Friday, December 26, 2014

Football: Early line on some big games this weekend

It's getting to be that time with regard to the playoffs. Power points are in the air.

Football: Early line on some big games this weekend

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It's getting to be that time with regard to the playoffs. Power points are in the air.

There are several big games this weekend that will go a long way toward determining who's in, who's out, and who's seeded where.

Here's an early look at a few:

Williamstown (6-0) at Shawnee (4-2). The Renegades might be playing for their playoff lives although there's a chance they could get in at 5-3 if they beat Washington Twp. next week. Shawnee is coming off a 21-17 loss to Cherokee in a game that wasn't decided until the final minute. The Renegades are solid but they might be starting to feel the absence of injured seniors OL Tom Smith and RB/DB Kyle Wigley. They need to slow this game down, work field position and keep Williamstown's big plays to a minimum. Easier said than done. Williamstown has injury issues of its own as senior RB/DB Chris Inge is out for the year with an ACL tear in his left knee. The Braves have a potent offense with sophomore RBs John Chamberlin and Marques Little as well as senior QB Dan Collins. But the strength of this team is a speedy, athletic defense led by OLBs Rashon Pleasents and Buddy Brown as well as DLs Fidel Okoye and Marcus Riley. This could be a tough matchup for Shawnee on that fast artificial turf.

Mainland (3-3) at Absegami (3-3): Mainland is a team for which  everybody is rooting after tragedy hit the Mustangs in August, when four players were killed in an auto accident. They started slowly, not surprisingly, but now are in position to qualify in SJ 3 if they win out. They'll get a lot of power points by beating a Group 4 team with 3 wins. Junior Tom Bradway is a talented QB and the Mustangs might have SJ's best kicker in Jim Cooper. Absegami is a long-shot to make the SJ 4 playoffs but a 5-3 team might get in. The Braves have a top QB in junior Rashad Kinlaw.

St. Joseph (6-0) at Bridgeton (4-2): You have to figure the Wildcats will roll again but maybe they'll get more of a challenge than the last two weeks (70-0 against LCM, and 44 points in the first quarter against Pleasantville). Check that. They have to get more of a challenge. Bridgeton is big and strong for a Group 2 team. They could be a factor in that tournament, and this game will only help them down the line if they battle St. Joe's for 48 minutes.

Sterling (3-3) at Haddon Heights (5-1): The Silver Knights are hoping to get into the SJ 2 tournament in their first season under new coach Clint Wiley. It might still be a long shot but they certainly need to upset the Garnets. Haddon Heights is playing for a good seed in the SJ 1 tournament. Beating a 3-win Group 2 team will help. HH's offense has been potent behind QB Nick Lundholm and RB Brandon Joyner. But Sterling has been playing some sturdy defense at times. This could be a good Colonial Conference game.

Pennsville (6-0) at Glassboro (5-1): These are the top two seeds, right now, in SJ 1. The winner likely will be the No. 1 seed when the tournament starts. That's amazing, if it's Glassboro, if you were there opening day and saw the Bulldogs lose five fumbles in 54-0 loss to Penns Grove. But I remember thinking that day that Glassboro would be 7-1 at the cutoff. The Bulldogs have rallied behind junior RB Corey Clement, who knows how to get in the end zone. Pennsville has a top passing game with sophomore QB Dylan Cummings and two top senior WRS in Colton Newsome and Ryan Hawthorne. This could be a big-time shootout, and maybe a preview of the final -- although Penns Grove and Paulsboro might have something to say about that.

Hammonton (6-0) at Atlantic City (5-1): Big power points on the line here. The Blue Devils still have a chance to pass Timber Creek for No. 1 seed in SJ 3, although there isn't much difference any more between No. 1 and No. 2 since the title game will be at a neutral site at Rowan. Hammonton's young line is getting better and better, and RB Russell Forchion has made a major impact. AC has a talented all-purpose player in Radi Tolbert. The Vikings have Hammonton and Millville the next two weeks, so they'll get the chance to prove they belong in the SJ 4 tournament.

CHE East (3-3) at Lenape (2-4): Interesting game between a pair of Group 4 teams. If CHE can win out -- which also means beating Cherokee next week -- they might be able to slip into SJ 4 tournament at 5-3. But they would need help. Still, this is a game that's going to go a long way toward defining the season for both of these teams. CHE has lost tough games to tough opponents and so has Lenape. Now they both have a chance to beat a team in a similar situation.  Lenape has won two in a row after an 0-2 start behind RB Trevor Terrell. CHE has been off since an Oct. 14 loss at Williamstown, which was the Cougars' third in a row.

Washington Twp. (5-1) at Pennsauken (5-1), Saturday at noon: Can the Indians bounce back from a devastating loss to Camden Catholic? That's really the key to this game, although Washington Township has been one of the surprise teams of the season. But with Pennsauken and Shawnee before the cutoff, the Minutemen will have to continue to play well to get into the SJ 4 tournament. Pennsauken's players probably feel like they let that game get away in that 42-35 loss to CC. Hey, they've got a point. But it's gone. As Pennsauken coach Clint Tabb said after the game, all their goals -- winning a division title, which they've already done; and winning the SJ 4 title -- are still within their reach. Everybody wants 12-0. But it rarely happens. WT has been off since Oct. 14. That win over Cherokee looks bettter and better, too, since the Chiefs beat Shawnee to get to 4-2 and into the SJ 4 mix. Bad weather could help WT. If it's cold, rainy and windy, the elements could impact Pennsauken's passing attack.

Burlington Twp. (5-2) at Pemberton (4-2), Saturday at 1:30: The Hornets are a darkhorse in SJ 2. But they'll get a lot of power points and establish themselves as a big threat if they can handle the Falcons. BT is in CJ 3, and should qualify no matter what. But this is their last game before the cutoff and will have a major impact on their seed. BT has been getting great work from QB Brian Verbitski as well as OL/DL John Ferrante, a North Carolina commit.

Camden Catholic (6-0) at Moorestown (5-2), Saturday at 2: This is the Quakers last game before the cutoff. They're probably going to make the SJ 3 field anyway but this game will go a long way toward defining this team. They also can win the WJFL Constitution title. CC is a big, strong team, esepecially up front and at LB and RB. That's been trouble for Moorestown earlier in the season against Timber Creek and Williamstown. Quakers coach Russ Horton thinks his team gained valuable lessons from those losses. We'll see. It's a tough matchup on paper because CC is so physical. Plus, the weather could favor the Irish. But this is a bit of a last stand for Moorestown. This team was supposed to be something special this season and this is a great chance to get back in that conversation. Another factor to consider: Will CC have an emotional letdown after that wild victory over Pennsauken? I think this has a chance to be an interesting game.

-- Phil Anastasia

 

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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.

Phil Anastasia Inquirer Columnist
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