Here's an early look at the other four championship games set for this weekend:
Holy Spirit (7-3; 8-2 on the field) vs. Camden Catholic (10-0), Non-Public 2 state title game, Friday at 7 at TCNJ: Mirror images. That's what these teams represent. Both teams are big, strong and physical, like to run the football and rely on LB-led defenses. HS features RBs Donta Pollock (191 carries, 1,358 yards, 16 TDs) and Nigel Jones (166, 1,142 13) operating behind a big OL led by Villanova recruit Nico D'Angelo. The Spartans defense is led by senior LBs Ethan Gambale (136 tackles, which might be best in SJ but those stats are so subjective who can say?) and Dan Mastromatteo (89), the North Carolina recruit. HS was a big disappointment for about six weeks but the Spartans have won four in a row and can salvage this season with their second straight state title. CC has been consistent all season. The Irish, like the Spartans, like to run it as junior RB Jarred Alwan (79, 645, 12) leads the way. Senior RB Mike Blandon (59, 437) and senior QB Pete Galiano (65, 487) are big threats on the ground. Galiano can throw it (881 passing yards) and that could the Irish's big edge on the Spartans. I could see Galiano making a play or three in the passing game. The defenses are similar. CC is led by Alwan (86 tackels), Sean Collins (119) and Will Jackson (77), a trio of junior LBs. Good luck running on these guys next season. This has a chance to be a great game. I give the Irish the slight edge, based on Galiano's double-threat capability and more consistent play all season.
Haddonfield (11-0) vs. West Deptford (10-1) in SJ Group 2 final, Saturday at 1 at Rowan: This has become the Colonial Conference's version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. These teams will meet for the sixth time in three seasons on Saturday. Haddonfield won in the regular season by a 31-21 score on Sept. 30. That was a long time ago. WD is 8-0 and has been steamrolling opponents since Oct. 1. Haddonfield has been steamrolling opponents all season. WD is getting a big lift from sophomore FB Gerald Towns, who is a big back who can move like a little back. He's the real deal. But he's an inside runner, not the kind of speed back that WD has featured in recent years. These guys don't stretch out teams. They pound away. I'm not sure that works a defense with Haddonfield's kind of LBs. The Eagles have a solid defense led by DT Jamil Pollard, DL Josh Roane, DB Jake Hannan and a solid group of LBs. Haddonfield has put together one of the best seasons by a Group 2 team since . . . well, I guess since WD's 2003 and 2004 teams. The Bulldogs have a top runner in senior Chris Dengler (114, 1292, 18 TDs) and QB Dan Ciemniecki has 11 TD passes and one INT. The defense is rock solid led by DE Alex Walter and LBs Matt Bhaya, Rob Perkins and Carson Stack. Those guys are key. If they force WD into obvious passing situations, that's not the Eagles' strength. WD should be loose and aggressive. They are the clear underdogs. But Haddonfield is 48 minutes from finishing the best season in the long, long history of the program. That's some motivation.
Timber Creek (11-0) vs. Hammonton (9-2) in the SJ Group 3 title game, Saturday at 4 at Rowan: The Chargers might have the most imposing defensive front seven in SJ (although St. Joe would argue). Leading the way is LB Quanzell Lambert, who is expected back after sitting out two games with an ankle sprain. TC also features a top DL in Greg Webb and active DEs in Dajuan Drennon and Myles Nash. Eric Church is a top CB. The offense has been a little inconsistent at times, but junior Khalil Pierce is a good RB and senior QB Calvin Lowe is a playmaker. He's coming off a big fourth quarter against Triton. Hammonton needs to bounce back from a weird scene on Saturday. The Blue Devils were behind crosstown rival St. Joe by 26-3 at halftime when coach Pete Lancetta decided to pull his starters in deference to this title game. Hammonton has top runners in Jordan Brown, Russ Forchion and David Williams and a good passer in junior QB Christian Mortellite. The defense is sturdy and has a top cornerback in Bobby Barbieri. The Blue Devils have tradition and they know how to win these games. I just think TC has been on a mission all season. I think that defense will create field position issues for the Blue Devils.