By Phil Anastasia
There are rematches all over the schedule as the first round of the football playoffs begins this weekend for SJ teams.
Here's a closer look at 12 games, with predictions:
Friday at 7
No. 8 Millville at No. 1 Williamstown (8-0) in SJ 5: All due respect to the Thunderbolts, a quality program, but Williamstown's toughest opponent tonight might not be the visiting team. It might be the Braves' history of struggles in the tournament.
Williamstown is 1-9 in the playoffs in its history and 1-5 since 2007 -- when they've gone 50-4 in the regular season. Williamstown's Wing T, with FB John Chamberlin and HBs Marques Little and Kali Boyce, can control the football and the clock. That 5-LB defense, led by Derek Lauria and Buddy Brown, has the speed to limit Millville's big plays.
The Bolts have a great young RB in soph Rob Ennis and a big-play receiver in DaQuan Bowman. But those guys aren't the Braves' biggest challenge.
The pick: Williamstown, 27-13.
No. 5 Shawnee (5-3) at No. 4 Clearview (5-3) in S.J. 4: The Renegades must tighten up their defense against the Pioneers' triple-option attack, which led the way to a 20-16 win for Clearview in the first meeting.
Shawnee got a boost last week from the return of QB Andrew Bertolino, who gives the team a strong passing threat. Brothers Rob and Anthony DiOrio provide the ground game.
Clearview FB Adam DeCecco had a big game in the last matchup, and QB Mitch Harbaugh has been solid all season.
The pick: Shawnee, 17-14.
No. 5 Absegami (5-3) at No. 4 Atlantic City (6-2) in S.J. 5: This is another rematch as the Vikings beat the Braves 33-25 last Friday. Both teams have explosive passing games.
AC is led by QB Jarren McBryde and WR Dayshawn Reynolds, who are known as Batman and Robin. Gami has a top RB combo in senior Tyler Bing and junior David Hood, both of whom are terrific receivers out of the backfield. The key for Gami could be the impact of Notre Dame recruit Rashad Kinlaw, who still is working back from a broken leg.
The pick: Atlantic City, 30-27.
No. 6 Kingsway (5-3) at No.3 Moorestown (6-3) in S.J. 4: It's the Dragons' potent ground game led by junior Ray Lawry (127 carries, 1,254 yards) against the Quakers' dynamic passing attack, led by all-purpose back Sydney Ruffin (20 catches, 421 yards).
Moorestown handled Kingsway last season. The Dragons are much better this season but the Quakers might have regained their stride in a nice win over Paul VI last weekend.
The pick: Moorestown, 33-26.
No. 5 Paulsboro (6-2) at No. 4 Gloucester (7-1) in S.J. 1: The Lions' punishing ground game has been fueled by junior Ben Boyer (171 carries, 1,473 yards). This is the first home night playoff game in Gloucester history. It should be a big deal for the Lions and their fans.
Paulsboro has more post-season success in its history than any team in the state. But the Red Raiders have struggled to find their offensive rhythm at times this season.
The pick: Gloucester, 27-24.
No. 7 Bordentown (4-4) at No. 2 Delran (8-0) in C.J. 2: The Scotties gave the Bears a major battle on Sept. 21, falling by a 23-20 score.
Delran has a top pass-catch combination in Justin McFadden (71-for-121 passing for 1,153 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Zane Campbell (26 catches, 552 yards, five TDs). The Bears are fashioning the program's best season in 20 years. Bordentown WR Jordan Kelso has nearly 500 receiving yards.
The pick: Delran, 27-14.
No. 8 Sterling (4-4) at No. 1 West Deptford (8-0) in S.J. 2: This is a rematch of a Sept. 28 Colonial Conference game won by the Eagles by a 35-20 score.
West Deptford's ground game features junior Gerald Owens and seniors Connor Smith and Josh Cornelius. The Eagles have their sights set on their sixth SJ 2 title since 2002 and their second in a row.
Sterling has a top LB/RB in Khalil Howard. The Silver Knights have made progress under second-year coach Clint Wiley but the Eagles are primed for this time of the year.
The pick: West Deptford, 37-19.
No. 8 Hammonton (4-4) at No. 1 Timber Creek (6-2) in S.J. 4: This is a rematch of last year's S.J. 3 title game, won by the Chargers by a 33-7 score.
Timber Creek's defense got a big boost two weeks ago from the return from injury of tackle Greg Webb, a North Carolina recruit. Senior RB Zaire Williams has been playing a high level in recent weeks and senior all-purpose player Bryce Shade might be the team's MVP through eight weeks.
Hammonton has lost two in a row and has a tough matchup ahead on Thanksgiving Eve against No. 1 St. Joe.
The pick: Timber Creek, 20-7.
No. 7 St. Augustine Prep (7-1) at No. 2 Don Bosco Prep (7-1) in Non-Public 4: The Hermits drew the short straw when the pairings came out as the Ironmen are a legitimate national power. SAP aspires to compete with DBP and that's a good thing. But they aren't there yet.
The pick: Don Bosco Prep, 48-14.
Saturday at 1
No. 6 Camden Catholic (6-2) at No. 3 Pope John XXIII (7-1) in Non-Public 3: The Irish have an emerging playmaker in freshman quarterback Tyree Rodgers. CC is healthy after a light schedule in recent weeks. The next couple of rounds will be very difficult in NP 3 but CC could get this one with a strong all-around effort led by RB/LB Jarred Alwan, a Temple recruit.
The pick: Camden Catholic, 24-23.
No. 8 Paul VI (5-3) at No. 1 Paramus Catholic (7-1) in Non-Public 4: The Eagles could have major problems containing Paladins' junior Jabrill Peppers, a five-star recruit. PVI has run into these North Jersey powers in recent seasons without much success. It's tough duty to travel that far to face that kind of opponent.
The pick: Paramus Catholic, 45-13.
No. 7 Cinnaminson (5-3) at No. 2 Cedar Creek (8-0) in S.J. 2: The Pirates have a top all-around player in Xavier Wilson and have been getting good work of late from senior RB Tom Donnelly, who was hampered for much of the season by a high ankle sprain.
CC is led by Georgia Tech recruit Damon Mitchell at QB and RB Gary Melton Jr.
The pick: Cedar Creek, 27-14.
No. 4 Woodstown (5-3) at No. 4 Haddon Heights (6-2) in S.J. 2: The Woodies like to run the football behind senior Rashar Gray (802 yards).
The Garnets have a potent spread attack led by QB Dante Pinckney and WR Kashif Miller. HH can't get caught looking ahead to two big games on the horizon -- a chance to finally knock off rival Haddonfield on Thanksgiving Day and a possible rematch with West Deptford in the semifinals.
The pick: Haddon Heights, 33-19.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.