By Phil Anastasia
Finally. The long and recently storm-tossed and delayed regular season comes to an end in SJ football this weekend.
The playoffs start the weekend of Nov. 16-17, followed by Thanksgiving games, then thesecond round of the tournaments on the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and the finals the weekend of Dec. 7-8.
Here's a closer look at 12 games this weekend, with predictions:
Friday at 6
Paul VI (5-2) at Moorestown (5-3): The Eagles can rise to the No. 5 seed in Non-Public 4 and stay in contention for a share of the WJFL Constitution title. If they win this game and beat rival Camden Catholic on Thanksgiving -- both of which will be tough duty -- they would share division title with Timber Creek. A 6-2 mark would represent quite a bounce-back for a team that slumped to two wins in 2011. Moorestown has been a little erratic this season. The Quakers need to get things in order since they will be a high seed in SJ 4 and could make some hay. The pick: Paul VI, 27-23.
Friday at 7
Atlantic City (5-2) at Absegami (5-2): Key game with lots of SJ 5 implications but also
loaded with significance as both programs are recovering from Sandy, especially AC. Absegami is in SJ 5 but could climb as high as No. 2 seed with a win (although Eastern could hold them off with a few more residual points). AC could climb to No. 4 with a win (and could host No. 5 Absegami in a rematch next weekend). The Vikings could be eliminated with a loss if things don't go their way in a couple other games. These are talented teams with big-play athletes on both sides such as Rashad Kinlaw, David Hood and Tyler Bing of Gami and Jarren McBryde and Dayshawn Reynolds of AC. Should be a shoutout. The pick: Gami, 34-32.
Bordentown (4-3) at Cinnaminson (4-3): The Pirates need a victory to secure a South Jerey Group 2 playoff berth. The Scotties are in CJ 2 but can help their seeding. A 5-3 mark and another tourney berth would be impressive for Cinnaminson, which went 7-3 last season and lost a lot of top players from that team. Cinnaminson senior TE/DE Xavier Wilson has committed to play in Chesapeake Bowl Dec. 29. The pick: Cinnaminson, 20-13.
Pennsauken (2-5) at Shawnee (4-3): Renegades coach Tim Gushue has waited 20 days for his shot at his 200th career victory. This obviously is a big game for Gushue. But it's big for the program as Shawnee needs to win to secure a playoff berth in SJ 4. This game also will mark the return of senior QB Andrew Bertolino, out for five weeks with a knee injury. Bertolino, who was one of SJ's top passers when he was hurt, will make the Renegades a much tougher out in SJ 4 if he can regain his September form. Pennsauken, which is led by senior RB Marlin Finley, still can salvage a .500 season if the Indians find a way to win this one. The pick: Shawnee, 30-19.
Buena (4-4) at Middle Township (4-3): The Panthers can earn a South Jersey Group 2 playoff berth with a victory. Buena also is in the SJ 2 mix. The pick: Buena, 19-12.
Cherry Hill East (3-4) at Cherokee (3-4): Both teams are alive in South Jersey Group 5 although Chiefs need more outside help. CHE has a good chance to qualify with a win although they need AC or TR North to lose. Cherokee can't catch AC and will have a hard time catching TR North, but it's possible. CHE has been off since Oct. 20 -- a 20-day layoff. Cougars have a top RB in Daishi Goto, who has a chance to break Brian Regan's year-old, single-season school record. Cherokee will be a load in 2013 as the Chiefs have a lot of key juniors such as QB Trevor Osler and TE Jake Powell and RB Matt Stickney. The pick: Cherokee, 24-22.
Clearview (5-2) at Washington Township (6-1): The Minutemen's linebacker corps will be challenged by the Pioneers' option attack. Both teams have qualified for their respective group tournaments but there's a lot of power points on the line for seeding purposes. Plus, this is a Gloucester County rivalry. WT has won six in a row and could rise as high as No. 3 in SJ 5. Clearview has a chance to get to No. 3 in SJ 4. The pick: Washington Township, 21-13.
Woodrow Wilson (0-7) at Deptford (3-4): The Spartans can clinch a South Jersey Group 3 berth on the night their stadium is named for Jim Hawkins and Joe Corbi. It should be a festive night for a program with a rich tradition that is making progress in working back from some down seasons. Senior RB Jody Ellis leads the Spartans with 813 rushing yards. The pick: Deptford, 26-12.
West Deptford (7-0) at Haddonfield (5-2): The Bulldogs could be on outside of South Jersey Group 2 field with a loss. That would be tough to accept for a 5-3 team that has made the SJ 2 finals the previous three years. Haddonfield still could get in with a loss -- they would get 7 power points for WD's other seven victories, which would help -- but the Bulldogs would need a couple other games to break their way. WD can clinch the top seed in SJ 2. With a top ground game led by a 1,000-yard rusher in junior Gerald Owens, The Eagles are looking for their 30th win in their last 32 games. The pick: West Deptford, 28-14.
Cumberland (3-4) at Delsea (7-1): The Colts need to spring the upset to make the South Jersey Group 3 tournament. They've played Delsea tough in the past, dating to the team's old Tri-County Royals days, although the Crusaders won 37-8 last season. Delsea will be No. 2 seed in SJ 3 and probably loom as the favorite ahead of No. 1 seed Burlington Twp. The Crusaders want to enter the tournament on a roll, with their seventh straight win. The pick: Delsea, 27-13.
Saturday at noon
Willingboro (4-3) at Lawrence (4-3): The Chimeras could earn the No. 4 seed in South Jersey Group 2 with a victory. Hard running by Rob Cleveland and all-around play by Anthony Robbins has fueled Willingboro's three-game winning streak. They could rise as high as No. 4 in SJ 2, getting a home game in the first round. Lawrence is a CJ 3 program with playoff hopes of its own. The pick: Willingboro, 19-18.
Saturday at 1:30
Burlington City (3-4) at Florence (6-1): The Flashes will have a home game in CJ 1. They could get the No. 2 seed if Keyport beats Shore. If Shore wins, Florence likely will be the No. 3 seed and would have to travel to Shore in the second round, if form held. Key for Florence has been sturdy defense led by bookends at DE in senior Nnamdi Njoku and Curtis Thompson. BC senior Vinny Vasapolli is among SJ's leading receivers. The pick: Florence, 27-6.
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.