Here's a closer look, with predictions, at 10 top games this weekend.
The first eight games are Friday night at 7:
Absegami (2-2) at Millville (4-0): This game will show a lot about the surprising Thunderbolts, because the Braves are a wild loss at Atlantic City away from being 3-1 and in the thick of everything -- the Cape American race and the SJ Group 4 race. They still could be a big factor, especially if they win this game.
Absegami has a big-time playmaker at quarterback in junior Rashad Kinlaw. The Braves took their lumps against Holy Spirit but they've been right there in every other game.
Millville runs the ball with Alquann Jones and a tough offensive line led by Nick Tyndal, Jimmy Cessna and Christopher Whitelam. This is a key game for the Thunderbolts. With Lower Cape May and St. Augustine next on the schedule, Millville could be 7-0 heading into a showdown with Atlantic City on Nov. 4. But the Thunderbolts need to get this one. The pick: Millville, 23-20.
Mainland (2-2) at Holy Spirit (2-2): The Mustangs have rallied from a slow start that probably was related to the tragedy that rocked the program in August. They have a top quarterback in Tom Bradway and a weapon in kicker Jim Cooper, plus several other solid players and good coaching.
Holy Spirit had a week to lick its wounds after a shocking loss to St. Joseph in an Oct. 1 battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in South Jersey. It was an interesting time for a bye, since the Spartans probably had to stew in frustration for a while. But maybe getting away for a bit helped these guys to re-set and re-focus. Senior leaders such as Dan Mastromatteo, Nigel Jones and Danta Pollock have to get this team back down to business. The pick: Holy Spirit, 27-10.
Kingsway (3-2) at Moorestown (3-2): One of these teams will emerge with a 4-2 record and a clear shot at the South Jersey Group 3 tournament. The other will be in deep trouble.
Kingsway has a good ground game with a bevy of backs including Emilio Irving and a playmaker at quarterback in Tyler Barnholt. He's coming off a strong game against Cumberland -- two TD passes and a rushing TD.
Moorestown’s top threat has been running back Delaney Wallace, who leads the team in rushing (38 carries, 200 yards, four touchdowns) and receiving (12 catches, 107 yards). The Quakers still haven't found their stride based on preseason expectations, but maybe those were unfair. This team has a talented quarterback in Andrew Lisa, and lots of playmakers besides Wallace in guys such as Zac Frantz, Alex Martinelli and others. With Highland next on the schedule, Moorestown could be 5-2 and riding some momentum heading into a WJFL Constitution Division showdown with Camden Catholic on Oct. 29. The pick: Moorestown, 26-16.
Cherry Hill East (3-2) at Williamstown (4-0): The Cougars hope to bounce back from that devastating loss to Shawnee. The Braves are coming off a bye week.
Cherry Hill East running back Brian Regan has 752 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jesse Gold and Taj Frazier have made big plays in the passing game. I really liked the work of those interior defensive linemen -- Frantz Feliz, Isaiah Milligan-Smith and Carmen DiTore -- against Shawnee. What hurt the Cougars in that game was their pass defense in the last drive -- no rush and not enough coverage.
Williamstown’s trio of top backs features Marques Little (392 yards, five touchdowns), John Chamberlin (334 yards, eight touchdowns) and Chris Inge (480 yards, four touchdowns). The best thing about the Braves might be their defense, led by senior DT Fidel Okoye, senior LB Rashon Pleasents and junior LB Buddy Brown. And now they add LB Marcus Riley, a transfer from Paul VI who becomes eligible this week. This team has not let up all season. They can't afford to go flat against the Cougars, who are battled tested and dangerous. The pick: Williamstown, 27-10.
Camden Catholic (4-0) at Delsea (2-3): This might be the Crusaders’ last chance of salvage what had been a season of high expectations.
Who knows what went wrong? The injury to C/DT Joe Moffa? Too much on inexperienced junior QB Josh Awotunde? This, that, the other? Even with that opening loss to Kingsway and that last-second, 20-19 loss to Triton last week, Delsea can still make something of this season. A win here could propel the Crusaders into the SJ Group 3 playoffs as a serious darkhorse contender. But a loss probably crushes those hopes.
The Irish have a potent ground game led by Mike Blandon (313 yards, four touchdowns) and Jarred Alwan (285 yards, six touchowns) and a top quarterback in Pete Galiano. I loved the Camden Catholic defense in a 40-0 win over Seneca. And since Delsea runs a Wing-T too, the Irish might be able to bottle up the Crusaders behind LBs such as Alwan, Sean Collins and Will Jackson (all juniors, by the way). The pick: Camden Catholic, 17-13.
Eastern (1-4) at Paul VI (2-2): The Vikings are dangerous despite their record with sophomore quarterback Tom Flacco and senior wide-out Darius Merriweather. Sophomore T.J. Gardner is emerging as a big-play man, with long returns for TDs the last two weeks.
Paul VI is coming off a bye following a 7-0 win over Bishop Eustace. The Eagles are a little under the radar after that slow start but that win over Eustace is looking pretty good. That's a solid Eustace team. Running backs Johnell Anderson (373 yards, four touchdowns) and Matt Barnett (12 carries, 132 yards) lead the way for the Paul VI offense. The pick: Paul VI, 20-14.
Washington Township (4-1) at Clearview (1-4): This is a tricky game for the Minutemen, who have been playing surprisingly well and can’t afford to get complacent. That quick of a trip from underdogs to favorites can make teams a little light-headed. Coach Mark Wechter and his assistants were working against that this week.
Clearview has a top back in Connor Donahue (84 carries, 556 yards, four touchdowns) and a bunch of tough kids. It's a rivalry game for the Pioneers, a battle of Gloucester County Group 4 teams. These guys know each other. Clearview will battle.
Washington Township quarterback Tom Hildebrand has passed for 550 yards and run for 291, with six touchdowns. John Montesjardi is another threat on the ground. Junior DJ Brown has led the defense and two-way lineman Anthony Costa has been a big factor for the Minutemen. The pick: Washington Township, 27-13.
Haddon Township (1-3) at Collingswood (1-3): Here are two rebuilding programs with first-year coaches in Dave Dale at HT and Jack McConnell at Collingswood. Here's the thing about this game: Both coaches look at this matchup and say, "That's one we can win." Plus, there’s a big difference between 2-3 and 1-4, so both teams will play with great urgency.
The Hawks are led by QB Jake Campbell. They also have a talented young playmaker in Casey Boyle. Alex Brown and Earl Whaley are among the top players for Collingswood, which is looking to bounce back from a 14-12 loss to Overbrook. The Panthers need to get their offense in gear as they've scored just 30 points all season. The pick: Haddon Township, 13-12.
West Deptford (3-1) at Woodbury (2-2), Saturday at 10:30: The Eagles showed something by bouncing back from that loss to Haddonfield and handling Haddon Heights. The Thundering Herd have won two in a row after a slow start.
West Deptford’s balanced ground game features junior halfback Josh Cornelius and sophomore fullback Gerald Towns. I think this team is going to get better and better and will be a handful in the SJ Group 2 playoffs. There are some young players, especially a talented guy such as Towns, who are going to grow from experience and good coaching.
Woodbury junior quarterback Anthony Averett is a threat on every play. And the Thundering Herd have other playmakers such as speedy Darrell Bush. The problem is up front, where Woodbury has some serious inexperience. I mean, like never-played-football-before inexperience. If Zac Valentine and his coaches can solidify those lines, this team will be dangerous in SJ Group 1. The pick: West Deptford, 27-13.
Lenape (0-4) at Winslow Township (1-4), Saturday at 1:30: Two teams with first-year coaches are looking to create some momentum.
Lenape has been in every game. Even in that loss to Williamstown, the Indians were right there for a half. But new coach Tim McAneney's team just has not been able to finish the deal. Lenape’s Corey Jett is a playmaker at quarterback.
Winslow Township’s Billy Johnson can go the distance every time he touches the ball and there are signs the Eagles are starting to get with new coach Calvin Thompson's program. But Lenape is overdue. The pick: Lenape, 20-13.
Bonus pick: Woodrow Wilson (4-0) at Timber Creek (4-0), Friday at 7: This is my game of the week.
These teams have history. WW still is smarting from last year, when TC rallied from a 25-6 deficit with 26 unanswered points for a 32-25 win.
QB Aaron Spencer, WR TJ Chambliss and RB Anthony Haynes lead WW. I like this team, with lots of seniors and lots of talent. No matter what happens Friday night, WW will be back for more in the SJ Group 3 tournament.
I just think TC is playing at a higher level right now. The Chargers could hit the skids at some point. There's no guarantee they'll be playing this well in November and early December, if they get there. But that defense -- wow. DT Greg Webb (10 offers, including Tennessee and Penn State). DE Dajaun Drennon (five offers, including Penn State and Iowa). LB Quanzell Lambert (offers from everybody, including Alabama and Oklahoma).
I think that defense creates too much disruption for WW's front line. Disruption equals turnovers. The pick: Timber Creek, 19-13.
-- Phil Anastasia