Football: Picks for 10 games this weekend
Football: Picks for 10 games this weekend
This is a big weekend, with several teams jostling for playoff position and several others fighting for their playoff lives.
Here's an expanded look at 10 big games, plus a preview of the Game of the Week: Pennsauken at Camden Catholic:
Friday at 7
No. 5 Holy Spirit (3-2) at No. 6 Hammonton (5-0): The young Blue Devils have been solid all season. But the Spartans are the key to this game.
Were they mortally wounded for good in that loss to St. Joseph? Can they bounce back? Can they recover their passion and purpose?
From a distance, I didn't like the looks of that game against Mainland -- 14-14 in the fourth quarter before Spirit pulled away for a 28-14 victory. But this game offers the Spartans the opportunity to, "Snap Out of It," as Cher says in Moonstruck. They either get back to business or this season is lost.
Hammonton has an emerging offensive line and depth at running back led by Jordan Brown and the Williams twins. Holy Spirit running backs Donta Pollock and Nigel Jones are on a state-record-setting pace as far as career yardage, with both likely to finish with better than 4,000 yards. The pick: Holy Spirit, 21-17.
Cherokee (3-2) at Shawnee (4-1): The two-time defending South Jersey Group 4 champion Chiefs will be in danger of missing the tournament if they lose this game. Who could have imagined that in August?
Well, maybe P.J. Mehigan and his assistants. I suspect they knew this team might struggle a bit, especially after projected QB Casey Coyle was lost for the season. Cherokee has been getting good work from junior running back Zaire Williams, who has 12 touchdowns.
Shawnee quarterback Jamie Jackopin is coming off his best game of the season. The Renegades will run the ball, and their size and strength up front might be too much for a Cherokee team that is still a little inexperienced and physically immature at some key spots. The pick: Shawnee, 14-7.
Triton (4-1) at Bishop Eustace (3-2): The Mustangs offense faces a big challenge in the Crusaders’ rock-solid defense.
Triton quarterback Brian Keller led a last-minute, game-winning drive against Delsea in his last outing. The Mustangs are a team on a mission, determined to prove they belong in SJ Group 4 playoffs. This is a game they need to win if they want to be considered in the conversation about SJ's best.
Bishop Eustace struggles a bit on offense. But the Crusaders' big shot is that their defense creates lots of opportunities in field position. I'm just not sure they can contain Triton's Josh Woods for 48 minutes. The pick: Triton, 17-7.
Woodrow Wilson (4-1) at Delsea (2-3): These teams split two games last season. Both are coming off tough losses. Something has to give.
Woodrow Wilson might have gained some confidence through its second-half play against No. 3 Timber Creek. The Chargers were up, 20-0, so maybe they geared it down a bit. But I thought the Tigers showed something in those last 24 minutes. Maybe they build on that.
Delsea has had one of those years. Another one slipped away last weekend against Camden Catholic. This is a proud program with tough kids and great coaches. But all that adversity wears on you after a while. The pick: Woodrow Wilson, 20-14.
Lenape (1-4) at Seneca (3-3): Both teams are coming off victories. Both love to run. This game is a deadline-writer's dream.
Lenape’s Trevor Terrell is averaging eight yards a carry. The Indians broke the ice last week and might be ready to make a little bit of a late-season push. The playoffs are gone but they could make for a serious spoiler, plus build something for the future under new coach Tim McAneney and his staff.
Seneca has been up and down. But the Golde Eagles have a bright future, too, with all those juniors on the OL and in the backfield. Junior running back Joey Pawlowski leads the Wing-T attack. With all that running, this game could be over in 90 minutes. The pick: Lenape, 23-17.
Camden (1-4) at Cherry Hill West (0-5): This is a big chance for two struggling teams. Both coaches know it, too.
Camden’s young team is led by freshman quarterback Khalil Williams. The Panthers have just three seniors. They've got freshmen and sophomores all over the lineup.
Cherry Hill West has a top young quarterback in sophomore Rodney Williams. He makes plays. The pick: Cherry Hill West, 19-13.
Collingswood (2-3) at Woodbury (2-3), 10:30: The Panthers rallied for a win over Haddon Township last week. The Thundering Herd gave West Deptford all it could handle.
Woodbury sophomore Jeray Demby is a playmaker. The Thundering Herd still is thinking about the Group 1 playoffs. They will be a tough out in what should be a wide-open tournament, if they can get in. The pick: Woodbury, 22-13.
Haddonfield (5-0) at Paulsboro (5-0), 11: The Red Raiders are tough at home and have a weapon in kicker Mike Maccarone.
Haddonfield is every bit a Group 2 power. They've got a lot of size along with skill and confidence. QB Dan Ciemniecki is making plays every week. But I think the defense, led by LBs Matt Bhaya, Ron Perkins and Carson Stack, that could be the key in this game. I see field positon being a problem for the Red Raiders all afternoon. That’s tough duty for a Group 1 team. The pick: Haddonfield, 28-13.
Red Lion Christian, Del. (2-4) at Penns Grove (4-1). Red Lion is led by freshman quarterback David Sills, who committed to USC as a seventh-grader. The team plays a national-caliber schedule and has those kinds of athletes. So never mind the record.
Penns Grove rightly sees this game as a better way to prepare for the playoffs than beating a struggling Group 1 program by 60. I salute coach Kemp Carr and the adminstration for scheduling this game. It might hurt their record and their seeding in the sectional tournament. But if Penss Grove wins its first-ever Group 1 title, it will be in part because of the decision to play this game and step up in competition. Carr says QB Nick Elmer, who has been battling an ankle injury, is "ready to go." The pick: Red Lion, 31-20.
Paul VI (2-3) at Winslow (1-5): The visiting Eagles will be without senior running back Johnel Anderson, who has a sprained foot. It's been one thing after another with this team this season, from transfers to injuries to lots of little issues that tend to arise in the wake of tough losses. One of those years, like at Delsea.
Winslow Township still is struggling to find its footing under new coach Calvin Thompson. He's a proven winner so maybe it's just a matter of time. The pick: Paul VI, 19-13.
Bonus pick: Pennsauken (5-0) at Camden Catholic (5-0), Friday at 7: This is the Game of the Week.
Pennsauken's high-powered offense is averaging 36.4 points. Camden Catholic's sturdy defense is allowing 3.8 points per game.
That's the matchup on the Irish's artificial turf.
Pennsauken QB Manny Cortez is playing with a lot of confidence and he has a ton of weapons. The Indians spread you out and let Cortez make plays with his arm or feet -- or both. It's worked great so far.
Camden Catholic has a top defense and a defensive-minded coach in Gil Brooks. I was at their practice the other day and could see the toughness that's being created by all those drills, all that intensity in the workouts. This is an emerging power. Emerging? Maybe the Irish are there already.
Still, I like the Indians in this game. Cool, clear night. Fast track. I think that offense makes a play or two that makes the difference. The pick: Pennsauken, 20-14.
-- Phil Anastasia