Is the new WJFL schedule unfair to Timber Creek? Or are the Chargers paying the price for their own excellence?
Defending South Jersey Group 3 football champion Timber Creek should have a strong team next season.
The Chargers will need it.
Timber Creek will play Group 4 opponents in all four of its out-of-division, cross-over games in the new West Jersey Football League schedule for the 2012-13 seasons.
"We'll play whoever is on the schedule," said Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson, whose team will return several starters from last season's 12-0 team. "But the whole purpose of the WJFL -- at least I thought -- was to match teams up based on enrollment and group size, geography and strength of schedule.
"If a team has one good year -- we were 5-5 the previous year -- that means you move up two divisions for cross-overs?"
WJFL president Bud Kowal, the athletic director at Ewing, said the "strength of program component" was a major factor in formulating cross-over matchups, especially with regard to a team such as Timber Creek.
Timber Creek will play Group 4 Triton, its school-district rival, in the annual Thanksgiving game but also will jump two divisions and face WJFL American teams Eastern (weekend of Sept. 14), Williamstown (Sept. 28) and Lenape (Oct. 12).
In addition, Timber Creek will face major challenges from WJFL Constitution Division foes Camden Catholic, Paul VI and Moorestown.
Timber Creek will host Camden Catholic, which will return several players from last year's 10-1 team, in the Sept. 7 season opener that likely will match Top 5 teams.
"We'll play whoever but it's a little interesting how the schedules were developed," Hinson said.
Rancocas Valley, which has not played a South Jersey opponent other than Pemberton in the last two regular seasons, still is in a division with all Mercer County teams. But the Red Devils will play at Eastern (Sept. 28), at Lenape (Oct. 26) and home vs. Burlington Township (Thanksgiving) in cross-over games.
Like Timber Creek, Seneca is a Group 3 member of the Constitution division that will play four Group 4 teams in cross-over games. The Golden Eagles will face Lenape school district rivals Lenape (Sept. 14), Shawnee (Sept. 28) and Cherokee (Thanksgiving) along with Washington Township (Oct. 26).
The new schedule provides some interesting matchups for Group 1 teams that have struggled to be competitive in recent seasons as Clayton will host Maple Shade (Sept. 14) and Burlington City (Oct. 12) and play at Riverside (Sept. 28) and Palmyra (Oct. 26).
In addition, Wildwood will play at Riverside (Sept. 14) and Maple Shade (Sept. 28).
"That was one of the first dominoes to fall," Kowal said of arranging for schedules for some of the Group 1 teams.
Defending Group 1 champion Glassboro will play at Pennsville Oct. 26 in a rematch of the 2011 sectional title game.
Pennsauken will play at Cherokee Oct. 26 in a cross-over game that will match teams that have won the last three South Jersey Group 4 titles. The Indians won the title in 2011 and the Chiefs won it in 2010 and 2009.
WJFL National power Shawnee will play WJFL American champion Williamstown in an interesting cross-over game Sept. 14.
Cherry Hill East moved up to the American Division in the WJFL's re-alignment and the Cougars have some tough cross-overs, too -- at Pennsauken Sept. 14, at Moorestown Sept. 28 and home vs. Paul VI on Oct. 12 along with traditional Thanksgiving rival Cherry Hill West.
"Is it perfect? Nothing is perfect," Kowal said. "But if you look at some of the issues that a lot of schools were facing before we formed this league (before the 2010 season) and you look at it now, it's a much better situation."
-- Phil Anastasia