Football: Camden Catholic training camp

Another in a series of early looks at South Jersey football teams

Camden Catholic

Last year: 10-1, second in NP 2 state tournament

Coach: Gil Brooks (14-14-1 in SJ; 162-57-2 at St. Joe Prep)

Conference outlook: A contender (behind favorite Timber Creek) in WJFL Constitution Division

Playoff outlook: A contender (behind favorite St. Joe Montvale) in NP 3

Opener: Sept. 7 at Timber Creek

The signs hung in the weight room all winter long.

Not that the players needed the visual reminder.

"We didn't want that to happen again," Camden Catholic senior LB/RB Jarred Alwan said.

The signs read: "51-7." That was the score of the NP 2 title game last season at TCNJ.

Camden Catholic was the team with 7. Holy Spirit was the team with 51.

After winning their first 10 games, setting a school record for victories in a season and reaching the state final, the Irish were dominated by the Spartans of the Cape-Atlantic League.

"That was a tough way to end," Alwan said.

Camden Catholic plans to bounce back this season. The Irish return a strong core led by Alwan, a Temple recruit, along with fellow senior linebackers Sean Collins and Will Jackson.

Jeff Miller leads a strong front lione that includes veterans John Blake and Turquon Wood. WR/DB Tom Wescott is a top playmaker as is junior WR/DB Nick Tretina.

"I think we can win a state championship," Wescott said.

The Irish are looking to junior Ryan Ziegler to fill the void at quarterback created by the graduation of Pete Galiano. Ziegler said out 30 days last season after transferring from Gloucester High and played mostly at the JV level.

"He's looked very good," CC coach Gil Brooks said.

Brooks is a little worried about depth because the Irish sophomore class, while talented, lacks numbers. That might be a function of the change in coaching staffs as Brooks took over in May of 2011.

But this is a talented team with one of the best sets of LBs in the state. Alwan is poised for a big season, and could be a major factor on offense this season, too.

Brooks and his coaches went through their first full offseason with the program. The veteran coach, who turned St. Joe Prep in Philadelphia in a national-caliber program, has brought his high energy, demanding approach to the Irish and hopes for similar results.

Camden Catholic opens at Timber Creek, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in SJ. That game will go a long way toward deciding the WJFL Constitution Division title, and will loom over the Top 10 rankings for the rest of the season.

CC also moves up to NP 3 this season from NP 2. The larger division features some strong North Jersey programs, led by perenniel state power St. Joe of Montvale.

"I see a state championship," Alwan said.

-- Phil Anastasia