Football: Preseason Top 10
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Football: Preseason Top 10
Training camps start in earnest on Monday for SJ football teams, although most clubs have been working out for much of the summer.
It's a good time for the pre-pre-season Top 10, an early look at how the rankings could look when teams take the field for real on the night of Friday, Sept. 7.
A lot will happen between now and then -- injuries, scrimmage results, transfer impacts. So this ranking is certain to change.
But here's a glimpse at what the Top 10 looks like on the Sunday before the official start of practice:
1. Timber Creek (12-0 last season): The Chargers will be one of the most talented teams to take the field in recent SJ history. This is a team with 5 Division I commits already, and likely another one on the way. TC's defense was great last season and could be even better this season, although it's tough to overstate the loss of LB Quanzell Lambert, now at Rutgers. Still, this D returns 9 or 10 starters. Leading the way are DT Greg Webb and DE Dajaun Drennon, a pair of North Carolina recruits. Webb is battling a knee injury and could miss a couple games early in the season. DR/QB Myles Nash is a Rutgers recruit. RB Zaire Williams, a transfer from Cherokee, is a West Virginia recruit. DB Eric Church is a Kent State recruit. The thing about TC is that there's a lot of talent beyond those D-I guys -- productive players such as RB Khalil Pierce and LBs Tariq Chambers and Justice Davila and Adonis Jennings, a WR transfer from PVI who could be the team's sixth D-I recruit. Chemistry is key for TC; coach Rob Hinson and his staff have to make sure all these great ingredients blend together to form a great team.
2. St. Joseph (10-0). With the Cape Atlantic realigning this season and SJ in the American Division, the Wildcats' depth will be challenged as they will have a tough battle almost every week. QB Anthony Giagunto, who has not lost a game as a starter, threw 11 TDs last season without a pick. He's a top DB, too. Roy Lucas and Charles Cade led the OL. Kevin Goldsmith is a top pass rusher, Miles Pease is a top RB and Robert Thompson is a playmaker at WR. With such a tough schedule for a small-school program, SJ will need to get some impact from a loaded sophomore class.
3. Camden Catholic (10-1): Circle Sept. 7 on the calendar. First night of the season might mark the game of the regular season: Camden Catholic vs. Timber Creek. Win or lose, both teams must put that game behind them and deal with the rest of the season. CC has a great LB corps led by Temple recruit Jarred Alwan, also a top FB, as well as Sean Collins and Will Jackson. Tom Wescott is a big-play receiver. Jeff Miller and John Blake lead a sturdy OL. This is a program on the rise under coach Gil Brooks. One key for the Irish will be developing a QB to replace Pete Galiano.
4. Williamstown (7-3): The Braves return 8 or 9 defensive starters led by LBs Buddy Brown, a Temple recruit, as well as Derek Lauria and Marcus Riley. Kali Boyce is a veteran RB. Juniors Marquers Little and John Chamberlin are top RBs, with Little near the top of Penn State's recruiting list in the class of 2014 (as a DB) and Chamblin possessing terrific balance and a nose for the goalline. Key will be developing QB to replace Dan Collins, although the Braves don't throw the football much.
5. Hammonton (9-3): Hammonton vs. St. Joe on Thanksgiving weekend could have some extra meaning this season. It could be for the Cape American title. Senior QB Christian Mortellite passed for 11 TDs as a junior. Dom Williams and Dylan Rosu are top RBs. Hammonton should have one of the better OLs in SJ with Pat Fiorentino, Bobby Frederico and Brandon Alfonso leading the way. Alex Padovani is a top kicker and all-purpose player.
6. Delsea (6-4): Rare down year for the Crusaders (by their standards) has coach Sal Marchese, his assistants and senior leaders vowing to bounce back in a big way this season. Delsea could cruise in revamped Royal Division and what looks to be a shallow Group 3 field. QB Josh Awotunde is a top athlete and RB Tyrone Saud is a home-run hitter. Like Hammonton, Delsea should have a top OL led by veterans Dom Parisi, Corey Mayo, Kobie Allen, Dakota Bravero and Jared Elmer. It's a long season but 12-0 is within this team's reach.
7. Pennsauken (11-1): Indians lost a ton of talent, especially on offense. There's no replacing Manny Cortez and Amar Williams. But this program is rolling, the bar has been raised and everybody in the program should benefit. Pennsauken will be tough on defense, with perhaps the best set of DEs in SJ in Isaiah Ingram and Korey Mitchell. Those guys combined for 22 sacks last season. DT Hassan McDonald is back, too. The guy to watch is senior RB Marlin Finley. He was terrific as a sophomore but sat out last season. He's on a mission to make the most of his final season.
8. Shawnee (7-3): The Renegades took a blow when DT Zach Smeakal was lost for the year with an injury. Senior Rob DiOrio ran for 9 TDs last season and junior Anthny DiOrio is a top DB. TE Jake Dean is a Virginia recruit for lacrosse but can play some football. WR Zach McHale is a talented veteran and Jake Pisarcik is a top lineman. Other veterans include FB Evan Wayns and DB Corey Munger. Shawnee also has a top weapon in kicker Vince White.
9. Moorestown (6-5); The Quakers might have been a bit overrated last season. They might be a bit underrated this season. They'll challenge in the loaded WJFL Constitution Division as well as the new SJ Group 4 (with Timber Creek, Hammonton, Shawnee, among others). Senior QB Drew Pederson is set for a big season after waiting his turn for two years. He's also a top DB. Seniors Anthony Bonett and Sid Ruffin are playmakers in Russ Horton's hurry-up spread offense. Tejple recruit Shane Rafter and Jake Dever are top linemen.
10. Washington Twp. (7-4): The Minutemen were a surprise team last season, with a big win over Williamstown in the playoffs. Senior QB Tom Hildebrand, who passed for 1,400 yards and ran for nearly 600 last season, leads a revitalized program. WT has top LBs in DJ Brown, Joe Cotton and Andrew O'Neill and talented all-purpose players in the Long twins, Ryan and Matt.
Cherokee (7-3): Chiefs took a blow with the loss of RB Zaire Williams, who transferred to Timber Creek. Junior TE Jake Powell and senior OL Drew Wilhelm will lead a young team that will be a handful in November.
Holy Spirit (8-3): New coach John Iannucci, who used to coach at CHE, has a top lineman in Steve Domonoski and a bunch of talented younger players led by juniors AJ Dawson and Jeff Steeb.
Glassboro (10-2): RB Corey Clement, a Pitt recruit who set the SJ record with 2,510 yards last season is back along with one of SJ's top sophomores in Juwan Johnson.
Mainland (5-5): A year removed from tragedy, the Mustangs will be a factor in Cape American and SJ 4 play behind QB Tom Bradway and kicker Jim Cooper, a Temple recruit.
Cedar Creek (4-6): Second-year program has a big-time player in QB Damon Mitchell, a Georgia Tech recruit who could run and pass for 1,000 yards, as well as speedy RB Gary Melton Jr.
-- Phil Anastasia