After a static two weeks, the Top 10 broke open.
You knew it was going to happen, with Pennsauken visiting Camden Catholic and Hammonton hosting Holy Spirit.
Both those results surprised me, although nothing I saw Friday night at Camden Catholic lessened my opinion of Pennsauken. I still think they are one of the top teams in SJ and a serious Group 4 title contender.
Holy Spirit is a team I can't figure. I suspect coach Chalie Roman feels the same way.
Here's the updated Top 10, as of Sunday, Oct. 23:
Previous ranking in parentheses
1. St. Joseph (1) 6-0
The Wildcats have outscored opponents by 306-16 but that win over Holy Spirit has lost a little luster. St. Joseph scored 44 points in the first quarter against Pleasantville. Forty-four in a quarter? This was one week after they beat Lower Cape May by 70-0. This team needs a challenge. Not sure Bridgeton will supply it, although I hear that team is physically imposing. How good is that Thanksgiving weekend clash with Hammonton starting to look? Next: At Bridgeton (4-2) Friday at 7.
2. Timber Creek (3) 6-0
The Chargers needed a late touchdown by Khalil Pierce to survive Eastern's upset bid with a 13-7 victory. Not a good game for Timber Creek, even though I think Eastern is not a bad team -- Group 4 numbers, Group 4 athletes. But Creek must have been emotionally flat after big win over Woodrow Wilson. This team has plenty of talent. But if they really are No. 2 (and that's what this ranking says right now) they have to play better when they get to the SJ Group 3 tournament. Right now, with Seneca and Highland next on the schedule, it will be a shock if this team doesn't head into the tournament as the 8-0, No. 1 seed. Next: At Seneca (3-4) Friday at 7.
3. Williamstown (4) 6-0
Lots of power points on the line when the Braves travel to Medford. Williamstown beat two other Lenape district teams this season in Lenape and Cherokee. Now they get a shot at the third Group 4 school in the district. One concern: Senior RB/DB Chris Inge suffered a leg injury in Friday night's win over Kingsway. His status is uncertain but he would be a huge loss, both because of his two-way talent and his leadership. Next: At Shawnee (4-2) Friday at 7.
4. Camden Catholic (9) 6-0
Back-to-back sacks by junior linebacker Will Jackson turned the momentum in third quarter of wild win over Pennsauken. One of the best games I've seen in a while. Camden Catholic really showed me something on offense. I knew the Irish were solid on defense and they really settled down after that early burst by Pennsauken and played a good defensive game -- weird but true on a night when the opponent scores 35 and probably should have had over 40. But what stood out, besides Camden Catholic's overall resiliency, was the Irish offensive explosiveness. Pennsauken had no answer for QB Pete Galiano, who was terrific. WR Tom Wescott made three big plays, and RB Jarred Alwan just refused to be denied on that last drive. With Holy Spirit in trouble, this team looms as the heavy favorite right now in NP-2. Next: At No. 9 Moorestown (5-2) Saturday at 2.
5. Pennsauken (2) 5-1
Quarterback Manny Cortez and wide receiver Amar Williams made big play after big play in 42-35 loss to Camden Catholic. Those guys had no business walking off the field on the losing side of the scoreboard. Remarkable play that got lost in the wild night: Cortez scrambling away from Marcus Coleman, who had a fistful of the QB's jersey, and throwing a perfect strike on the run to Williams, who made a sliding catch for 25 yards on a big 3rd-and-12 in the third quarter. And Cortez' fourth-and-10 pass from the 15 was picture-perfect under pressure, and would have been his 5th TD pass if it wasn't dropped in the end zone. Funny, but that game with so many big plays might have been decided by the littlest thing: Pennsauken's failure to convert that extra point after taking a 35-27 lead with less than eight minutes to play. Anthony Sweet appeared to make the extra point twice, but the Indians got called for consecutive penalties. He finally missed the third try from 30 yards away. If Pennsauken makes that point, it's 36-27, a two-score game, and I'm not sure Camden Catholic is able to come back. Next: Home vs. Washington Township (5-1) Saturday at noon.
6. Hammonton (6) 6-0
The run-oriented, conservative Blue Devils are averaging 36.3 points. This team just hit another gear when Holy Spirit made it a close game in the third quarter. This team's schedule is such a bear. Big challenge this week from an AC team that is fighting for its Group 4 playoff life. Then Group 4 Absegami. Then the Group 3 tournament. Hammonton supporters will tell you the Blue Devils' schedule demands make it more difficult for them to gear up for the St. Joseph game on Thanksgiving weekend, as compared to the Wildcats. Plus, they tend to be more drained, physically and emotionally. On paper, they have a point. Next: at Atlantic City (5-1) Friday at 7.
7. Haddonfield (8) 6-0
Tight end/defensive end Alex Walter made plays on both sides of the football in 35-0 win over Paulsboro. This team has that rare look about it: There's size and talent and all that. But these guys are locked in, sensing the potential of a 12-0 season they'll be celebrating in Haddonfield for the rest of their lives. Plus, they want another ride through town on a fire truck. Next: Home vs. Overbrook (2-4) Friday at 7.
8. Millville (10) 6-0
The Thunderbolts woke up in the second half to rally past Lower Cape May. After scoring 49 on Absegami, this team appeared to go flat against a LCM team that lost 70-0 the previous week. Maybe it was just a typical let-down game. It happens. It just can't happen again this time of the year. Next: At St. Augustine Prep (2-4) Friday at 7.
9. Moorestown (NR) 5-2
Senior quarterback Andrew Lisa has 11 touchdown passes and just one interception. Zac Frantz has 28 catches for 407 yards. The Quakers have won three in a row after losses to Timber Creek and Williamstown. This team will be a factor in SJ Group 3. But are they a legitimate contender to win the title? We'll know more after the matchup with Camden Catholic this Saturday. The Irish are big, strong and physical, like Timber Creek and Williamstown. That doesn't appear to bode well for the Quakers. But maybe they're better prepared for the challenge this time around. Next: Home vs. No. 4 Camden Catholic (6-0) Saturday at 2.
10. Triton (NR) 5-1
Grinding out a 13-0 win over a tough opponent such as Bishop Eustace was a good sign for the Mustangs. It's great to score 40 and make a lot of big plays and all that. But there's real value in winning a road game against a difficult opponent in a game that was tied, 0-0, after three quarters. That's pressure football, when everybody knows the first break is likely to decide the game. Great defense led by LB Dan Bekier was the difference against the Crusaders. This team has a good shot at being 7-1 at the SJ Group 4 tournament cutoff. Next: Home vs. Paul VI (2-4) Friday at 7.
Under Consideration (listed alphabetically):
Atlantic City (5-1): Hammonton and Millville the next two weeks. Can the Vikings rise up to the challenge?
Cherokee (4-2): Big win over Shawnee, thanks to a late drive led by soph QB Max Joseph. This team could be 6-2 and dangerous at the start of the Group 4 tournament.
Shawnee (4-2): Renegades will be playing for their tournament lives at home this Friday against Williamstown. Boy, there's no margin for error in Group 4.
Washington Township (5-1): After a bye week, the Minutemen have Pennsauken and Shawnee before the cutoff. Big danger, big opportunity.
-- Phil Anastasia