the Non-Public 1 playoffs, the Wildcats will play two games between Oct. 27 and Dec. 1. They've been idle since a Nov. 2 win over Mainland on a weekend when most of the state's football teams had off because of Hurricane Sandy. SJ has won two in a row against Hammonton by a combined 52-11. This year's game is a little different in that it will be played on Wednesday night. Given the quality of competition in the NP 1 field, the cross-town Blue Devils likely are the only thing standing in the Wildcats' way to another undefeated season and the stretching of the winning streak to 29 games. Next: at Hammonton (4-5) Wednesday at 7.

2. Williamstown (2) 9-0

The Braves got great work from their offensive line in a 41-6 victory over Millville in S.J. 5 play on Friday. It's hard to overstate how important that win was for Williamstown, which had struggled in the playoffs in the past. Great work by underrated senior RB/DB Kali Boyce, who does a lot of little things for Williamstown. If this team gets to 12-0, the Braves will have an argument for the No. 1 spot, because they will have beaten Millville and Atlantic City -- two teams that St. Joe's also defeated -- while also going undefeated in WJFL American play. But that's down the road. Big challenge this week as WT can grab a share of WJFL American title and cap a strong season with an upset of their fierce rivals. Next: At Washington Township (7-2) Thursday at 10.

3. Timber Creek (3) 7-2

Junior quarterback Dan Williams passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-6 victory over Hammonton in S.J. 4 play on Friday night. Williams' emergence has solidifed an unsettled QB position. Triton has given Timber Creek fits on Thanksgiving in recent seasons but the Mustangs have been struggling of late. TC is set up for a strong run to another sectional title, especially the way that defense is playing. It seems like a long time ago when TC lost to Camden Catholic on opening night. Actually, it was a long time ago. Next: At Triton (3-6) Thursday at 10.

4. Delsea (4) 9-1

With no Thanksgiving weekend game, the Crusaders have a bye until the second round of the S.J. 3 tournament. Hard to get a good read on this team. Good ground game, solid OL play -- typical Delsea. Defense has been pretty steady since the first few weeks. The schedule has not be particularly challenging as Delsea has just one victory over a team with a winning record. But that 21-19 win over Kingsway is looking better and better as the Dragons are a legit darkhorse in SJ 4. Delsea can only play who is lined up across the field. They've taken care of business without a whole lot of style points. Next: Home vs. Bridgeton (6-4) in S.J. 3 tournament Nov. 30 at 7.

5. Atlantic City (5) 7-2

The Vikings' remarkable comeback from a 30-13 deficit in a 34-30 victory over Absegami on Friday night was fueled by quarterback Jarren McBryde, who passed for 314 yards and ran for 98. This team is the feel-good story of the season, considering how many players were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Coach Thomas Kelly told the AC Press: "We have a million excuses. We don't use them." Two huge games on the horizon: Thanksgiving morning at rival Holy Spirit in a battle of hot teams and ancient rivals and Nov. 30 at No. 2 Williamstown in SJ 5 semifinals. Next: At No. 8 Holy Spirit (6-3) Thursday at 10.

6. West Deptford (7) 9-0

The Eagles are 27-5 in S.J. 2 tournament play since 2002. More great work from that Wing T offense and junior FB Gerald Owens and senior RB Connor Smith in 31-7 win over Sterling. The Eagles defense has really settled down since mid-season, allowing 37 points, total, in last five games. Always a big game and big crowd when the Eagles host the Red Raiders on Friday after Thanksgiving -- it's the only game in town. In Kevin Harvey's junior year at Paulsboro, there must have been 7,000 people at WD that night. This year's game lacks that kind of draw, but both teams are alive in playoffs and it should be a good one. Next: Home vs. Paulsboro (7-2) Friday at 7.

7. Camden Catholic (9) 7-2

The Irish have scored 105 points in a three-game winning streak, including a 28-21 victory over Pope John XXIII in the Non-Public 3 playoffs on Saturday. This team has quietly worked its way back into the Top 7. That loss to Seneca hurts a bit, but take a hard look at the Golden Eagles' season. That's a tough team. Big challenge for CC Wednesday night at PVI. These are fierce rivals and PVI can stamp an exclamation point on a bounce-back season with a win. Add in all the alumni in the stands as well as the ongoing battle to attract top youth players and their parents, and this is a significant event for both programs. Next: At Paul VI (5-4) Wednesday at 7.

8. Holy Spirit (8) 6-3

The Spartans have won four in a row, allowing a total of 20 points. The schedule has lightened up a bit -- that win over EHT doesn't look so hot now that Cherokee manhandled the Eagles -- but HS has a serious defense and is battle tested. That shutout of Absegami remains impressive. Big test for that HS defense Thanksgiving morning against an AC team that is playing high-level football right now. The Vikings' offense has playmakers all over the field. Next: Home vs. No. 5 Atlantic City (7-2) Thursday at 10.

9. Eastern (NR) 7-3

Junior quarterback Tom Flacco passed for 378 yards and five touchdowns and senior all-purpose player Eli Woodard caught seven passes for 157 yards and ran for two touchdowns in a 41-38 victory over Toms River North in S.J. 5 play on Friday night. The Vikings don't play Thanksgiving anymore so they have a bye until the second round in SJ 5, when they'll host a Southern team that beat Washington Twp. by 33-32 on Friday night. Sounds like another shootout. Next: Home vs. Southern (7-2) in the S.J. 5 semifinals Nov. 30 at 7.

10. Penns Grove (10) 9-0

The Red Devils have pitched six straight shutouts, outscoring opponents by 326-0. For the season, they have outscored opponents, 472-26. SJ record for points by a team in a season is 517 by West Deptford in 2011. PG is on pace to shatter that mark and could approach 600 -- although the Red Devils will face sturdy defenses against Paulsboro in SJ 1 semis and against either Glassboro or Woodbury in SJ 1 finals, if they make it that far. Junior RB Anthony Robertson ran for 4 TDs in a 64-0 win over Audubon in SJ 1 on Saturday. That was PG's fourth shutout in which the Red Devils scored 60 or more. That's astounding. QB Nick Elmer continues to drive this team to the best season in PG history. Next: Home vs. Pennsville (4-5) Thursday at 10:30.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically):

Kingsway (6-3): What a game for junior RB Ray Lawry in 52-47 win over Moorestown in SJ 4: 5 TDs, including punt return and kickoff return for scores. The next day, he went to Penn State for an unofficial visit. Next: at Clearview (5-4) Thursday at 10:30.

Shawnee (6-3): Renegades busted loose in second half of big win over Clearview in SJ 4 Friday night. Tough game against surging Lenape, which has won three in a row, on Thanksgiving. Next: Home vs. Lenape (3-6) Thursday at 11.

Washington Township (7-2): In 2011, WT lost to Millville 42-41 in SJ 4 on a failed two-point covnersion. On Friday night, WT lost to Southern 33-32 in SJ 5 on a blocked extra point. The Minutemen sure give their fans their money's worth. Next: Home vs. No. 2 Williamstown (9-0) Thursday at 10.

In the mix:

Absegami (5-4): Senior RB Tyler Bing nearly carried the Braves to a huge win over AC on Friday night. Next: at Oakcrest Thursday at 10.

Cedar Creek (9-0): Damon Mitchell and Gary Melton Jr. are big-time playmakers. Next: Home vs. St. Augustine (7-2) Thursday at 10.

Delran (9-0): Bears have a strong running game led by Mark Jukic and an underrated defense. Next: At Cinnaminson (5-4) Thursday at 10:30.

Burlington Twp. (8-1): Mike Thomas' versatility now includes throwing TD passes in playoff games. Next: at Rancocas Valley (5-4) Thursday at 11.

Woodbury (8-1): Thundering Herd held Wildwood's Wesley Hills to 29 yards on 30 carries Saturday. Next: Home vs. Gateway Thursday at 10:30.

Glassboro (8-1): Sophomore Juwan Johnson returned another INT for TD against Pennsville -- his fourth in last two games against Eagles. Next: Home vs. Deptford (4-5) Thursday at 10.

Cherokee (5-4): Big win over EHT in consolations. Watch these guys in 2013. Next: Home vs. Seneca (4-5) Thursday at 11.

St. Augustine Prep (7-2): Hermits acquitted themselves well in loss to national power Don Bosco Prep. A lot on the line in season finale. Next: At Cedar Creek (9-0) Thursday at 10.

Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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About this blog
Born and raised in South Jersey, Phil Anastasia prefers standing on the sidelines at high school football games on Friday nights to sitting in the press box at Eagles games on Sunday afternoons. He’s a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in English. Reach Phil at panastasia@phillynews.com.

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