Another in a series of early looks at South Jersey football teams
Last year: 12-0, champions of WJFL Royal Division and SJ Group 3
Coach: Rob Hinson (46-28 overall, 41-23 entering seventh season at TC)
Conference outlook: The favorite (with Camden Catholic as top challenger) in WJFL Constitution Division
Playoff outlook: The favorite (with Hammonton and Shawnee as top challengers) in SJ 4
Opener: Sept. 7 vs. Camden Catholic
Timber Creek has no shortage of challengers from outside the walls that surround one of South Jersey's premier programs.
There's new division rival Camden Catholic in the season opener. There's Williamstown in a cross-over clash set for late September. There's Hammonton and Shawnee and maybe Lacey Twp. in what figures to be a loaded South Jersey Group 4 field.
But TC coach Rob Hinson worries about what could topple the Chargers from inside the walls -- the possibility of complacency and fat-cat-ism creeping into the locker room of a team coming off a 12-0 season and touted as one of the most talented in recent SJ history.
"That's something I think about every night," Hinson said the other day at practice.
TC went 12-0 last season, winning the SJ Group 3 title. The Chargers lost a standout QB in Calvin Lowe and a sensational LB in Quanzell Lambert, now a Rutgers freshman.
But most of last year's team is back. Plus, the Chargers added talented transfers such as RB Zaire Williams, a West Virginia commit who arrived from Cherokee, and WR Adonis Jennings, a D-1 prospect who arrived from Paul VI.
On paper, this looks like one of the most imposing teams in recent SJ history, with five D-1 commits (although North Carolina-bound DT Greg Webb is likely to miss the first month of the season while rehabbing after knee surgery) and lots of other big-time players.
Besides Webb, Williams, DE Dajaun Drennon (North Carolina), DE/QB Myles Nash (Rutgers) and DB Eric Church (Kent State), the Chargers feature DB Billy Burton, RB/DB Khalil Pierce and DB Bryce Shade as well as likely future D-1 prospects such as junior OL/DL Lamont Bradford, junior LB Justice Davila (who is drawing interest from Rutgers and West Virginia) and sophomore safety Kareem Ali (who is on Ohio State's radar).
"Nothing is guarenteed," Hinson said. "As coaches, we have to make sure these guys realize that. They have to work hard to have success just like any other team."
The Chargers have a big target on their back. And they will get a challenge right out of the gate with that Sept. 7 opener against Camden Catholic, which should be one of the top teams in SJ this season with Temple-bound RB/LB Jarred Alwan and a new weapon in junior RB/DB T.J. Blyden, a transfer from Avon Grove (Pa.).
Williamstown, an emerging Group 5 power angling for a signature victory, comes to Erial for a showdown Sept. 28. Hammonton and Shawnee and perenniel Shore Conference power Lacey Twp. look like strong contenders in that revamped SJ 4.
TC has the talent to run the table again, even with Webb on the sideline until October, if not longer. The defense should be dominant again, with some of those young guys stepping up to take more prominent roles.
The offense will miss Lowe's run-pass versatility and knack for producing big plays at big times. But Williams and Pierce form an imposing RB combination, and Nash has the arm and Jennings the speed to force defenses to respect the pass.
But Hinson, his assistants and the team's senior leaders know the key this season is to make sure all that talent works together, and that the finished product is reflective of all those great ingredients.
"We're not taking anything for granted," said Drennon, a top pass rusher from his DE spot and also a productive TE. "We know people are going to be coming after us. We've got the target on our backs. We have to be ready to play every day in practice and every game when we take the field."
-- Phil Anastasia