First in a series of looks at South Jersey football teams in training camp.
Last year: 9-3
Coach: Pete Lancetta (197-52-2 entering his 24th season)
Conference outlook: One of the favorites in the Cape Atlantic American (along with cross-town rival St. Joseph), perhaps South Jersey's deepest division
Playoff outlook: One of the favorites in revamped South Jersey Group 4 (along with Timber Creek and Shawnee), perhaps South Jersey's strongest group
Christian Mortellite remembers the look on the faces of last year's seniors.
"We don't want to have the same feeling the seniors had last year," said Mortellite, Hammonton's senior quarterback.
The Blue Devils were a solid 9-3 last season and reached the SJ Group 3 title game. But the season ended in disappointing fashion, with lopsided losses to St. Joseph in the annual Thanksgiving weekend clash and to Timber Creek in the sectional title game.
This year, Hammonton is determined to end the season in a different fashion.
"We want to win the championship," Mortellite said. "We don't expect anything less."
The strong-armed Mortellite, who stands 6-4 and weighs 210, passed for 11 TDs last season, his first as a starter. He's a top basketball player who has a year of starting experience under his belt, and has some top receivers in junior Alex Padovani (maybe the team's best all-around player) and Winslow Twp. transfer Devin Porteons.
Hammonton has quality running backs in senior twins David and Dom Williams as well as junior Dylan Rosu.
Hammonton's strength is up front. Veteran coach Pete Lancetta said the Blue Devils have so much depth they may go two-platoons up front, which would be a big advantage, especially late in the long season.
"That would be huge for us," Lancetta said.
The offensive line could be all juniors, which certainly bodes well for 2013, too. Bob Frederico and Brandon Alfonso started as sophomores and Lancetta also has high hopes for Matt Matro, Brandon Beebe and Matt Parker along with senior TE Mike Carnesale, who has battled injuries for the last two years.
Senior Pat Fiorentino should lead the defense from his LB position, with lots of help from Dom Williams at safety and Padovani at DB. Padovani also is a top kicker.
"I'm excited about his team," Lancetta said. "These kids have worked hard in the offseason. They have high expectations."
Hammonton will be challenged on a weekly basis in the Cape American, which basically features the nine strongest football programs in the league -- at least based on power points over the last couple of seasons.
Hammonton will open with Holy Spirit and close with St. Joseph in a game that could have extra meaning this season as the division title could be on the line. Absegami, EHT and Mainland should be in the title hunt as well.
The new SJ 4 could be stronger than SJ 5 this season, with Timber Creek looming as one of the state's best teams, along with Shawnee, Moorestown, Lacey and Mainland.
Hammonton should be right there in the division and group races. The Blue Devils have depth, experience in the offensive backfield and some young muscle up front. Those guys could get stronger and stronger over the course of the season.
"The way last year ended was very disappointing," Fiorentino said. "This year is going to be different."
-- Phil Anastasia