Football: New Top 10
Football: New Top 10
This was a wild week in SJ football but the Top 10 held steady.
What could have changed? I thought about moving up Hammonton, but the Blue Devils really couldn't jump ahead of Atlantic City because the Vikings beat them head-to-head two weeks ago.
AC was the only Top 10 team to lose. But the Vikings went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Millville, at Millville. That wasn't a game that merited a drop in the rankings, even though the Vikings are kicking themselves over turnovers.
Here's the new Top 10, which looks just like the old Top 10, as of Sunday, Nov. 6:
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
1. St. Joseph (1) 8-0
The Wildcats deserve better than one playoff game in a watered-down Non-Public 1 tournament. It's kind of ridiculous. No, it is ridiculous. The NJSIAA should have kept three NP groups after combining NP 1 and NP 2 last season. But no. They had to go back to four groups because this is New Jersey and we split things as thin as possible to create all kinds of opportunities (and redundancies). It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham, as Woody Allen would say. Because there are just three teams that qualified in NP 1, St. Joe is looking at a bye straight to the state title game, which is expected to be played the weekend of Dec. 2-4. That means the Wildcats are off for 22 days until the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving weekend clash with rival Hammonton. That's right -- 22 days. Ridiculous. Where's asemblyman Burzichelli when coach Sacco needs him? By the way, the Wildcats' 37-0 victory over EHT -- not a bad Group 4 team -- means they've outscored opponents by 391-16. That's ridiculous, too. Next: Non-Public 1 state title game vs. Immaculate Conception-St. Mary winner at site and date to be determined.
2. Timber Creek (2) 8-0
The Chargers are undefeated in November for the first time in the history of the program. This team has been rolling for a while now. Coach Rob Hinson was able to rest some guys in a big victory over winless Highland, especially QB Calvin Lowe, who has been nursing a toe turf ailment. A lot these guys were on the field when Lacey hung a 27-6 defeat on them in last year's SJ 3 tournament. This is a different Lacey team. More significantly, it's a different Timber Creek team, too. Next: Home vs. Lacey Township (4-4) in South Jersey Group 3 tournament Friday at 7.
3. Camden Catholic (3) 8-0
Mike Blandon's 85-yard kickoff return for touchdown sparked a tough, 21-7 win over rival Bishop Eustace on Friday. The Irish get a bye before possibly meeting BE again in the second round of the NP 2 tournament. The Crusaders made it a battle as you figured they would. It's a rivalry game and BE has a serious defense. But CC found a way, even after falling behind by 7-0. This team is on course to meet Holy Spirit in the NP 2 state final with a chance to fashion the first 11-0 record in the history of the school. Who said it would take Gil Brooks a couple of years to turn CC into a SJ power? Next: Home vs. Bishop Eustace-Holy Cross winner in second round of Non-Public 2 tournament Friday, Nov. 18.
4. Pennsauken (4) 7-1
Manny Cortez' 29 touchdown passes are already the most in South Jersey in the last 10 years. That's amazing when you think about it. He might have four games to play. It gets tougher now at this time of the year against these kinds of opponents, so maybe Cortez won't challenge Jason Amer's SJ record of 40 TD passes in a season. But I wouldn't count him out, based on the way Pennsauken has been playing. Those receivers are big time and even the tight ends and RBs can catch the football and get in the end zone. Interesting test against AC in the playoffs. Pennsauken coach Clint Tabb rightly notes that AC was a win away from Millville -- and it could have happened -- from being a 3 seed. So the Vikings are dangerous. I hope the weather is good Saturday. These teams could go back and forth in a hurry. Next: Home vs. Atlantic City (6-2) in South Jersey Group 4 tournament Saturday at 1.
5. Millville (5) 8-0
The Thunderbolts got a big, two-way game from senior Zubir Boyer in Friday's 27-19 victory over Atlantic City. This team is 8-0 for the frist time since the program's legendary 1975 team went 11-0. That was the Bubba Green team. RB Alquann Jones leads SJ in rushing and is just three yards short of the school record. He's quick and elusive but the most impressive thing about him is how hard he runs between the tackles at 5-8, 165. Millville has a top OL, too, and lots of other playmakers. Lot of history at Wheaton Field. The Bolts might make some more this Friday against RV. This could be a tough matchup for a team that's spent the last two seasons playing against Mercer County opponents. But the Red Devils, who have won six in a row after an 0-2 start, will show up. Next: Home vs. Rancocas Valley (6-2) in South Jersey Group 4 tournaent Friday at 7.
6. Haddonfield (6) 8-0
Senior Matt Bhaya has kicked 36 extra points. Phil Bhaya's little brother (whose taller and heavier than his sibling at Princeton) does a lot of stuff for the Bulldogs. Linebacker. Running back/wide receiver. He took back a punt for a TD on Friday against Woodbury. Willingboro is a familiar opponent for Haddonfield. The Bulldogs took a big step toward last year's sectional title with a 38-27 win in the semfinals against the Chimeras last season. That was a signature win at the time. I think the gap has grown in the last 12 months. Next: Home vs. Willingboro (4-4) in South Jersey Group 2 tournament Friday at 7.
7. Williamstown (7) 7-1
The Braves will face Thanksgiving Day rival Washington Township twice in 13 days. The second meeting will decide the WJFL American title. The first will be an opening round game in the SJ 4 tournament. These teams are natural rivals so it should be a good series. Williamstown bounced back from that loss to Shawnee so the Braves are in fine shape heading into the tournament. They have to be considered one of the favorites because of their balance -- good offense and defense and solid special teams with a dangerous weapon in kicker Mike Burke. The schedule has toughened this team, which is just what they hoped when they joined the WJFL. Next: Home vs. Washington Township(6-2) in South Jersey Group 4 tournament Friday at 7.
8. Atlantic City (8) 6-2
Junior Dayshawn Reynolds is a big-play threat for the Vikings. This team had its chances Friday at Millville. I mean, they lost two fumbles in the end zone and threw another INT in the end zone. QB Kabir McCoy had his best game -- 319 passing yards. This team has WRs in Ismail Naji and Radi Tolbert and Jarren McBryde that are comparable to Pennsauken's corps, although I don't think anybody in SJ is as good as the Indians' Amar Williams. So Saturday could be a big-time shootout. Next: At No. 4 Pennsauken (7-1) in South Jersey Group 4 tournament Saturday at 1.
9. Hammonton (9) 7-1
The Blue Devils have developed a dangerous passing attack behind junior quarterback Christian Mortellite. You know they can run. You know they will play defense. You know they are solid on special teams. This team showed something, bouncing back from that loss to AC with an imposing performance against a decent Group 4 team in Absegami. Just can't see Kingsway hanging with this team for four quarters but you never know in this here game. I'm seeing Hammonton and Timber Creek in the SJ 3 final. But that's a long way down the road. The Blue Devils still have to win two SJ 3 games and deal with cross-town rival St. Joe two days after Thanksgiving. Next: Home vs. Kingsway (4-4) in South Jersey Group 3 tournament Friday at 7.
10. Triton (10) 7-1
The Mustangs' season-long ability to win close games surfaced again in 33-32 victory over Woodrow Wilson in overtime on Saturday. It's been a great year for coach Pete Goetz and a dedicated group of seniors. Goetz saw this as a possibility in August. Now it's November and the Mustangs are right there. But they still had to make it happen. They survived close games and they are operating now without star RB Josh Woods, who won't play in the tournament opener at Southern. This game is going to be tough duty for Triton -- long bus ride to face an explosive opponent with talent, tradition and great coaching. But the Mustangs should relish the challenge and the opportunity. Next: At Southern Regional (8-1) in South Jersey Group 4 tournament Friday at 7.
Under Consideration (listed alphabetically):
Cherry Hill East (5-3): I guess I've seen a more entertaining game than the Cougars' 57-56 victory over Cherokee on Saturday. I just can't remember when. Key sequence for CHE: Cherokee takes 42-35 lead with 2:04 to play in fourth. CHE's Rob Taylor returns ensuing kickoff 89 yards for apaprent TD. Wait. Flag for illegal block in back. Cougars now backed up to their own 11. Two plays later, Jesse Gold tosses 89-yard TD pass to Taj Frazier, who was all over the field. "I pointed to the sky," Frazier said of a pre-snap signal to Gold. "I knew I was going to come down with it." And here's a question: Have two running backs ever combined for more than 665 rushing yards in a game? I mean, ever? It's nothing you could look up but it'd hard to imagine two backs from opposing teams combining for more yards than Cherokee's Zaire Williams (385 yards, 6 TDs) and CHE's Brian Regan (280, 3 TDs). CHE coach Tom Coen called the running back battle "a heavyweight fight, like Ali-Frazier." Google it, youngins.
Holy Spirit (5-3): The Spartans might have been humbled a bit by two trips to Hammonton. But this team still is capable of winning the NP 2 state title. RB Donta Pollock has a sore knee so the bye week will help. If the Spartans can pass a little, they will be tough to stop. Hard to imagine this team not beating the Queen of Peace-Montclair Kimberley winner on Nov. 18 and making the state final the weekend of Dec. 2-4. Holy Spirit vs. Camden Catholic has the makings of a classic. And that Thanksgiving Day game with rival AC looks like a good one.
-- Phil Anastasia